Challenge: Is Heaven a Selfish Desire?

Posted: October 2, 2012 by Amy Hall in Etcetera, Weekly Challenge

Ready for this week’s challenge? Here’s a question we received:

Is Heaven a selfish desire? Christians are told throughout their teachings that they are to be selfless. Does this mean that to desire Heaven is selfish (and therefore wrong) since it’s a reward at the end of life?

Give us your answers for this one, and we’ll post a video from Brett on Thursday.

  1. Erik says:

    I think a question like this would come from someone who doesn’t clearly understand the nature of heaven. Perhaps that because many, like myself, we were raised to think of heaven as a place populated with mansions and streets of gold and alabaster, winged angels playing harps and groups of heavenly souls floating around on clouds in a state of perpetual rest and bliss. But this isn’t the picture of heaven that the Bible paints for us.

    For those who want to go in depth, Randy Alcorn did a decent job of talking about Heaven in his book by the same name. Considering the amount of material he was able to include in that book, it’s worth saying this isn’t a simple topic.

    Regardless of the stories I heard growing up, I don’t find myself lost in thoughts of eternal bliss. Rather I find myself thinking not of gold streets and mansions, but relationships. I think about my opportunity to meet and worship the creator of all things, to see my savior and give him the glory he deserves. I also think about the relationships that I have here that will be able to extend into eternity. The Bible teaches us that our salvation is out of love, out of relationship, and that will allow us to be with the One who put us here in the first place. Our goal is to be reconciled to Him.

    Aside from that, we do have other benefits to gain in Heaven. For example, Revelation 21:4 tells us that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there by mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”(ESV) Is it selfish to desire to be in a place where there is no more suffering, no more pain? Who wouldn’t want that? We’re told that there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 66:22, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1). 1 Corinthians 15 talks about the resurrected body. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created for good works. It seems reasonable to assume that our good works don’t begin and end with our lives here on Earth, but rather will extend into eternity. Our newly resurrected bodies will find a home on a new Earth, both uncorrupted by sin, both in the perfect state originally intended for us. What our works and lives will be like are up for speculation, but we can get a glimpse of things by understanding what God teaches us about our lives here. Imagine our lives continuing on, unhindered by the problems we experience in this life. Relationships without hurt. Doing work that produces only good results. All happening in the presence of the One who made it possible.

    If I were only interested in this end for myself, then I would allow that desiring heaven would be selfish. But my desire for heaven is for everyone who would accept God’s offer. My desire here is to share the message of what could await someone if they would come to Christ. My desire is to see heaven populated with as many as possible, not a solitary place where it’s just me and God.

  2. Mark in Columbia, Missouri says:

    Like so many of these “objections”, this is a simple statement packed with a myriad of disjointed and convoluted ideas — but it is a great starting point to begin parsing and dismantling these misconceptions and misunderstandings — even those held by traditional or cultural “Christians”. Ultimately the goal is clarity and by working toward clarity we can unpack what the real objection is.

    This specific objection allows us to discuss the difference between selfless and selfish, to talk about what the Bible teaches about immortality and the afterlife, to understand more fully, and humbly, what we have in Christ and to live our lives with an assurance of Heaven as a gift and not as a reward.

    But I suspect that underneath this specific objection is the general objection that Christians live hypocritical lives — that we don’t live up to what we say the Bible teaches. And that is true (as far as it goes) for all of us — both believers and non-believers, when we really get down to it, fail every day to live up to our own held moral codes.

    At this point of joint agreement, we can then point out that this is why we are ALL in a lot of trouble and in need of a Savior – that we can’t get to God on our own – but that God Himself has entered creation to provide a rescue plan for us.

  3. Scott says:

    I think desiring to escape from earth to get to heaven can often, but not always, be a selfish desire. Paul desired to go and be with Jesus (Philippians 1.23)

    But a much greater desire is that God would bring his reign in heaven to earth to rule and love unopposed. Christians pray “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The last prayer of the Bible is “Come, Lord Jesus!” It is better to desire this!

  4. Sam Harper says:

    This challenge confuses selfishness with self-interest.

    Christian morality is concerned with the interests of both the self and of others. For example, Paul said, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4). In discussing Christ’s love for the church, his body, he says, “no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Ephesians 5:29).

    There is nothing wrong with being motivated to repentance by self-interest either. Throughout the New Testament, the writers are constantly appealing to self-interest as a motivator. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the promise of rewards, punishments, and consequences to motivate moral behavior. For example, Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Many of Jesus’ parables also appeal to self-interest (e.g. the parable of the 10 virgins).

    There is nothing wrong with self-interest. Self-interest is not the same as selfishness. Self-interest is a concern about the self. Selfishness is a concern about the self at the expense of others. Christians are supposed to be concerned about both themselves and about others. Self-interest is a necessary part of life. We eat so we won’t get hungry. We put on clothes so we won’t be cold. We get jobs so we’ll have money and can support ourselves. Most of what we do is out of self-interest. If self-interest were a sin, then we’d be in an impossible situation. We couldn’t breathe without sinning. It cannot be wrong, then, to embrace the gospel out of self-interest. That is not selfish.

  5. Kelly says:

    Yes, this is a selfish desire. Good Christian teaching does not teach selfless acts to the exclusion of self. Yes we are to serve others but if we do it through constantly degrading our self, we will be useless. Everything the bible teaches is about balance – the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. You are to love yourself. Isn’t that selfish? I’d say yes. However, if I love myself to the point of hating others then there is no balance. Loving myself includes having desires that are in my own best interest – staying healthy, having good thoughts about myself, enjoying God’s blessings that He gives just to me and having hope for the future. Our hope is laid up in heaven. I think about heaven often! It’s my home! It’s my hope!