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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What is Best for Me? A Case for Selfishness

When, I think about where to go to dinner, what to wear, or where to go to church; when I think about what college to attend, what job to take, or where to live; when I think about who to love, who to be friends with, or who to do business with, I think about what is best for me or maybe for Us, if others are in the picture.

Obviously, I don’t always know what is best.

And, typically, I almost always think that I do.

On a larger scale, we ask what political party is best for our country, what side of an issue should we raise our voice for, what role should capitalism and socialism play in society, and how should we respond to poverty?

When dealing with national and global issues, we ask a remarkably similar question to the one we ask when choosing what restaurant to eat in. What is best for Us? What is best for the people of our world?

As I’ve studied childhood development and development throughout a person’s life, I find that the question we ask grows in scope as we grow in maturity. The youngest of children are only concerned with themselves, while older children focus on their families and friends. The most enlightened adults among us consider themselves to be world citizens, considering what is best for all people including the unborn, future generations. Some empty themselves of self-interest to the extent that they are able to sacrifice themselves for a greater good.

In essence, we always divide the world into Us and Them. As we mature, the number of Us increases and the number of Them decreases.

Our question remains constant, what is best for Us?

Still obvious - We don’t always know what is best.

Still typical - We often think that we do.


For many of us, though, we can confess that there are just too many variables for us to believe that we have it all figured out.

Part of being human is: We always want what is best for Us.

Maybe trying to figure out what is best for Us, is the best any of Us can do.


That is what we call people who are willing to courageously risk and often sacrifice their own lives in pursuit of the common good. Both the fireman who enters a burning building to rescue a single child and the soldier who dies attempting to the rid the world of terrorism are celebrated as heroes.

When someone is willing to sacrifice what is best for herself as an individual, in order to achieve a higher good, we hold her up as a model for all of Us to follow.

Christ declares that, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

You don’t have to be a Christian to know that what Christ is saying rings true. It feels right to all of Us.

The Twist

What if what is best for all of humanity is for each person to know and love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength? That is another claim of Christ. He implies that that would lead us to loving our neighbor as ourselves. He claims that that is what is best for Us.

That everyone on earth would be included when we say Us and that no one would be left to be called Them.

So, what is best for humanity is not to strive for what is best for humanity, but to strive to love and know God.

1 John 5 teaches us that “the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.”

Don’t be misled by the word, “conquers”. John is not talking about a hostile takeover. He is talking about conquering the world through love, defeating the “Us vs. Them” paradigm one act of love at a time, like dominoes falling to reveal an intricate pattern of beauty and grace that includes all people of all nations.

And, in this conquering
– by faith and through obedience to God’s commandments which are: first to love God and then to love our neighbors –
we experience what is best for humanity.

The Shift

What if, what is best for Us, as individuals and as all of humanity or all of Creation, is not the beginning or end of the story? What if that is not the most important question?

Here is the shift. What if what is best for humanity is not the primary focus of history, of our world, of our time? What if what is best for humanity is not the primary focus, but what is best for God is the primary focus?

What if that is the end all, the final deciding factor?

What if humanity, history, creation and all of the above are here because that is what is best for God?

What if the main goal of every person’s life is to bring glory to God and enjoy a relationship with Him forever?

What if the main goal of every family is to bring glory to God and enjoy a relationship with Him together forever?

What if the main goal of every tribe and every people group and every nation is to bring glory to God and enjoy Him forever?

What if all of Creation was designed to bring glory to God and reveal His power?

In Exodus 9, through Moses, God tells Pharaoh that He hasn’t destroyed him and his people completely because, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

Did you hear that? God wanted to reveal his power and make His name known in all the earth.

At that time, He did his revealing through Moses’s obedience and through Pharaoh’s disobedience.

He will do the same in our lives, through our obedience or through our disobedience.

In Our Lives

As human beings, the best we can do is to consider what is best for Us, in ever widening circles, including more of our fellow humans with Us.

God’s desire is to bring glory to Himself, to make His name known throughout the earth, and reveal His power.

Since we are all here because that is what is best for God, then we can determine two things…

First, knowing what we know about the character of God, we can be confident that fulfilling our purpose is equivalent to receiving grace, mercy, compassion and love.

Second, we can accept that following God’s will, doing what is best for God, is actually also best for Us.

We can surrender all of our understanding, performance and passion and submit to the will of God.

Maybe then we will discover for ourselves that we have not only found what is best for God, but what is best for me, for Us, and for all of humanity.

This is the history of our existence. This is the story of humanity. This is the story of the Scriptures. This is what God has revealed to us throughout His word.

All of this is encapsulated in an age old saying, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

So, our answer to "What is best for me?" is to love and know God. Let's do it.