Is God Selfish?
“All glory and honor and praise.” The bridge to the popular song “Not to Us” by Chris Tomlin makes God sound incredibly self-serving. If people started singing this about an athlete or politician we would be disgusted.
The Bible takes it further. God doesn’t want partial submission, but full submission. From Paul’s use of the Greek word “doulos,” which could be translated “slave” to Christ’s teaching on prayer, there are many verses that ask us to draw our attention to God or state that he acts for the sake of his own name.
“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9)
I understand this is confusing and a turnoff to those exploring Christianity.
I heard someone once say, “God seems so selfish.” It was meant in a negative way, but let’s think about this for a moment.
Why does that feel negative? Perhaps we all want things to go OUR way, or God to work things out the way we desire? We all want the flow of life to move our direction. Dallas Willard says that anger is the natural result of something interrupting our will being done. C.S. Lewis basically states that pride is what makes the devil…the devil. Proud people want two things–to be revered and their will to be done. Can you imagine what life would be like if we had seven billion little human gods on this planet demanding their will be done? It would be like a river with billions of little currents all fighting each other for dominance. One may rise above the others, but only for a short time.
So why is it okay for God to demand our worship and why does the Bible teach that this is good for humanity?
When God demands that his name be revered and that all bow to him, it is a gift. The little currents stop fighting each other and we all begin to flow in one direction, all submitting to the infinite, non-corporeal perspective that really just may be more capable of understanding all the intricate pieces of life. Our arrogance and annoyance at God’s “selfish” teachings may not be revealing a selfish God, but rather immature man.
So when God says in various ways “all look toward me,” remember it isn’t selfish like a toddler demanding his way. It is a wise king who sees the big picture calling out to us, lost in our dark, finite, limited perspectives. It is a gift, a wonderful unifying gift that gives humanity purpose and direction in life. Even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, in those quiet yet highly anxious moments before the road to the cross, bowed to the will of God. One river, all currents flowing in one direction. If we really are to be like Jesus we must embrace the wonderfully freeing attitude of submission. Though painful in the present, it liberates humanity in the end. When humanity tries to shape God around modern cultural perspectives we functionally say, “I am king and I have a greater perspective.” I, for one, am thankful that God teaches us all to look his way.
Full submission to God’s way leads us to three places:
- Personal purpose in this life.
- Meaning of life.
Want more? Reconciling possible objections or concerns:
What about hard Old Testament teachings and stories?
The Bible is full of controlling rules.
What if I still really struggle with sin after choosing to follow God?