Friday, February 10, 2006

The Root of All Kinds of Evil

A few months back, I came to a striking realization. When Paul said that the love of money was the root of all kinds of evil (thanks for the edit, Karen), he was right. But love of money is a symptom of a deeper problem that has plagued the human race from the beginning: selfishness. I've realized this because I've essentially a very selfish person and as I've thought about my own self-absorbtion (does doing that make me even more self-absorbed?), it just struck me that if we take all of the problems of this world, selfishness is the root of all of them.

For instance, let's take the 7 classic "deadly sins" (some of you might have to try and remember the Brad Pitt-Morgan Freeman move Se7en)

  • Anger - Sinful anger is generally generated because someone's desirers aren't being met and they get angry and lash out as a result of it
  • Gluttony - This one is generally associated with food, but it also has to do with overindulgence of anything. I think about this one as when I try to fill the hole in my life for God with anything else (food, relationships, stuff, etc.)
  • Sloth - Selfishness seems to work into this one by someone being more concerned for their own rest than for the work that needs to be done.
  • Greed - Simply wanting more than I need for myself, whether money or influence
  • Envy - This is usually what leads to greed. Seeing that someone has a nicer car or a better life or whatever.
  • Pride - Hopefully, this narcissitic attitude speaks for itself.
  • Lust - Specifically in the classical sense, the sexual desire. Now, obviously I'm not someone who thinks that sexual desire in and of itself is wrong, but the way that sex is used currently is one of the most heinous warpings of one of the most beautiful expressions of love and closeness. I fear that for many people, even many married people, sex has become an instrument of self gratification. A mutual masturbation experience just with another person as the instrument, not the closest that a man and woman can be and desiring pleasure for the other.
There are two solutions to the problem of selfishness that I see.
  • Agape love - the self-sacrificing mindset that leads someone to think "not only of your own interests, but also to the interests of others." This is the attitude that Jesus lived by and is so counterintuitive to our grasping, acquisitive culture that people who truly practice this are and should be looked on as freaks.
  • Contentment - do this and we'll be looked on as freaks as well. Can you imagine a people who said, "Even though I have a job that affords me a lot of money, the house I have is big enough for my family. I don't need any more," or "well, my car is ten years old and it's paid for and yes, it has some mechanical issues, but nothing major. I'll drive it for a while"? Can you imagine how peace-filled someone like that could be? What would it mean for an entire group of people to exist like that? In my mind, it would mean those people are followers of Christ.
I truly believe that selfishness is the cause and root of the problems of this world and if we take seriously the words of Scripture, we would take seriously the part that talks about "dying to ourselves." We would make every effort to divest ourselves of our petty selfishness that sucks us into ourselves, and not looking at a world that desperately needs people to be more concerned for it than for themselves.


Chris Wage said...

What irks me is that people consistently misquote it, saying that "money is the root of all evil", rather than *love* of money.

As for selfishness versus compassion and contentment, I'd say we have our work cut out. There are forces in this world tjat have a lot they would lose if consumerism were no longer the driving force of perpetual dissatisfaction that exists today..

Kat Coble said...

Very good insights, and yes, I echo Chris' irkment with the constant misquotation of that verse.

Over the last 5 years Tim & I have had to work really hard at contentment. I think in a lot of ways we've broken through. It's much easier to be at peace when you aren't so driven by lust for what you don't have.

Karen said...

To continue Chris' thoughts... love of money also misquoted as "the root of all evil," when in actuality, it is "the root of all kinds of evil."

But I am right with you on the thought that pretty much any sin out there is based on selfishness. But I'm usually too selfish to admit it about myself. ;)

Phil said...

Thanks for all the comments (and the edit, Karen).

Let me ask you this, what ways have you tried in your own lives to work against selfishness?

Tony Arnold said...

Listen to my wife more! She is very unselfish and can sense mine miles away.


Justin said...

selfishness is an interesting thing. I've read Ayn Rand's the virture of selfishness, and its made me think about a lot of different things. Most notably, that we all must be selfish on some level or we will not survive. If you take altruism to its extremes, you end up saying .... well, i have a healthy heart, and this person doesn't have one, so I should die in order to keep a sick person alive.

I realize that that's a ridiculous example, but regardless the book is an interesting read. It makes the case that if everyone acts in their own self interest that it is more utilitarian. I don't agree with it on every level, but I know it makes a lot of sense economically.

Anyway, just some food for thought.

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