Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?
This is the question which the infidelity of hell asks the fidelity of heaven. With the same underlying current of thought, not a few reason in our day. The only theory of life which some will recognise as at all philosophic is that which is based upon purely utilitarian principles. But the world, all that is best and noblest in the world, does not act from purely selfish motives. Not only humanity, but the very physical world itself protests against this dreary doctrine. God does not seem to have created the earth and visible heavens on those exalted "purely utilitarian principles" which commend themselves to some superfine intellects in the present dry. A certain class of thinkers charge the religious life with being based on the same principle. Religion is not objected to, it is only patronisingly relegated to a department of political economy. The question — the selfishness of religion — which I propose now to speak of, I shall deal with as a difficulty in an earnest Christian soul, which longs to get rid of it, rather than as the hostile idea of an avowed opponent. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" The answer expected is, of course, "No." Therefore religion is selfish. Is this true of our Christian faith? There are some forms in which certain of its doctrines have been presented and enforced which would seem to sustain the charge. Has there not sometimes been too great a tendency to make our individual salvation the sole and exclusive object of the Christian life? In many manuals of devotion, e.g., Kempis "Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah De Imitatione Christi," and in books which treat systematically of the religious life, this is painfully apparent. And we have a lurking suspicion that such is what the Bible and the Church alike teach us. First let me speak of rewards and punishments. There is no doubt that Scripture and the Church lay stress upon the glorious life which the righteous shall inherit, and the unutterable woe which shall befall the wicked. Such teaching has still, and ever will have, its due place and power in the work of the ministry of Christ. It is, however, a small part of Christian teaching. If the exhortations and motives to Christian life were to begin and end here, there might be some colour of selfishness about it. But this is only a first step. It is, if you will, an appeal to men's self-interest for a moment, — but only for a moment, — to lead them up afterwards to something infinitely purer and higher. A Christian lives on through such childish feelings to the full unselfish manhood in Christ Jesus. When we remember that self is the very root and essence of sin, it is not surprising that in the first stage of dealing with such a nature as man's there should be an adaptation of the means employed to such a condition. To represent the hope of reward or fear of pain as the continually abiding and sole motive of the Christian life all through, is to ignore nine-tenths of the exhortations of the New Testament — is utterly to misrepresent and pervert the teaching of our Lord — is to deny the truth of countless Christian lives which we have read of or have seen. There is another thing of still more practical importance. There is no word which we use more frequently in religious phraseology than the word "salvation." Is there not too great a tendency in many of us to always speak and think of that salvation as solely an escape from some future punishment? If we regard the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God as merely a means by which we are to escape some future pain, I do not know whether there may not be a strong tinge of selfishness in our faith. But there is a more awful thing than pain or punishment, there is sin It is to save us from sin that Christ died. If then the salvation be deliverance from sin, and if self be sin (for sin is ever the assertion of "I" against the all-good, all-loving God) — is it selfish to conquer self through the power of Christ — is it selfish to become so one with Christ as to have self crucified with Him, so that we no longer live unto self, but unto Him who died and rose again? There can be no real spiritual life until we learn to loathe sin — not merely the results of sin. Let us tell men, sin is your enemy; sin, here in your hearts; sin, which is robbing your life of all its joy and sweetness; sin, which is grinding like a hot chain into your very flesh. From that Christ died to save you. Is not this a pure, unselfish Gospel? "The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins." That power has actually been felt by many. Then there dawns on us gradually the new life; self is nailed to the Cross — to Christ's Cross with Him — and henceforth it is not I that live, "but Christ that liveth in me"; not a calm, indifferent life, but a life of constant struggle against all sin and evil, — and yet a life in which self-sacrifice itself becomes easy, for I am "dead to sin, and living unto righteousness "
(T. Teignmouth Shore, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?