Sunday, November 09, 2008

Matt's Messages - "Love Is Not Self-Seeking"

“Love Is Not Self-Seeking”
Learning to Love
November 9, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:5

We often call 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter” because between verses 4 and 8 we have one of the most insightful, beautiful, and instructive descriptions of love in action in all of the Bible.

This is what love is like. Let’s recite our memory work again:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking...”

That’s what we are up to today.

Next week, we add: “it is not easily angered.”

We’re learning to love.

Last week, we talked about rudeness: intentionally or carelessly choosing to do the wrong thing in a social situation.

Did anyone notice their own rudeness this week and try (by faith) to counteract it with some decorum?

Did anyone grow in their ability and frequency of saying, “Please and Thank You?”

My prayer has been that this sermon series would revolutionize (often in small ways) our relationships with others.

A heaping dose of patience, kindness, contentment, praise of others, humility, and respect will go a long way towards revolutionizing our relationships!

We’re learning to love.

And today, we consider this phrase from verse 5, “it [love] is not self-seeking.”

“Love is not self-seeking.”

The King James version translates it, “love seeketh not her own.”

Love is not self-ish.

Love is not self-seeking.

Let’s pray together and then consider what that means for our lives and relationships.


Let me begin by asking a question:

What is your life all about?

What is the theme of your life?

If you were to write your own autobiography, what would be the theme of the book?

What is your life all about?

Let me ask it another way:

Who is your life all about?

Who are you trying to please with your life?
Who are you serving?
Who are you giving to?
Who are you working for?
Who are you centered on?
Who are you most concerned about?

Who is your life all about?

The natural answer to that question is the natural tendency of our hearts.

And that is for my life to be all about my self.

It’s my life, after all, right?

To try to please my self.
To try to serve my self.
To try to work for my self.
To improve my self.
To get good for my self.

For my life to be all about me.

That’s, brothers and sisters and friends, is the essence of self-seeking.

Without the intervention of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the title of my autobiography would be some variation on the theme: “Matt Mitchell, My Favorite Person in All of My Life.”

Two weeks ago we talked about pride.

And we said that pride is believing that we are greater than we are.

Pride says, “Me, Me, Me, Me, Me.”

Well, self-seeking are those actions that we undertake to see that good things to come primarily (or solely) to our selves.

Self-seeking says, “My, My, My, My, My.”

Self-seeking is seeking to bring good primarily (or solely) to my self.

Focusing on bringing good primarily (or even solely) to my self.

And it’s completely natural...and devastating to healthy relationships.

It is the opposite of love.

The Bible says, “Love is NOT self-seeking.”

Gordon Fee in his commentary on this passage says, “In some ways this is the fullest expression of what Christian love is all about. It does not seek its own” [The First Epistle to the Corinthians, pg. 638].

“The fullest expression of what Christian love is all about.”

Love is not about my self.

Love is not selfish.

Now, that’s about as obvious as you can get.

Is love selfish? No, of course not!

And yet, we give ourselves over to self-seeking so readily and so blindly.

We chase after it. It’s our default mode.

Often, it really comes to down to hoarding:

What are things that we hoard for our SELVES?

Money is the obvious first one.

Self-seeking would be hoarding our money and our possessions.

Do we do that in our relationships? It probably wouldn’t be hard to think of an example.

We all know that kids do that with toys.

“I had it first!” Well, who cares who had it first?

The questions is are we loving each other with that toy?

Or that bank account. Or that house. Or that 401k (which isn’t worth as much as it was two months ago).

Self-seeking looks like hoarding our money and possessions.

But that’s the just one example of self-seeking.

We can hoard a whole lot of other things.

For example: time, thought and attention.

Have you said this week: “No, that’s MY time!” ?

I’ve been struggling with that one.

I’ve been trying hard to get my doctoral class papers done. They are due by Saturday the 15th, and I’m trying to get them in the mail by Thursday.

Thank you for praying for me. I’ve got 3 done and only 1 to go.

At the same time, I’m trying to cut, split, and stack wood to get ready for the delivery and installation of the wood furnace that I ordered. I’ve gotten about 2/3 of a load of logs cut, split, and stacked.

We’ve had 3 of the 6 of us get sick in the last week. Peter had a fever last Sunday. Robin and Drew have one this Sunday.

And we’re coming into the holidays when it’s time to do nominating committee, budget committee, advent planning, Christmas shopping, etc.

I’m sure that some of you have a much fuller plate than I do, but I feel like my plate is pretty full right now.

And I want some time for my self!

I’d like to get away with my wife for a weekend. I’d like to take stack of books and just read until I sleep and sleep until I read–that’s my definition of a good time!

And I’m willing to get cranky about it!

Now, is it a bad desire for me to have some down-time? Some “me-time?”

No. It’s not a bad desire.

But I’ve just had a vacation! I was just at a retreat a month ago.

When that desire to please myself, to spend time on myself, to seek time for myself starts to dominate–to drive me towards crankiness, to get me complaining (and I know how to complain!), when that desire becomes a demand, I’ve fallen into self-seeking.

And then when my family, my church, my family of churches need me to give them some of my time, what do I do?

If I love people, I embrace those needs as opportunities!

Self-seeking is the opposite of love.

And it’s not just time; it’s thought.

Often our thoughts constantly revolve around ourselves.

Our own interest is what we give our thoughts to.

In parenting, I probably overuse this phrase, but it’s a good one: “Who were you thinking about?”

That’s a great question to ask your teenager when they need some attitude adjusting.

