What does the Bible say about selfishness?


By BibleAsk Team

What does the Bible say about selfishness? 

The Bible consistently portrays selfishness as a negative trait, emphasizing the importance of love, humility, and selflessness. In Philippians 2:3-4, believers are urged to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” and to “value others above yourselves,” highlighting the need to prioritize others’ interests. James 3:16 warns that “where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice,” linking selfishness with negative outcomes. Additionally, 1 Corinthians 13:5, in describing love, states that it “is not self-seeking,” reinforcing the idea that true love involves putting others first. These verses collectively underscore the biblical principle that selfishness disrupts harmony and contradicts the core values of Christian community and love.

What is the root of selfishness?

Selfishness is defined as the exclusive regard for one’s own interest or happiness. Sin originated in the universe with selfishness and pride. The wish for self-exaltation was the reason for Lucifer’s fall. Although God created him perfect, he sought more glory for himself. He said, “‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north… I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:13,14).  Lucifer aspired to be like God in position, power, and glory, but not in character. And because of his selfishness, he warred against God and consequently, he was cast out of heaven (Revelation 12:7-9).  

After the fall, Satan tempted Adam and Eve, and they fell when they sought their own way (Genesis 3). Man’s selfish character is one more evidence that sin has fully changed the divine image in the experience of humanity, causing them to fix their affections on themselves (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 7:14–18, 20; 8:5–8; James 4:4; Matthew 10:39). All the evil fruits of selfishness are seen in the world today.

By contrast, Christ was selfless. The Bible says, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).  Christ emptied Himself and literally gave up his life to redeem mankind (Hebrews 5:8). He grasped not divine sovereignty, but service, which became the governing principle of His life (Matthew 20:28). His life was the antithesis of selfishness. 

Selfishness and the Heart

A person who’s heart is full of selfishness “seeks his own desire” (Proverbs 18:1). Paul teaches, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).  And he adds, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2: 03).  

The Christian who has the love of God forgets his own will and is fully focused on doing the will of God, that is blessing others. And he is ready to serve others (Matthew 22:37–39; Acts 10:38). The Bible exhorts the believers, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3). 

The believer should not seek first to satisfy his own ambitions, pleasures and comforts; he should regard the well being of others. Let him ask himself the question: will the gratification of my own wishes help or injure others? Many things may be permissible, but their practice might bring spiritual ruin to others; therefore, it is the duty of the believer to refrain from them.  

The Bible teaches, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:24). The believer is to share his resources with the needy and thus make “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-21; Acts 20:35). The chapter of love states, “Love … does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Man is naturally selfish and often that interest overshadows all others; but Christ’s way, the way of love, puts self last and others first (Matthew 5:43–46; 7:12).  May God’s love be reflected in our lives.

What is an example of selfishness in the Bible?

An example of selfishness in the Bible is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. This account demonstrates the consequences of selfishness and deceit within the early Christian community.

Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property and decided to keep part of the proceeds for themselves while pretending to donate the entire amount to the apostles. Their selfish desire for recognition and approval led them to lie about their contribution. When confronted by Peter, Ananias first, and later Sapphira, both maintained their deception and were struck dead as a result of their actions. This incident serves as a stark warning against selfishness and dishonesty, emphasizing the importance of integrity and transparency in the Christian faith.

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.