1 Corinthians 13 Part 9: Love Does not Seek its Own
1 Corinthians 13:5b; Philippians 2:3-8 Love is focused outwards, on the needs of others and not on selfish desires.
“Love..it does not seek its own,”
1 Corinthians 13:5b NASB1995
The next subverse in 1 Corinthians 13:5 requires some research to really understand what it means, and the answer depends in part on the Biblical translation that is used. Does Paul mean that we should love only people like us or does he mean that love should not be self-centered? Apparently, the church in Corinth was exhibiting some remarkably mean-spirited actions, so this underlies the reason why Paul is so detailed in his examination of (Agape) love.
Looking at four various translations, here is the phrase:
KJV - Seeketh not her own
NIV - Is not self-seeking
ESV - It does not insist on its own way
NASB20 - It does not seek its own benefit
So the question is answered. Love is not self-centered nor does it insist on its own way. According to the Blue Letter Bible, the Greek word for “seek” is zeteo; the second definition makes the most sense in the context of this part of 1 Corinthians 13:5:
to seek i.e. require, demand
to crave, demand something from someone
Oooh, boy!!! This is probably the most convicting precept yet! We live in the “golden age” of “me, me, me” with monstrous celebrity egos, social media feeds full of selfies, self-esteem and “love yourself” therapeutic programs, and ads targeted at pampering ourselves in luxury (you deserve it!). Here’s a great quote I found on Precept Austin taken from R.C.H. Lenski’s book, The Interpretation of 1 and 2 Corinthians, published in 1963:
Selfishness lies at the root of a thousand evils and sins in the world and in the church: between rich and poor, capital and labor, nation and nation, man and man, church member and church member. Cure selfishness, and you plant a Garden of Eden. As when one draws a beautiful face and makes one feature after another stand out until the eyes at last light up the whole and give it complete expression, so in this portrait of love the inspired artist paints the eyes full of unselfishness, seeking in every glance not their own but that which is another’s. Yes, this is love: no envy, no boasting, no pride, no unseemliness because it is altogether unselfish. Not for self (negative) = for others (positive).
We are all selfish to some degree. My selfishness has been apparent since I was a small child; I was an only child, spoiled by my parents and never really learning how to be giving without wanting something in return. By not becoming a parent, that selfishness became even more pronounced. Even a person who gives almost all of their time, money and effort to helping others or to their church reaches a limit where they feel their needs must come first, at least for a few hours. God agrees with a little rest, which is why He set aside a day for it, although with the New Covenant, we are no longer under an obligation to observe the Sabbath. What God wants us to avoid is becoming so self-centered that we have no time for Him or for our neighbors or for anything to do with Kingdom work. Self-centeredness is a loveless state. Being focused only on yourself leads to a feeling of entitlement when you don’t get your way, that you deserve something just because you exist.
When you are selfish, things happen to you like what we experienced very recently. We go to a popular nearby local pizza place every Monday night (we’ve done this for years and years). We’ve gotten to know most of the staff and enjoy talking with them or maybe it was just us telling them what we have just done, usually yammering on (me, mostly) about our latest trip. Well, one of the guys we have known for years at this place was there on our last visit. He used to work there full-time and is married to one of the managers, then he tried to start a landscaping business. He had to quit that business when he had neck surgery. He comes back to the pizza place occasionally to help out with training or when more wait staff is needed. We waved him over and noticed that his hair was super short. He told us that he was fighting cancer and things were not looking very positive. He swore up and down that he told us about this diagnosis last fall when he saw us one time at the restaurant; this setback occurred after he and his wife enjoyed a diving trip last year to the Maldives. Well, I can say with some assurance that he probably DID tell us (Steve thinks he would have remembered that), but we were too caught up in what we were doing (travel-wise and otherwise) and selfishness won out over listening, caring and being concerned. He is now on our intercessory prayer list!
Paul addressed this concern again in his letter to the Church at Philippi:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:3-8 NASB1995
Love is being focused on others and putting their interests before your own. When opportunities come my way to serve in some capacity, I need to tell my egotistical self to quit worrying about how that opportunity will affect my leisure time or interfere with “fun”. My time is God’s, not mine, and the best use of that time is in looking out for the interests of others. The only thing we deserve is the wrath of God; instead we have been given the Son, so let’s honor our Savior with our focus on His flocks!
My next devotional examines 1 Corinthians 13:5 Love is not Provoked
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer
Dear Lord, please help me take the mirrors off that reflect only me and my ego and see that others have needs and interests that should always come first. Help me to reach out to friends who may be experiencing difficult times and listen to them, not make them listen to me. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org