Summary: Selfishness does not care about the interests of others. It focuses on the self only. To give up this focus at all is to sacrifice some time, energy, thought, and possibly even some resources for the needs of others.
One of the major causes of human suffering is the fact that
people see life from many different perspectives. While we were in
Duluth we went to a park where we stood on a bridge and watched a
bus load of junior boys and girls eat their lunch on the rocks below.
A lovely stream flowed over the rocks creating a beautiful site with
falls and pools of water. Further down a number of fishermen were
on the bank. It was a picture of pleasure, but pain was nearer than
anyone could suspect. A young couple came past us on the bridge,
and they made their way down the stream, and then down into the
valley where a very small island had formed, and a delightful pool
awaited the swimmers. The girl sat on the sand, and the boy in his
early twenties pulled off his shirt and dove into the pool. We were
impressed with the natural pool, and standing in the hot sun we
could enjoy vicariously the refreshing feeling of the swimmer.
The rocks hid him from our view, but soon we noticed that he
came climbing up on the rocks holding his neck. It was obvious he
had experienced some sort of injury. He made his way back to the
girl, and she quickly gathered up their belongings, and they retraced
their path back over the bridge where we were standing, and into
their car. I was deeply curious as to the nature of the young man's
problem, and so I walked over to the only other swimmer in the pool
who was also leaving the area because of the accident. I asked,
"What happened to the other young man who was swimming?" He
said, "One of the junior boys had thrown a rock into the pool and it
hit him in the neck as he was under the water, and it cut a gash.
They were heading for the hospital for stitches."
Everybody in that beautiful setting was there for pleasure, but
because people find their pleasure in different ways the end result
was pain and suffering. Junior boys see such a setting as a place for
throwing rocks. I cannot imagine a boy not wanting to throw rocks
into that water. For the young couple in their twenties it was a
place for a refreshing swim. Both perspectives were legitimate, for it
was a lovely spot for both activities, but just not at the same time.
Both could have been enjoyed without pain had they been
experienced at different times. But here were two people trying to
practice perfectly normal and acceptable behavior, but behavior
which became incompatible when practiced in the same place at the
There is nothing wrong with track events or stock car races, but
to try and have them on the same track at the same time would be a
disaster. The point is, you do not need to be doing anything wrong
to cause suffering. Even right and good things create suffering. You
cannot be content to ask only of your actions, is this right or wrong?
You must also ask, is this selfish? Is this behavior which is good for
me a risk of the well being of others? It may be an okay thing in
itself, but is it appropriate in the circumstance? By broadening our
perspective on life, we can prevent suffering which is caused so often
by a narrow self-centered perspective.
The accident we saw could have easily been prevented by all of
the people involved. The swimmer could have seen the danger of
this environment with junior boys swarming all over the place. He
could have waited ten minutes to swim, and all could have shared
the joy of the setting without pain. A few minutes of sacrifice for the
sake of the others enjoying their activity would have prevented the
accident. Or the leaders of the youth could have seen that the young
man was going to have his own way and swim in that risky
environment. They could have warned the boys to cease all rock
throwing. Neither of these things happened because everybody was
operating from a narrow selfish perspective that saw only
self-interest, and was oblivious to the interest of others. Nobody was
being evil, and nobody wanted anything but pleasure for all, but a
too narrow perspective led to pain.
According to Paul in the text here in Phil. 2, the whole history of
man would be one of suffering without hope had Jesus had a narrow
selfish perspective. Had He said, "It is in my best interest to cling to
equality with the Father," there would not be any plan of salvation.
The whole plan depended on Jesus seeing beyond a selfish to a
sacrificial perspective. The sacrificial perspective sees life from the