Galatians 5:16-26 Selfish or Selfless
Paul is now setting out the “marching orders” for his readers. They are NOT under the law but they are also not free to do whatever they want. They are to bear fruit pleasing to the Spirit, not the flesh.
We are not under the law but under grace. But grace is not a free card to do whatever we want and then pretend to be sorry for it. I’ve heard it said that it is easier to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission. The problem with that is that if you know you are going to need forgiveness for what you are about to do, you shouldn’t do it in the first place.
Paul is telling his readers to examine what they are doing. Their actions will fall into two categories; works of the flesh and works of the Spirit. These two camps are at war with each other. The flesh is selfish and seeks only its own pleasure. While the Spirit seeks to build others up in love.
We are given an abbreviated list of the works of the flesh. Paul’s list starts out very broad then narrows it down in some areas. “Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissension, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (verses 19-20).
That’s a pretty big list. I have to own up to instances of a few of these. But that is not where I stay, thank You Father! Because of the Spirit in me, my conscience won’t let me stay here. The Spirit compels me to run away from these selfish things. And each one of the above mentioned actions is selfish. They center around pleasing the self above all else.
But the list of the works or fruits of the Spirit are completely opposite of selfish. They are selfless. They include, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is not law” (verses 22-23). This list is also broad, yet narrowed in some areas.
This list brings with it a whole different feeling just reading it. When reading the list of the works of the flesh I feel condemned and dirty. Praying I don’t see myself in it anywhere. But when I read the list of the fruits of the Spirit I feel refreshed. I pray just the opposite prayer from the previous list. I sincerely desire to see this last list written all over my life. I believe I see many of them displayed in me but not to the consistency I would really like. I struggle with patience. I know my joy is not overflowing every day. My acts of love could certainly use some more of the selflessness components in them. There is a difference between a fleshly love and a Spiritual love. I want my love for all those I interact with to reflect the second form much more than the first.
Paul says there is no law against these fruits of the Spirit. In fact, if you are displaying the fruits of the Spirit in your life, you are living more righteously than you would be by trying to keep the law. The reason for that is the motivation for your behavior. When trying to keep the law you are trying to make yourself acceptable to God. Living for the purpose of getting. When you live your life submitting to the Spirit you are living for giving. “How can I bless someone else today?” “How can I show God’s love to someone in need?” “How can I help you?”
These aren’t questions we wake up and ask each day but they are attitudes of service that we live out in our lives when we surrender to His will. Do we make it every day being a selfless person? No. But we are willing to start again each morning. His mercies are new every morning. Mine need to follow suit.
Thank You Father for Your mercy. Thank You that You never run dry. Please forgive me for the days I take more than my share of forgiveness. Thank You for causing me to examine my behavior every day and see where it lines up. I want to reflect Your fruit in my life all the time. I don’t want to be selfish. But I don’t know how to get all the “self” out of the equation. Thanks for reminding me that I can’t. That it is only through You and Your Spirit that I can make this growth. And that growth won’t be complete until I see you face to face.