Romans 8:6-11 CEB
The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace. So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.
But you aren’t self-centered. Instead you are in the Spirit, if in fact God’s Spirit lives in you. If anyone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, they don’t belong to him. If Christ is in you, the Spirit is your life because of God’s righteousness, but the body is dead because of sin. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your human bodies also, through his Spirit that lives in you.
I want to express some concepts to you today that I have spent all of my short adult life formulating. (I am 33 years old.) I hope to eventually expand these thoughts into something a little longer.
When we are born, we are born completely and totally self-centered. Everything we know is based on ourselves. We were formed individually, and we spent 9 months by ourselves. (Unless we are a twin.) Every resource that comes our way is completely and totally for us. Even after we are born, we require so much attention and care.
This self-centered nature must not be confused with selfishness. Being self-centered is not a choice. Being selfish is. As we begin to grow we begin to understand the world does not revolve around us. There comes a time where we realize there was an existence before we entered it. The minute our world becomes more than our self, we can be selfish, selfless, or other-centered.
Selfish: Aware of the needs of others and purposefully choosing to care for the self over and beyond the other.
Selfless: Aware of the needs of the self and purposefully choosing to care for the other over and beyond the self.
Self-Centered: Unaware of the needs of others. Only aware of the self centered needs.
Other-Centered: Unaware of the needs of the self. Only aware of the other centered needs.
Sometimes when we see people taking things for themselves without regard for those around, we want to call them selfish. If they were selfish we can call their actions, sin.
Yes folks, I use the CEB translation week after week. I praise it. I have defended it. Today, I disagree with it. The NRSV uses the word "flesh" instead of "selfishness/self-centered" The NIV uses the term "sinful nature." What's the best term? Well, that's the problem. Technically "flesh" is but, we use the term "sins of the flesh," too haphazardly today. There is some ambiguity to the text. A more honest translation of the Greek would read: "those who are according to the flesh the things of the flesh; but those according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit." The flesh and Spirit can be personified with a more literal translation. Augustine would translate this to be the flesh being the things we see but are not real, and the Spirit being the things that are real but we cannot see. Personifying "flesh" allows us to think beyond the carnal and actually see how "selfishness" or "sinful nature" is a good translation...
Have I completely confused you yet? I really hate writing things where the average Joe or Jill can't easily read. Let me try it a different way.
According to the Desert Father Augustine: What we see (in this case flesh) is not real. What we do not see (in this case the Spirit) is real.
Selfishness is being aware of the needs of others and purposefully caring for the needs of the self over and beyond the needs of the other.
Being 'according to the flesh' is being in sin. (Living in what you see instead of what is real.)
According to my definition, one cannot see they are being self-centered, because they are unaware of the needs of others.
Being self-centered is not living in sin, and possible it's a really poor word choice on the side of the CEB translation team.
Splitting hairs? Maybe.
What this really boils down to is a functioning body, as in the Body of Christ. That is why it is so important this scripture includes the words: "The body is dead because of sin." Selfishness separates us from one another and breaks the body apart. (You might be ready to call me out.) Self-centeredness can do the exact same thing. The difference is, when the person breaking the body apart doesn't know they are doing it, the sin rests in the arms of those who do realize.
Job was blameless before God, but he suffered from self-centeredness. He couldn't see the big picture. In the end, God didn't give Job the trail he had been begging for. God gave Job the big picture. Job is the key to this all: It wasn't Job who had sinned, it was his friends. See? Selfishness is sin. Self-centeredness is ignorance and must be loved and corrected. Those who do not love and correct are the sinners. Both break the body, but only one is the fault of the person committing it.
Now next week I will talk about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin... just kidding. I appreciate you following this through with me. I might have split a few hairs, but I hope, with the help of God, I made a good point.