Who were you thinking about when you...whatever...?

Often, we’re only thinking about ourselves. Self-Seeking. Pride on the move.

And it’s not just kids that struggle with this.

Who were you thinking about when you made that decision at work?

Who were you thinking about when you made that choice out on the road?

Who were you thinking about when you did that thing on your property that affected your neighbors, too?

My wife has taught me a lot about this. There have been many times in our marriage when I haven’t been trying to hurt her or damage our relationship, but I did through carelessness. I didn’t consider her, her interests, her cares, her perspective.

I didn’t think about anyone but me. And it damaged our relationship.

She’s been very patient with me and helped me to learn to consider others. To think about others.

To give attention to others. And not hoard it all to myself.

The list could go on and on, but let’s do two more.


To be self-seeking often looks like hoarding control.

It’s got to be done MY way. Self-seeking.

The English Standard Version translates this verse as “[love] does not insist on its own way...”

“It’s not my way or the highway.”

Does that slip into your relationships? It does mine.

Does it slip into your work relationships? My way or the highway.

Does it slip into your marriage? Which way the toothpaste is rolled? Whether the seat is up or down? Or something stronger like, “You will always call me at such and such a time...”

Self-seeking. It’s got to be done my way.

Does that kind of thinking slip into the church? Unfortunately, it does.

I know that I’ve been guilty of it, and often I’m unaware of that. I need people to gently but firmly help me to see when I’m being self-seeking here as your pastor.

Because I don’t know everything and there isn’t always just one right way to do things–my way.

That’s not love. Forgive me for where I’ve done that and help me to stray far from it.

Self-seeking ruins relationships.

One last one. Self Seeking by hoarding the Gospel.

I love the Gospel, don’t you? I want the gospel to be the theme of my life.

But often, I love it for me, but I’m not willing to share it with others–especially if it might cost me something.

I love to sing of my Redeemer!

But will I talk about Him with an unsaved friend, a new acquaintance, or a stranger?

It’s self-seeking to enjoy the benefits of the Gospel, but not be willing to give it away.

Does that make sense?

Self-seeking is seeking to bring good [money, possessions, time, thoughts, attention, control, the gospel–whatever good things–to bring these good things] primarily (or solely) to my self.

Was Jesus ever self-seeking?

No, never. Imagine living 30 years without ever being selfish.

Did He always do whatever everyone else wanted Him to do?

No, He didn’t. Selfless love does not mean laying down and being a doormat for others.

And He got away and found time for Himself alone with His Father.

Selfless love doesn’t mean that we don’t ever be alone or never say “No.” On the contrary–true love often says “No” to others. But it does it in love.

Jesus was never self-seeking.

In fact, He was so full of self-less love that He died for me and for you.

He took on the punishment that our sinful self-seeking had earned.

Amazing love! How can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me?

The punishment for self-seeking is death.

And Jesus took it for me.

For all of the times that I have been so turned inward. Self-seeking is pre-occupation with what’s in it for me, for what’s inside of me.

Jesus died for that.

He was selfless to the cross.

Listen to Philippians chapter 2:3-11.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider [think about] others better than yourselves [ahead of yourself]. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others [Look-seek their interests]. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

That’s Jesus’ example for us of self-less love.

And His payment for our self-seeking sinful self-love.

That free us up today to be different.

To live like this:


Instead of looking inward, where inward is our point of reference, looking UPWARD where the Lord becomes our point of reference.

God-Seeking! God’s glory-seeking. That’s where real love comes from.

True Worship.

Jesus lived for the pleasure of His Father.

He lived for the glory of His Heavenly Father.

And that enabled Him to love others.

Let’s do that, too. Let’s seek to give glory to God.

Let’s make that the theme of our lives. What our lives are all about.

Let’s make our autobiographies about seeking the glory of God!

And that will enable us to love others.


Instead of inward focus, turn to outward focus.

Instead of pre-occupation with self, turn to being occupied with others.

And that, in all of our relationships.

It’s the opposite of hoarding.

It’s being generous. It’s giving.

It’s giving our money and possessions.

Like giving to the Gideons, or stuffing a Shoebox full of good gifts.

It’s giving of our time, thought, and attention.

To our families, to our co-workers, to strangers. Even to enemies. Christian love is like no other love on Earth. We even love our enemies!

And it’s giving that time, thought and attention–without complaining, without arguing, without getting cranky. It’s donating it. Sharing it. Being generous with it.

It’s giving up our control over ways and means and how we’re going to accomplish our goals.

This is huge in relationships. Change the pattern here, and you change the relationship. And not in a “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch my back kind of way.”

And, lastly, it’s giving others the Gospel, not holding it in but handing it out.

Is there someone you’ve been withholding the Gospel from? Maybe because you aren’t sure they really want it? But you know that they need it.

It’s giving others the Gospel.

That’s self-less love. ...

And guess what?

The strangest thing happens when we learn to do it!

We get blessing.

Have you ever noticed that? Who often benefits the most when you truly love someone selflessly?

The giver!

It’s a paradox, but in God’s world, focusing and seeking for yourself earns your almost nothing–and nothing lasting.

But seeking the glory of God and the good of others leads to receiving good yourself.

With faith-based selfless love comes blessing.

It did for Jesus, didn’t it?

He emptied Himself and died for us.

And what did He get in the end?

The name above all names.

When we give up our self-seeking, ultimately we receive only good in the end.

Isn’t that awesome?

There is great reward bound up in self-less love.

Let’s go after it to the glory of God!