And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?…
A man may love poetry and music, and have generous impulses which draw him toward a higher range of life; but after all, it is only a polished form of selfishness, or selfness that is manifesting itself in him. It is self that is at the bottom. I do not say that it is not better that a man should be refinedly selfish than coarsely selfish. It is a great deal better. It is better that man should be intellectually selfish than coarsely selfish. It makes social intercourse easier. It makes it easier for men to get along with each other. And if the centre of a man's disposition is selfish, and at the same time he has aspirations and refinements, and generosities and kindnesses, I do not say that he is no better for having these things: I say that as a member of society he is a great deal better. He energizes society. He adds something to those elements which take away attrition and harshness and rudeness from society. But he is not inwardly better; for nothing makes a man better within until the centre of his life and character are changed. Every blossom that you put upon a man who is radically selfish, and is going to be selfish, the worse you make it for him. The prettier you make a man's selfishness, the more music there is that accompanies it, the more flowers there are that decorate it, the more balm there is along with it, the more sunlight there is shed upon it, the more it is painted with glowing colours, the better is it for society; but the worse it is for him, because these things delude; because they are satisfying; because they bide the mischief; because they do not let him see what an unforgiveable and what a demoralizing quality selfishness is.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?