Let me rephrase that. I may appear ‘selfish’ to others and you may appear selfish too…but that’s okay. You’re not a selfish person by the dictionary’s standards.
The staunch definition of selfish is: devoted to or caring for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
I agree with the definition minus the last part that says, ‘regardless of others’ or ‘at the expense of others’. I believe that there is a ‘good selfishness’ (loose term) that seeks to improve and care for oneself with the sole aim of being in a better position to serve others, not to profit from them or drain them!
Take Jesus for example.
But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. – Luke 5:15-16
When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. – Luke 4:42
After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. – Matthew 14:23
The list of scriptures are endless, when it comes to the accounts of Jesus interacting with crowds but also drawing away from them at times. (Read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
The people in the crowd needed Jesus. They were sick, abandoned, lost and hopeless. They absolutely needed the Messiah. But they didn’t need Jesus more than He needed time with God, His Father.
He often left the needy crowds and went to the mountains alone to be with the Father.
Can you imagine what the people in the crowds would have said about Jesus? Remember that some of those folk in the crowd would’ve been the same ones that were ready to shout ‘crucify Him’. They may have seen Jesus as ‘selfish’. Probably saying something along the lines of, ‘How can He just leave us…when we need His healing, His provision, some more bread and fish now.
Jesus had to get away and be alone to draw strength from the Father. Sometimes, you and I have to do the same. The crowds drain your strength and one must withdraw at times for refreshment. Sometimes you have to retreat to advance. You have to rest, plug into the Father to be in a better position to serve and care for others. Sometimes you will have to face being seen as ‘selfish’ in order to be selfless. You can’t please everyone, even the ones that you’re trying to help will condemn you, but stand on Galatians 1:10 all the way sweets!
I remember one week receiving a truck-load of emails, messages, speaking invitations, people needing this, that and the other and I honestly felt drained and in need of a break. I longed to spend time alone with my Father. Now some people saw me as selfish and called me selfish for resting, even for taking a social media break! But the question is, what use am I if I am burnt-out? What use are you if you are weary? If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t offer your best self to others, nor make a difference and be part of, something much larger than yourself.
Now some Bible warriors may come at you with this scripture. ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others’. – Philippians 2:4
But gently remind them that the keyword here is ‘ONLY’. The scripture doesn’t say, that you’re not allowed to look into your own interests at all, it says ‘not only’. Meaning that it shouldn’t be all that consumes you. You should look into the interests of others and even in seeking your own interests, the end result ought to be for the greater good of others!!
You cannot serve selflessly from a place of love, if you do not set aside time to spend alone with The Source of Love. FACT! And unfortunately some people will call you selfish, for choosing Bible study one evening, over a trip to the cinema. Some people will call you selfish when you pass on chilling with the squad because you just need some time alone for this season, time to focus on your God given vision. Their use of the word selfish is flawed and inappropriate, because at the end of the day, you resting and seeking God is not at their expense. It is for their benefit. They’ll be the same ones to enjoy you when you’re full of God, ready to serve and when you’re drained out with nothing to give.
So what am I saying? You are not selfish for taking time out to spend with God. Though you may be seen as selfish or called selfish by people who don’t fully understand.
On the contrary, you are wise, you are focused and you know how to prioritise.
A desire for rest, solitude and focus on your purpose is not selfish. It is not born out of self-focus, but out of worship of the Father. Never forget that Jesus took time to rest, He took time to be alone and focus on His Father and all that He had to do – His purpose.
God comes first in all things, He comes before the crowds and He will position you to serve others when you seek Him and the purpose that He has for YOU first!
On that last day, we will not be judged on all the extra things that we thought would be ‘good’ to do. We will be judged on what God ASKED US to do. Don’t let the crowds confuse or distract you from your purpose. Remember, people don’t need you more than you need Jesus. Prioritise. Take a break. Focus on Him.