Crossroads: The Danger of Selfishness

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Genesis 13:1-13

Selfishnessdevoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others

Stats About Lot

• Abraham’s nephew
• Remained loyal to God even when living in the evil city of Sodom
• His wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back when they left Sodom

My Story

One day in Sunday school, our teacher told us the following story. He said many years ago there was a family that consisted of a father, a mother, and two brothers. One day the parents brought the brothers into the family room, sat them down on the couch, and showed them two gifts on the coffee table. School had just ended, and the parents said they wanted to give each son a gift to celebrate the end of the school year. One gift was wrapped in a big box with a beautiful bow, while the other gift was in a much smaller box with no bow. The parents said, “The two of you get to decide who gets which gift.”

The older brother said to the younger brother, “I don’t really care—I’ll let you decide which gift you want.” So the younger brother got to choose, and it was a tough decision. He really wanted the big, beautiful present, but should he choose the best present for himself or let his brother have it? After a few moments, the younger brother decided to take the big, beautiful gift instead of letting his brother have it. But when they opened their gifts, the younger brother was very disappointed. Inside the big, beautifully wrapped box were three spiral-bound notebooks for the next school year, but inside the smaller, less attractive box was a $50 bill.

Being selfish—thinking of ourselves before others—is not usually the best option.

A study was conducted several years ago on the principle of the Golden Rule. In the study, the participants were asked to make a list of ten people they knew very well. Once the list was complete, they were then asked to label each person as happy or not happy. The final step was for the participants to go through the list again and label each individual as selfish or unselfish. The results of the study showed that the happiest people were always the unselfish people—those who put others ahead of themselves.

Your Story

Tell your children about a time in your life when you had the choice to be selfish or unselfish:
• What was the situation? What choice would have been the selfish option and what would have been the unselfish choice?
• Was it a difficult decision for you? Why or why not?
• What choice did you make?
• How might the situation have changed if you made a different decision? Would it have created a better or worse outcome?
• What do you believe is the greatest danger of selfishness?
• Who is the most unselfish person you know? What qualities or actions have you seen in this person’s life that lead you to believe he or she is unselfish?
• What causes people to be selfish? What makes some people unselfish?

The Bible Story

Abraham and Lot followed God and moved to the land of Canaan. God blessed them in this new land, and their herds increased rapidly. In fact, their herds grew so quickly and so large that there was not enough grass for all the animals to eat. Abraham and Lot were forced to make a difficult decision—they decided to separate from each other and go in different directions so their animals would have enough grazing land.

In our passage from Genesis, Abraham gave Lot the choice of which direction he wanted to go. Lot looked out over the land and saw rich, fertile soil in one direction and dry, hilly ground the other way. Should he take the best land for himself, or should he give the best land to his uncle Abraham? Lot faced a difficult situation: should he be selfish and only think of himself, or should he offer the best land to Abraham? Lot made a selfish decision—he took the best land for himself and gave Abraham the dry, hilly ground.

This decision actually hurt Lot and his family. Though the land was good in the area he chose, the people who lived in this region were mean and sinful. Lot and his family had to live with a group of people in a city called Sodom, and the citizens of Sodom were doing things that were displeasing to God. Lot’s selfish choice hurt him and his family very much.

“The essence of a person . . . is his power to surpass the self, to rise above his needs and selfish motives.” —Abraham Joshua Heschel

Discussion Questions

• Why do you think Lot chose the best land for himself instead of letting his older relative Abraham have this good land? Do you think he felt good or bad about his decision? Why?
• What decision would you have made if you were Lot? Why?
• Is it difficult for you to be unselfish? What makes selfishness so tempting?
• Ask your children about a time when they were either selfish or unselfish. Talk about the situation. What caused them to make the choice they made? How did they feel about their decision?
• What does God think about selfishness? What did God think about the choice Lot made in our scripture passage?
• What can help us to be less selfish?
• What is the most important lesson you learned from Lot’s story?

Prayer and Action

• Thank God for the story of Abraham and Lot
• Ask God to help you when you feel like making selfish decisions
• Talk as a family about how you can help each other to be less selfish

Jessica Asbell is currently serving as the Minister to Children at First Baptist Church of Roswell, GA. She has worked with children in various capacities at several churches, including Winter Park Baptist in Wilmington, NC, First Baptist of Decatur, GA, and Highland Hills Baptist in Macon, GA. She has a Master of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology and a BBA from Mercer University. In her spare time she loves to read, watch movies, and of course spend time with her sweet kitty, Lucy.

Kevin Head began serving as Minister to Young Families at First Baptist Roswell, Georgia, in February 2012. He has pastored three churches in Kentucky and more recently served as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Lumberton, North Carolina. In 2007, Kevin and his wife, Amy, began a ministry-based counseling practice called New Perspectives for Life in East Cobb, Georgia. He is a graduate of Furman University (B.A.) and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ph.D., M.Div.) in Louisville, Kentucky. Kevin was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Belvedere, South Carolina. His model of ministry is based on John 8 and the amazing, continual grace of Jesus Christ. Kevin and Amy have two children, Jenna and Joshua.

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