“Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” Ps 119:36
The psalmist knows the dangers within his own heart. He knows that if his eyes aren’t fixed on his God, then he will drift toward selfish gain. And, he knows that for his eyes to be fixed on God, he must look to the Word of God, for it contains the “testimonies” of God. In other words, “selfish gain” (or self-interest and self-advance) is always a threat to the priority of the Word in our pursuit of God.
With that in mind, let’s consider 3 ways that we remove the priority of the Word for self advance.
1. We outright reject it. Maybe we don’t like something it reveals about God. Maybe, we feel uncomfortable with what it says about us. Or, maybe, we just feel that the Bible is a little behind the times and overbearing. Whatever the case may be, our self feels threatened, so we opt to simply reject God’s Word. We choose “selfish gain” over “his testimonies.”
2. We neglect it. Our hearts may be so overrun with “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (Mk 4:19) that we no longer have time, energy, or interest for the testimonies of God. We no longer see the need for it; we are too busy advancing our selves, so we neglect the Bible to the detriment of our souls.
3. We use it. Sadly, not only are we capable of using people, but we can even use the Bible out of a motivation for selfish gain. Pastors and preachers must especially be on guard against this temptation. Peter exhorted the elders to shepherd the flock “not for shameful gain.” Paul was aware of “peddlers of God’s word” (2 Cor 2:17) and that “some preach Christ from envy and rivalry” (Phil. 1:15). But preachers aren’t the only ones who can use the Bible for self-interest. All of us need to guard against a mere utilitarian approach to the Bible that sees God’s word as a stepping stone to a better………(you fill in the blank). Selfish gain stands behind this approach to God’s testimonies.
The Psalmist knew the dangers of selfish gain, so he prayed that God would incline his heart to the testimonies of the Lord. He desired to know his God and in that knowledge to walk in His ways and before His face.
What about you and your Bible? Are you guilty of rejecting it, neglecting it, or using it for the advance of your self? If so, repent and look again to the Lord Jesus who perfectly understood, kept, and fulfilled the Word of God not for self advance but for the salvation of selfish sinners. In His name we can find forgiveness and pray with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain.”
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.