June 27, 2012

A Warning Against Selfishness

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [Matt. 7:21-24, KJV].”

These words portray the sad ending of the self-deceived. They see the good that they might have done in this life, and they plead that they have performed some good actions. But their good was so alloyed with selfishness and greed that they turned souls from God, causing them to lose faith in all professing Christians. In the minds of those with whom they were connected, they created a sense of suspicion, distrust, and injustice, which strengthened the spirit of criticism. Though claiming to be in the service of God, they educated themselves in dishonesty. Their sense of justice became confused. Their hearts were hardened, and they left undone many things that would have glorified God. Self-complacency filled their hearts, leading them to say, “I have done this and that good work.” But the Lord did not accept their work, for it was defiled with selfishness.

Their wrong course began with the cherishing of wrong principles. The spirit of cupidity, not at first apparent to themselves, grew until it led to actions that meant robbery. Their unfaithfulness, commended by the world, was cherished for a lifetime under the decent garb of frugality and honest industry. Constantly it was working the destruction of themselves and others. Parsimoniousness is covetousness; it is the frugality of selfishness.

2012 1518 page24Selfishness is as contagious as the leprosy. Selfishness in dealing with the Lord’s goods ought to be seen as it is; for it is the greatest curse that can come into any man’s life. It is hard to reconcile the selfishness shown by many church members with their claim to be the Lord’s helping hand. The half-hearted Christians who are working in the Lord’s vineyard are the cause of the great dearth of means in the treasury. Will those to whom this is well known continue to reveal a hardheartedness that is lessening the revenue which is to support the Lord’s work in the world?

Godliness is becoming more and more rare. Unless the divine leaven of renovation works in the church, little will be done to convert souls who will be not only consumers, but producers. The church is now as a vast hospital, filled with the spiritually sick. The future of the church depends on the efforts made by the members to understand the sinfulness of selfishness, and their willingness to take the remedy that will cure the disease. Let a reformation take place, that those who accept the truth in the future may not be contaminated by the corrupting influence of selfishness.

As Seventh-day Adventists we must reach a higher standard. God brings against His professing people a terrible charge:

“These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” [Rev. 3:14-19, KJV].

Many who are condemned by men are vindicated by God; many who are exalted by human judgment are by God pronounced wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Human judgment often errs. Often, because of defective judgment, man condemns his brother. God looks at the heart. He reads the motives that prompt to action.

There is a work to be done among the churches of Seventh-day Adventists that has not yet been done. Ministering angels are waiting to see who will take up this work in the right spirit. You may ask, “Where must we change? What have we done?” It is not my work to enter into details. Let all humble themselves before God, asking for grace and wisdom, that they may see wherein they have violated His holy law. Unless His Spirit enlightens them, they will never know, even though it is set before them by their brethren. Those who refuse to come into right relation with God, who will not obey the rules of His government, cannot bear His sign.

No one need walk in darkness. No one need say, “Specify to me the precise wrongs of which I am guilty,” To all who say this I give the word of the Lord, “Search prayerfully, and you will know.”

Let all who claim to be reformers be such in the fullest sense of the word. The Lord is merciful. He does not chastise His people because He hates them, but because He hates the sins that they are committing. If they will turn from their wrong ways, and seek counsel from Him, He will be spared a repetition of their chastisement. He waits long for His erring people to repent, that He may remove the rod from them, and grant them His forgiveness and love, filling their hearts with His peace and joy. But those who in self-complacency strengthen themselves in their own way must be left to suffer the consequence of their wrong course. Cause will be followed by the sure result.

This article first appeared in the Pacific Union Recorder, Aug. 14, 1902. Ellen G. White, its author, was one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Her life and ministry gave strong evidence of the special guidance of the Holy Spirit. This article was published June 28, 2012.