I think about myself a lot. In fact, not a day goes by when I don’t think, “What could make me happier right now?” or “What do I want to do?” And if you were honest, you’d probably say the same thing about yourself. Am I right?
Self-obsession has always been a human problem, but recently I think we’ve taken it to new levels. Ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up and this is what they’ll most likely tell you: a rock star, an actor, a fashion designer, or a superstar athlete. Hop in a time machine and ask the same question to a kid 25 years ago, and you’d get a very different answer with a very different mindset: a fireman, a mom, a police officer, or an army soldier. Yesteryear used to be about giving of yourself to make the world a better place. Now it’s about how to achieve the most success and get the most money to live in a big house with fancy cars and cool clothes while basking in the light of your own fame. I know I’m probably sounding a bit like a bitter old man here, longing for the past, but more and more I keep seeing what a “me-centered” society is doing to our thought process and belief system…and it isn’t good.
Of course culture is going to continue to get worse. This doesn’t shock me at all. What does bother me, however, is when we allow the tainted teaching of the culture around us to shape our views of the church, the body of believers within it, and God Himself.
I’ll let you in on a not-so-big secret from the bible: it’s not about you—it’s about Jesus Christ!
Many self-help professionals want you to believe that if you work hard enough to become a better you and believe the capability is inside of you to achieve the greatness you deserve, you will aspire to great things. The only small, little, tiny problem is this: you’re simply not capable of being better in your own power.
No matter how hard I try, I have never, ever been able to make my sinful nature improve by trying harder to become a better me. Every seven-step program I have implemented into my daily routine has failed miserably. All the sincere promises I have made to God or myself to “try harder” and “do better the next time” have come up wanting in the end. In my own power, I am a loser ten times out of ten. Why? Because I can’t do it on my own! I need Jesus!
And so do you.
It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling when someone tells you about your capability to achieve prominence. But what does that desire for prominence ultimately produce? Most often, the goal of self-improvement is self-glorification. See, when you peel back the warm and fuzzy layers of self-esteem, there is a dark and disgusting idol that rests in the center of the shiny exterior—pride.
Nobody today likes to admit they need help. We all fantasize about sitting in the chair on stage of our favorite talk show while being applauded by the studio audience for pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and making it on our own (well, at least I fantasize about that).
“Nobody helped me on my way to the top. I did it all by myself.”
“I worked hard and I achieved my goals.”
“I believed in my heart I could do it, and I did.”
Often revered as the American ethic of “individualism,” these are the kind of statements the culture admires and praises. These are the phrases that make people tear up and silently proclaim, “Good for them!” And unfortunately, this is the prevailing mentality that has oozed its way into the church, bringing with it the destructive arrogance that’s been the downfall of humanity time and time again.
In Genesis 11, all the people at the Tower of Babel thought very highly of themselves and consequently, the Lord intervened to help them understand their rightful place in terms of importance. He confused their speech so they literally couldn’t understand one another, and their plan to make a name for themselves had a giant God-shaped monkey wrench thrown into it.
Now, please understand what I’m saying here and what I’m not. I’m not saying you are worthless garbage. I’m not saying you aren’t valuable and special either. You are very important to God…if you weren’t, do you think He would have sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you? You have incredible worth because of what God has done for you through Jesus Christ as His image-bearer.
The problem begins, however, when we get cocky and think all of life is about us and what we can do to make a name for ourselves (like the folks in Genesis 11). God is very clear about the fact that He will not share His glory with anyone. He is jealous for it and when we try to steal His glory for ourselves, it is sin…even if it’s masked by the perpetual back-patting happiness of self-esteem motivators.
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5)
A good definition of humility is “knowing your place.” God is God and we are not. The quicker we realize this, the better off we will be, I promise.
Success in life doesn’t come by believing in the capability we have to be better people. It comes by knowing our place and believing God is the ultimate benevolent power and loving authority over all things, including our lives.
But if we swallow the world’s idea of self-esteem, we are essentially worshipping ourselves and making our own glorification the end-all-be-all of life on earth. Although it may seem natural to revel in the idea of self-glory because it feels great, that kind of existence is dangerous living to any believer who follows Christ. You cannot have two people sitting on the throne of your life. Either God will be calling the shots, or you will.
It may seem a bit scary to give control over to Him when everything sinful inside of you screams for the opposite, but true freedom only comes from handing your life over to God and trusting He’ll do the best job while sitting in the driver’s seat. Jesus laid His life down for us, so now we can be quick to yield our own lives to Him. He deserves our complete surrender.