Selfishness (noun): Placing concern with oneself or one’s own interests above the well-being of others.
This is a post that I has been building inside of me for a very long time. I have been thinking about this word, and seeing the effects of it in so many different ways over the last few months, that I know that God is trying to show me something. As Christians, we are called to die to ourselves. Period. There is no second, “easier” option if we want to live for Christ. There is no watered-down way to follow Jesus. We die to ourselves. We give up placing concern with our wants, needs, and desires above – or at the cost of – others. Brian and I have four teenagers. If anybody witnesses selfishness on a daily basis, we do. Teenagers (mostly for just lack of maturity – God please let them outgrow it) are selfish by nature. They are really only concerned with their wants and needs. (Mostly their wants). Around our house – the majority of “conflict” or issues that arise are all borne out of someone being more concerned with themselves than with others. As we have grown as a couple and as a family – we have really come to understand that selfishness can tear people apart if gone unchecked. The more I live my life trying to walk with God and become more Christ-like, the more I see that MANY of the things that cause people to stumble – and the majority of sins in our world all come down to selfishness. People want what they want regardless of who else it may hurt or destroy. People do what THEY want to do – even when knowing it is wrong – because they think only about their own pleasure or fulfillment. We know that the right thing to do would be this option – but the easier thing to do is the selfish option. I’m NOT perfect. I know that I am a selfish person. WE ALL ARE. But here’s the thing…as Christ followers, we are commanded to deny ourselves. That means sometimes we don’t get what we want. That means sacrifice. That may mean pain. But if we want to follow him, it is no longer about US! Christ is our example. Christ showed us how to live for others – how to love others – in the extreme example of sacrifice when he gave his life for us. Not the easy option, not the “feel-good” option. But rather, a pure act of SELFLESSNESS. Jesus gave us everything, including his life. Jesus is our pattern and example. This earthly life is not about us. We are here only by the grace of God. We have hope because of the selfless act of God sending his son to take away our sin. We should do nothing less than show ourselves to be selfless in this life. In small ways, how can we become less about ourselves and more about God and others? How can we shift our focus from our own sinful desires to the love of God and the joy in living for him? Living for ourselves is NOT an option. Selfishness will eventually destroy us, our homes, and our lives. We must learn (and it is a process!) to deny ourselves (not about what we want anymore) and pick up the cross and follow Jesus.
Ok, when I sat down to blog, I had a certain topic in mind…but when I opened my computer yahoo news popped up and a headline caught my eye. It was a news story about a high school senior in South Carolina. He was his school’s valedictorian and had just stepped up to the podium to address the graduation crowd with his “pre-approved” speech. What he did next was awesome. He ripped his speech up. Rather than give it, he began to recite the Lord’s Prayer. In the video you can hear people joining in and applauding. This young man was taking a stand against his school district that had recently voted to remove prayer from their graduation ceremonies. This young man took a stand and did what he thought was the right thing to do. It makes me hopeful and happy to see young people speak about their faith and stand up for God. I often wonder what gives teens the courage…because we all know that teens are so often driven by the need to fit in, or to be like the world. To stand up and speak up about faith is such a commendable act! About a year and a half ago, Brian and I were singing at a Toy Drive on a Friday night. Several teens came in and worshipped with us. They were truly worshipping. Standing, hands raised to God, singing and totally engaged in the moment. I was especially struck by this. Here it was a Friday night and they had chosen to spend it in that manner. Should that be such a big deal…? Perhaps not, but to me it was. Maybe its because I don’t see the same conviction in my teens – and I wish to? I love my teens with all of my heart…and I truly believe they are special, wonderful people with beautiful hearts and minds. I just pray that someday they will be convicted in their hearts to stand up for what they believe in. I hope and pray that someday when the opportunity presents itself that they will do what they know they ought to do – for themselves and for God.
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. James 4:17
Have you ever pulled up to a four way stop at the same exact time that another car has? And then you and the other driver awkwardly sit and look at each other waiting for the other one to go. S then you both start to giant the same time…more awkwardness. Followed by each of you waving the other driver on-at the same time. Now what? So you both start to move again….and the awkwardness soars to a new high. (Or am I the only person on earth who experiences these types of awkward occurrences?) Typically, in these situations, I am the driver who is willing to yield to the other driver and wait. I’m also the weirdo in the grocery who will let someone go in front of me if they have fewer things in their cart….so that I don’t hold them up with my overflowing cart of groceries. I yield to total strangers. And that’s easy, and it feels good. So then why is it sometimes so stinking hard to yield to those around us that we love. Not just in small, superficial ways…but in the big meaningful ways. If we truly love and care about someone, shouldn’t we yield to them. The dictionary defines yield as to give up, surrender, or submit. This can have so many meanings in our every day lives. Within the boundaries of our own families, are we yielding to each other? Do we hold out for what our selfish nature desires, or do we surrender to what is good for the whole family? Am I holding a grudge based on my hurt feelings, or am I giving them up in hope that relationships may be restored and grow? Do we submit ourselves to what God requires of us or do we attempt to maintain control and do it our way? Relationships are difficult. They are dynamic and challenging, but so vital and rewarding.
And if we (talking mostly to me) have trouble at times yielding to those we love…how much more difficult do we make the process of yielding to others…the poor, the homeless, forgotten. And what about our enemies!? We are commanded to love our neighbor. We are commanded to love our enemies. I believe that part of that process of love is yielding…submitting, surrendering. What if I gave up -even occasionally- my $6.00 cup of coffee (venti, quad, skinny, french vanilla latte) and blessed someone else in a small way. What if I surrendered some of my time to just sit and talk with someone who feels like they don’t matter. Am I willing to yield to others? This is a challenge that I know I am not alone in facing. I think if we were all honest, we could probably find areas that we have been less than willing to yield. Are we holding grudges over past hurts? Are we stubborn with our time, our money, even our emotions? I know that I am a work in progress and that I have many strengths but I also have many flaws. I thank God that He loves me…enough to die for me even with all my imperfections. And because of that sacrifice and my love for Him, I want to be more willing to yield.
James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.