Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Selfishness and Selflessness

How much of my life is caught up in me!

In spending time today reading through Haggai 1:1-10, I was struck again by God's statement of how the Israelites were more concerned about their own lives than the glorification of God's house and therefore God.  God's response was to withdraw His protective hand; the Israelites response was to work even harder to try and provide for themselves rather than see the root of the problem.

Great, I thought.  Another interesting lesson from a people in the past about not putting God first.  Duly noted.  Let's move on.

But then the thought starting percolating in my brain:  Putting self first versus putting God first.  Suddenly, I had a whole new field to till.

As I sat and thought about it for five minutes, I realized that I am intensely self-focused.  At some level in so many parts of my life, my life is about me - especially about how I want people to perceive me.  So much of what I do is focused on how I want to be perceived that I eventually become consumed by selfishness at its most basic level:  the pursuit of things solely for my benefit.  I try and move events to my favor.  I try and craft my language and answers to reflect well on me, give myself a certain image I have predetermined in my mind of how I should look.  In fact, many activities are undertaken not only because I think I will enjoy them but because I think that they will somehow add to the image of myself in my mind - and how others perceive me.

The result? In behavior I become erratic, trying to hold on to an image that cannot be maintained or letting the image move me to places I should never go. In language and communication, I speak more to be heard rather than hear, and my words become weapons that destroy and hurt, even inadvertently.  In activities, I  "suddenly" lose interest when the activity doesn't contribute to the mythical image I have constructed for myself.

In clinging to my own self interest, I lose myself.

Which is why (I think) Christ was so insistent that we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.  Me focused on me creates someone who is following the image of me.  Me following Christ, allowing His Spirit to dwell in me and guide my actions, is Christ lived out through the way He created me.

What my image is no longer becomes as important; what Christ's image is in the eyes of others become important, which directs my behavior in ways that are consistent with what I say believe.  In language and communication, I communicate what God and Christ have said, not what my opinions are; application becomes based in His word, not in my own ideas.  The result is that there is now some grounding for what I speak, not just what sounds wise.  In events, I seek to be in them in a way that brings glory to Him not me; I am relieved of the responsiblity of trying to guide them.  And in activities, I do what is honoring to God because it honors God; the result is that what I do I do because it is how I'm made and that I enjoy the activities and can enjoy them for what they are and what they bring to my life, not what I think they should make me look like.

There's a first step, of course:  agreeing that Christ and His image in me is more important than the image I have created for myself.  It's the difference of comparing a sheet of hammered gold and a sheet of toilet paper:  both are sheets, but one is far more valuable than the other - and infinitely more enduring.

The question is, am I willing to perceive the true value.

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