By Basilea Schlink
Selfishness, stinginess is an especially serious sin. The Bible implies this when it says, "The love of money is the root of all evils" (1 Tim. 6: 10). It is clear that all who have an exaggerated love of earthly things will be excluded from the Kingdom of God, for it is written that they will not "inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6: 10 and see Eph. 5: 5). Yes, selfishness, like covetousness, is idolatry. "On account of these the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience" (Col. 3: 5b, 6).
Because the selfish have such a serious punishment awaiting them, and the wrath of God is upon them now, we have to become free from stinginess at all costs. It is more or less in all people, even if it is not so obvious in some. It can appear with seemingly harmless symptoms. "Thriftiness", or "smart planning" can be possible camouflages.
Selfishness reveals its true face when it is hard for us to give away something. That can happen in many areas, depending upon what our heart is especially attached to. So a stingy person will sometimes "wallow" in his possessions, not wanting to give them away, until he almost drowns in them. Often he refuses to give to those who ask, and he will never part with any money or possessions voluntarily. He is bound to the transient things of this earth. But he does not realize that he is also bound to the prince of this world, to Satan. He has become his servant here and one day will not inherit the Kingdom of God, even if he did seem to believe in Jesus on earth.
We Christians often pretend that we are not stingy, yet we are bound to our possessions. How often we saw this in my country, Germany, when people were asked to take in refugees and homeless during and after the Second World War. People tried to convince themselves that they were obliged to keep home, furniture and other things intact for the sake of their own children. They thought, out of love for their children, they could not possibly do anything but refuse to take in the homeless and the refugees, or at the most, give them the worst room and the poorest goods. Even Christians did not realize that they were being stingy and were sinning against their neighbour who was in need.
As long as we are not confronted by such extraordinary situations, we have to take advantage of the time to overcome this sin. For selfishness is the opposite of love, which gives away everything, and makes us and others happy by doing so. Stinginess makes us trespass against love, which is a characteristic of the divine and can make life on earth paradise. The selfish are sowing terrible seeds during their short life on earth, which will sprout in the other world. Their inheritance will be the kingdom of darkness, where God's wrath will be wrought upon them.
Therefore, let us declare war on the selfishness in our hearts! Jesus warns us so urgently, "Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man's life is not made secure by what he owns" (Luke 12: 15 Jerusalem Bible). At the same time, Jesus reveals to us the main root of stinginess. We are blind and cannot see what the real treasure is, the "treasure in heaven", God Himself. If God is the great love of our lives, then we are "rich in Him" and will not be attached to the riches of this world. Then we will receive everything from Him that we need for this life. However, if God is not the "treasure" of our lives, if we seek earthly, transient things, we will be captivated by them and become a slave of stinginess and Satan. We will submit to stinginess every time, if we do not truly love Jesus and are not completely committed to Him. He not only gives us everlasting, eternal treasures, but will also give us abundantly everything we need for our life here, if we will only let go and give things up for His sake.
The way to get rid of this destructive stinginess is to "let go"! Jesus Himself has given us this advice, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matt. 10: 8). But who can do this? Only those who have found complete abundance in Jesus and at the same time in faith count on His promise, "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down shaken together, running over" (Luke 6: 38). We must dare to let go and give away what we would rather cling to. And if we take this step in love for Jesus, we will experience that He will act according to His promise and give us a hundredfold in return. Such experiences will encourage us to continue to give up things. Jesus has redeemed us from the futile ways inherited from our fathers (1 Pet. 1: 18) and has transplanted us into His kingdom where love reigns.