The Failure of Self-Interest

I know “in my head” that self-interest won’t work, but I pursue it on a daily basis. You’d think I’d be farther along in my walk with Christ all these years.

If you are anything like me, Paul’s words to the Philippians are a good reminder that there is a better way to live.

Philippians 2.19-21 – I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I, too, may be consoled by news of you.

I have no one so like myself who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.

All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Paul is in jail in Ephesus, but he wants to strengthen the church in Philippi. He desires to send Timothy because he has few reliable people he can count on.

The Problem of Self-Interest

Many people become followers of Jesus because we need him to do something for us.

In a recent sermon, Jake Taylor told of his time in Mexico. He was single and a few young Mexican women took an interest in him. Jake knew that they may have liked him, but their biggest interest was to come to America.

Jake equated the women’s actions with how we treat the Lord. How often do we come to our loving Savior, because we want something from him?

Many of us came to Jesus out of desperation. Praise God, he has accepted us just as we are. However, he doesn’t want us to remain in the same immature state as the first day we came to him.

How Does Change Happen?

How can we leave self-interest behind and align ourselves with God’s interests? I think the biggest way to change is to grow in our love relationship with Jesus.

(1) Many people listen to worship music because it enhances their love for Jesus.

(2) Other people, like me, prayerfully read the Bible.

Besides Philippians, I am reading the Psalms, the Gospel of Matthew, and Jeremiah. God uses various passages to get my attention and help me think beyond myself.

(3) Service Work – The program of Alcoholics Anonymous recommends service work as a way to get beyond self-interest.

I’d like to have a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “I didn’t want to do the service work, but when it was finished I’m glad that I did it.

(4) Read “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster.

This classic book by Foster has many examples of how we can escape the trap of self-interest. If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend doing so.

Another Example of Service

If Timothy could not come, Paul had another servant to send.

Philippians 2.25-26 – Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus — my brother and coworker and fellow soldier, your messenger, and minister to my need,

For he has been longing for all of you and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.

Epaphroditus is a great example of a servant who is not filled with self-interest. As we consider Paul’s description of him, he reveals the nature of service.

(1) Brother and coworker – When we serve the Lord together, we develop a familial bond.

Our world needs coworkers far more than we need spectators.

When did you last ask Jesus what his plans are for you? If it has been a long time, ask him and see what he says.

(2) Fellow soldier – Sometimes the work of the Lord resembles the arduous tasks of the military.

We need discipline, training, and dedication to the task. Soldiers do this kind of work as a service to their country.

We labor in God’s love for the sake of the kingdom of God.

(3) Messenger and minister – We are members of God’s public relations squad.

What the world thinks about Jesus is dependent on our attitudes, actions, and words.

If we are predominantly driven by self-interest, the world will know. If we resemble Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and most of all Jesus, the world will be drawn to the Savior.

YouTube Video

In today’s YouTube video, Rudy Ross and I talk about this passage. The video can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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