THE WORD IS
It has sometimes been argued that faith stems from selfishness; that a person believes only because he wants to avoid eternal punishment and wants what is best for himself. An argument like that includes the supposition, that being concerned about one's own soul is detrimental to our neighbor. The argument also does not take into consideration that a higher power, namely God, wants us to believe, even though we ourselves are not so inclined. Selfishness is the type of stubbornness and lovelessness a person is guilty of when he does not admit that God and His ordinances are above him; when he considers himself to be superior to his neighbor and does not love him as himself. A selfish person is not concerned about God's will, but rather about his own will. He is not concerned about his neighbor's welfare, only about his own.
Faith cannot be the result of selfishness because faith has to do with God's love and honor. By nature a person cannot believe in God's grace at all. Natural man does not accept the Gospel that God offers to him, but stubbornly resists God's will. When trust in the grace of God springs up in the heart, this is due to the work of the Holy Spirit. A person, as he is by nature, does not have the slightest desire to enter God's Kingdom and heaven, where only God's will is carried out and where sin cannot be committed. If, instead, heaven would be a place where sensual pleasures could be enjoyed, or if the future life would consist of owning earthly possessions and having earthly power, this would be of interest to people. But when we proclaim the grace of God and the forgiveness of sins, the world rejects this. In this way the world indicates that true faith is not compatible with its selfish goals.
God created us to live in communion with Him, but we fell into sin. God receives the honor due Him when we return to Him. This is God's will. When in His mercy He draws us, who have gone astray, to Himself, a higher will than ours is carried out. God in His love has given His Son to die for us. In His love He seeks us and draws us to Himself. It is not selfish to follow God's gracious will, even though this benefits us. Through faith in Jesus we receive heavenly treasures for ourselves. But it is not selfishness to accept God's love. On the contrary selfishness is acting on our own and not taking God's will and the needs of our neighbor into consideration. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. This includes the right and the necessity of taking care of ourselves in the right way. We do not consider eating or clothing ourselves to be selfishness when we are in need of food and shelter from the cold, as long as we do not at the same time let our neighbor starve and freeze to death. God's will is that we do not mistreat ourselves. This pertains to both temporal and eternal matters.
Trusting in God's grace redounds not only to God's glory and our good but also to the good of our neighbor in a completely new way. When we ourselves believe, we can also help lead others to faith and serve them in other ways. A believer does not seek only his own good. Selfishness means not being concerned about others. Christianity is not like that. Unbelief is selfishness. An unbeliever stubbornly follows his own will and is not concerned about the glory of God and the salvation of his neighbor.