How do we become completely selfless? Is that what God wants of us? I know He doesn’t want us to be selfish and I know He wants us to love others and help others but I have a friend who once told me everything I do is really just out of my selfish ambition to make myself feel good and he really confused me by saying that. I do things out of love, wanting to help others and see them happy but it does make me feel good too. It’s a conundrum for me.
God want us to become like Jesus. He wants us to be holy. He commands us to “Be holy as I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 11:44). Jesus told us to “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). The word used here is sometimes translated as “perfect” and sometimes as “complete” or “mature.” So, the standard that God sets for us is perfection. We will never arrive at this goal, of course. It is what we strive for.
Fortunately for us, there is grace and God knows that we are never going to be perfect. In fact, in 1 John 1:8 we are told that if we claim to be without sin–to be perfect–we are a liar! God sets the bar very high for us, but fortunately, he understands our weakness and he helps us in our weakness and he forgives our sins and shortcomings if we are saved in Christ.
The answer is that God does want you to be “totally selfless” but, of course, he will still love you, even though you will never reach perfection in this area! Rather than give in to guilt for falling short, rather than being eaten up with the fact that you are not “totally selfless” you should strive for selflessness with all of our energy, but accept God’s grace where you fall short. Your friend is not being helpful at all here. He or she is really quite a cynic! Someone might tell you that you are only serving God so that he will send you to heaven–it is all selfishness–but this is surely not true! You want to do right because you want to do right! God does not mind that you also are encouraged that he rewards you for your loving service to him. The fact that you are rewarded by God does not prove that it is all selfishness. Do not listen to your friend! He or she wants you to suffer from the paralysis of analysis, but do not give in to this feeling.
So, how do we grow in our selflessness? This is a good question. I suggest that you pray to God to help you in this area. I suggest that you occasionally ask yourself to consider your motives. When they are not pure, then simply accept that this is true and do your best to always strive for pure motives. When a selfish motive comes in you can rebuke your self and repent, but do not become so discouraged that you still are not perfect. You can also ask spiritual friends (not the person mentioned above!) to help you to know when it seems that you are acting selfishly. The advice of others can be helpful here. Do you occasionally have mixed motives? I am sure you do. I certainly do, but we can pray about that as well!
But in all this, do not forget that God gives grace to you and he accepts you if you have been saved. I suggest you read 1 John 1:3-7 on this topic.