Can love be selfish?

This post is just the beginning of my thoughts concerning this question.  The seed was planted in a conversation I had with Mel concerning the word, “love”.  Through the last 24 hours I’ve mulled “love” around in my head.  This question started to form as I was preparing for a meeting I will have later this evening with my youth leaders.  We’ve been reading together “The Quest for Character” by John MacArthur this school year.  In it he has a section on Galatians 5:22,23 – perhaps better known as the fruit of the Spirit.

Love, of course, is what heads this grocery list that makes up the fruit of the Spirit.  However, just preceding that Paul has another list: the works of the flesh.  (v.19-21)  As I read through this list I came to realize that each and every one of these ‘works’ are selfish in nature:

  • Immorality?  I want to please my self
  • Sorcery?  I want control
  • Anger?  I want my way
  • Drunkenness?  I want to feel good / forget my troubles / numb myself

On and on the list can go.  Each and every work listed is selfish in nature and anti-love.  Love, as MacArthur defines it, is a deliberate willingness to serve others and give freely of oneself (Quest; p.82).  I cannot imagine a situation in which love would selfish – but this is still rolling around in my mind.  What say you concerning the selfishness of love?  Is there such a thing?  Can love be selfish?

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3 thoughts on “Can love be selfish?

  1. I don’t think that love, as defined in I Cor 13 and elsewhere in the scriptures, can be selfish. Selfish would mean that you are not willing to share the blessings or benefits of the object that you love. Anything that would be self centered would by definition not be love I don’t think. It’s interesting how my view of love has grown over the years of my life. How that true, biblical, love has become a focus…and some of the things that I thought were love when I was younger have now been revealed as something far, far less.

    I guess the only way that love could be selfish would be as applied in Ephesians 5:28. Love between a husband and wife is dependent on the husband loving himself. I’ve come to understand that this doesn’t mean that we need to look at ourselves through our own eyes though…because that only leads to discouragement. We need to look at ourselves through the eyes of God…through his mercy and grace. Once we do this, true love can be expressed through us to others.

    Love is charity. It is sharing. It is something that we should want to encounter with others. Love cannot be fully appreciated when kept to yourself.

    So no, I don’t think that true love is or can be selfish. Just my thoughts.

  2. Loren – You have some good thoughts that would lead to further questions / clarification. When I state “Love cannot be selfish” am I saying that love cannot be beneficial to me, or even provide me great joy, happiness and thrills? I think even in the context of Ephesians 5:28 that love would not be selfish, but self-beneficial. When I love my wife as I love own body, (taking care to ensure its well-being, etc) – I am also receiving a benefit to both the relationship, as well as my own physical being. I love my body, care for it and I love my wife similarly and care for her with the same intensity. Even in 1 Corinthians 7 we see that we have a ‘duty’ to our spouse, but even in the performance of that duty we receive great benefit and pleasure. Receiving benefit, pleasure, etc does not equate to selfishness. (I don’t think you were saying this – I just wanted to clarify and perhaps expound on that a bit).

    Good thoughts! I agree that as we grow and mature our understanding of love deepens. God is gracious. God bless!
    ~mark

  3. ahhhh…ok. Yes, I do believe that true love can have great, long lasting self benefits. I totally agree with that. I don’t think necessarily that the Eph 5:28 passage is specifically talking about tending to our physical well-being…but I do believe that is included. I believe it is saying that we need to take care of our total being…mind, soul, spirit, body…to experience the true benefits of a God-given love. For so long I abandoned certain areas of my life and didn’t nurture and take care of them and thus suffered in areas of love. I couldn’t properly love my wife…my family…myself.

    I do believe that if we nurture a God-defined, spirit-filled love for ourselves and others that the benefits to us can be beyond anything we could imagine. God wants us to love…to love ourselves…and to share that love with others.

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