One of my favorite birthday cards came from my best friend, or maybe I gave it to her. I can’t honestly remember. The front had a very sweet birthday wish, and when the card was opened, it read, “Okay, now let’s talk about me”. Or something like that. You get the gist. It was funny to me because the two of us joke about that so much… you know, things being all about us. We both have a healthy awareness of our own shortcomings in that area.
It’s in our human nature to be selfish. We come into this world demanding that our needs be met twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As infants, it’s a matter of survival, as adults, it’s just plain unattractive. Have you met the person, who, above all else makes sure their needs are going to be met? That person who rarely considers the desires of others? The person who says,
“I’ve got to do what is best for me”?
I have been that person at times. I have focused on my needs and my wants first. I have also been the person who stood my ground, fought the good fight, given of myself until I had nothing left to give and then still said, “I have to do what is best for me.”
You too? Well, glory. Join the club, we have jackets! Fighting the selfish nature inside all of us is a daily battle. It is a battle that started in the Garden of Eden, and it is a battle humanity will fight until the day of Christ’s return and our sin nature dies forever.
But do you feel like it’s getting worse? Because I feel like it’s getting worse.
All this doing what’s best for me business is swelling to ridiculous proportions. I’m weary of getting phone calls and emails from friends whose lives have been torn apart because their spouse had decided to do what was best for them, and somehow that meant leaving their families behind. And by the way, these aren’t unsaved, un-churched, don’t know how this thing is supposed to go kind of people. I’m talking about people who are in Christian ministry who have served in the church for decades. I mean if we can’t hold it together, how can we lead others to hold it together?
These are perilous times. Paul told Timothy in his second recorded letter to him, this piece of prophesy:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
As followers of Christ, and as ministers of His gospel of peace, we are to be the very opposite of the things in that list. Notice the first in the list is that in the last days people will be lovers of self. I believe it is mentioned first because selfishness is a characteristic of the others.
The one in the list that hit me the hardest was the last one. I do not want to have the “appearance of godliness”, but deny its power. How many of us claim Christ, appear to live godly lives, but do not walk in the power of God?
To give in to selfishness, and other things like it, means we deny the power of God at work in our lives. It means in the face of our unique circumstances, we do not trust Him to meet our needs. So we toss it all away and say, “I have to do what’s best for me”.
Even on His worst day, Jesus never said that.
From the crucifixion cross He blessed, forgave, and cared for other people. I know none of us is Jesus, but He is the standard. To live a life of godliness is more about the motivation than the action. We can be busy doing many things with wrong motivation and live powerless lives. We look good and holy on the outside, but we will cave as the screws begin to turn and our weak faith begins to show.
Being selfish is effortless. We can be selfish without even thinking about it, it comes so naturally to us. It’s living a life that mirrors Jesus that takes the effort. But the day we gave our lives away, we also gave up the right to self. So with the mercy of each new day, we die to self and take up our cross anew.
Because it’s not about us.