High school, college, and professional football teams will soon be gathering to begin practice for their season. Every team will assemble with one goal in mind, to win a championship and we expect them to begin with that goal. Even teams that many give little hope of winning more games than they lose will begin practicing with the idea that they will prove their naysayers wrong. We value people with ambition, people who set goals and then do all they can to reach that goal whether that be on a football field or on the job. Unfortunately, ambition gets in our way when it is not balanced with humility.
David faced selfish ambition in the from of Absolom, his son. Absolom lead a coup that forced David to flee Jerusalem. Absolom’s desire to become king before his father’s death points to his selfishness. Selfish encounters open the lens into our own heart. How we respond makes all the difference. What are some steps to take when facing the selfishness of others? How can we find the positive side of selfishness?
Recognize that selfishness is real. David appears to have been oblivious. An informer or messenger came to David to report what was going on (see 2 Sam. 15:13). One would think that a leader like David would have known what was going on in his own kingdom. When we encounter selfishness, we should not ignore it or try to explain it away.
Remember that one person’s selfishness doesn’t give you the right to be selfish as well. David’s initial response was to pack up and move out, and that included taking the ark of the covenant with him. The ark was a symbol of God’s presence with the people of Israel. Carrying the ark with him would mean that he alone had access to God’s presence. Taking the ark with him would not only show distrust of God, but would be an act of selfishness itself. David demonstrated trust in God’s plan by leaving the ark in Jerusalem, but he also demonstrated unselfishness. God’s presence was to be enjoyed by all God’s people and not just the king.
Review your life for selfishness. We are all capable of being selfish. Encountering selfishness should serve as a reminder of our own selfishness. We are just as capable of being selfish as the person we encounter. David was given an opportunity to review his own life for selfishness as he packed up and fled with the decision about leaving the ark being one example. We are usually able to see the faults in others that tend to be our faults as well, seeing ourselves in them. When we become aware of another person’s selfishness, we can use that moment to function as a mirror, pausing to look into our own hearts. When have we exhibited the same selfish attitude? When have I acted that made others feel the same way I feel about the person I perceive to be selfish?
As David climbed the Mount of Olives, he wept as he left the city. Many years later, we find a descendant of David sitting on that same hillside overlooking the city. He too cried as He committed to obediently fulfill God’s plan. He too would be called upon to be unselfish as He took on the sin of humanity. Through Jesus, we can overcome selfishness as we demonstrate His character in our life.
How does the gospel help us understand our own selfishness? How does the gospel free us to live lives of unselfishness?