Misinterpretation is one of the myriad reasons why we act in a manner inconsistent with truth or facts. When we misconstrue a message, we tend to end up in an argument with another. When we misread a word in an online conversation, we might give a wrong response. For this reason, we must understand the truth or fact and its role in the present so we can act or respond accordingly.
The Misunderstood God
God is not spared from misinterpretation. People—Christians and skeptics alike—may have thought at some point in their lifetime that the God of the Bible is selfish and self-absorbed. They have charged God as such because they possess a perverted perception of His being and therefore miss the reason why He gave explicit commands found in the Scripture like the following:
I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.
—Genesis 17:1 NASBYou shall have no other gods before Me…for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.
— Exodus 20:3, 5 NASB (cf. Exodus 34:14)You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
— Deuteronomy 6:5 NASB
People viewed God as a control freak and desperate for His creation’s devotion and allegiance. The reason for this skewed outlook is humanity’s sinful nature. The Apostle Paul, quoting the book of Psalm 53, described our fallen tendencies:
“There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one (3:10-12 NASB).”
When we despise God, this only reveals what is apparent—our utter wickedness (Psalm 10:3).
Another reason why people would not accept what God says about Himself and His will is their unbelief. Jesus, knowing their faithlessness after He preached to the crowd (John 12:37) He said, quoting Isaiah:
“He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them (John 12:40).”
Is God’s Devotion to Himself Selfishness?
For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.
— Isaiah 48:11 NASB
When God acts for His glory, He displays His being—the one and true Living God and the everlasting King (Jeremiah 10:10). God alone is God (Isaiah 44:6). When He devotes to someone or something else besides Himself, He commits idolatry and ceases to be God. Since no one is above God, His pursuit for His glory is not selfishness. It is a revelatory experience, not greed.
When God calls us to live for His glory, He invites us to a joy-filled, contented life (Jeremiah 32:40-41). Therefore, when we pursue His glory and will be filled and satisfied, then God is demonstrating His generosity. What unbelievers see as selfishness, believers see as generosity.
When God is calling us to be devoted to Him, He is making Himself known. When we grow to know Him deeply— that He is:
- – the everlasting God (Psalm 90:2)
- – the God Almighty (Genesis 17:1)
- – matchless, perfect, just, and faithful (Deuteronomy 32:3-4)
- – All-knowing (Job 37:16)
- – holy (Isaiah 6:3)
- – righteous (Psalm 89:14)
—then, we persevere in the faith journey. We are confident that He will do us good regardless of circumstance. This nurturing relationship proves that God is not self-absorbed nor selfish.
We are Made for His Glory
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. — Romans 11:36 NASB
God caused us to exist that we live for Him (1 Corinthians 8:6; 11:2; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 2:10). Our life is all about the One who made us and not for anyone else. Therefore, it is not absurd to think that God calls us to live for His glory and worship Him only (Exodus 20:3-6; Matthew 4:10).
The God of the Bible is Generous
Ever since after the fall, God has been benevolent in providing deliverance for the fallen humankind. Genesis 3:15 is the “first gospel” or the prophetic declaration of the Redeemer who had come. God giving Himself for the world to restore it to Himself is no act of greed or self-centeredness. It is of love, mercy, and grace.
So the next time you are tempted to wonder if God has been selfish, think with your heart and mind of the selfless sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.