Love... does not insist on its own way.
1 Corinthians 13:5
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right; greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind.” These are the infamous words of Gordon Gecko, the ruthless Wall Street tycoon, for whose portrayal Michael Douglas won an Academy Award in the movie Wall Street.
There is something both shocking and intriguing about this statement. Our first reaction is to recoil at its bluntness; yet, there is something peculiarly admirable about it. Perhaps it’s that Gordon Gecko is the only one who had the guts to say what we were too afraid to say. Or that he unabashedly lived out these words without regret.
The “better word” that Gecko was searching for is selfishness. It’s what the ESV calls “insisting on your own way” (1 Cor. 13:5). The brilliance of Gecko’s statement is that he has taken an issue that plagues us all and turned it on its head, transforming it into a positive moral value. Gecko’s counsel is to stop fighting against selfishness and embrace it. Stop denying the tremendous influential power of insisting on your own way. Become preoccupied with yourself; after all, it’s what you’re best at. Use this to your full advantage.
But the counsel of the apostle Paul could not be more different. He declares, “Love does not insist on its own way.” Love is not selfish. We were reminded of this last Sunday morning by Mark Davis.
So, what’s the answer to our selfish tendencies, aside from calling something good which God has called evil or simply ignoring it altogether? The answer is in getting at what lies behind our selfishness. In other words, we must ask ourselves the question Why are we selfish in first place? What is it that motivates our selfishness?
Selfishness stems from fear. If I don’t look out for myself, no one else will. Think about it for a second. If you struggle with selfishness concerning money, is it not because you are afraid that if you don’t hoard what you have there could come a day when you might have nothing? Or if you’re a selfish spouse, is it not because you fear that you might give and give emotionally only to find that your spouse has not invested the same amount of love in you? Fundamentally, something deep within us really believes that nobody is looking out for me besides me.
Selfishness is really a smoke screen. It helps to mask a deep-seated discomfort. Selfish people are really fearful people. It’s ironic, isn’t it? For all his brazen confidence, behind Gordon Gecko’s cool demeanor lies a very fearful person. And the way he deals with this is by insisting on selfish greed.
It is at this point that the gospel has real answers for the fears that plague us. For Christ comes to us at our most vulnerable, our most fearful, our most selfish moments, and shows us that someone is indeed looking out for us. In fact, He was looking out for us long before we were looking out for ourselves. By dying on the cross, rising from the dead, drawing us to Himself by His Spirit, He has demonstrated the ultimate act of selflessness.
Furthermore, He guarantees that He will never leave us or forsake us, that He will work all things in this life for our good and our salvation, and that He has all of our days wrapped up in His sovereign yet compassionate hand. What exactly do you have to be afraid of?
The God of the universe who could have chosen to look out only for Himself has instead chosen to look out for you! He’s got your back. Now, whose back do you have?