“Self” certainly receives a lot of attention these days. Go into any bookstore, library or newsstand and we’ll find complete sections devoted to “self-help.” Topics range from how to take good photos to cooking to home repairs and renovation. Books and publications also promise to teach us how to become rich, stay healthy, and become fluent in a foreign language in just 30 days.
These days we don’t even need to venture outside the home for self-help assistance. Google and other search engines guide us to whatever self-help information we need. YouTube offers video tutorials of virtually everything, from installing new software to building birdhouses. If you’re facing major surgery, you can even find videos showing what you’re about to go through (if you’re brave enough to look).
We all need help in these or other areas, and after all, doesn’t the Bible say, “God helps those that help themselves”? Uh, no, it does not – but that’s a subject for another day.
The point is, we live in a society enraptured with Self, and not just in the self-help sense.
We often hear people talk about self-fulfillment. Speakers talk to us about self-actualization and self-realization. Counselors provide clients with tips for self-determination. Parents fret over protecting their children’s self-image. Hence, “participation trophies” for everyone, whether they did anything of merit or not. We don’t want Jimmy to think he’s not as good as Johnny. Heaven forbid!
Thanks to the convenience of smartphones, “selfies” are only an arm’s length away. I’ve heard people say they enjoy being with only three friends – “me, myself, and I.” There’s even a magazine called Self. Yes, Self seems to be the center of attention just about everywhere we go.
The problem is, the Bible teaches a secret to successfully living God’s way is learning to take the focus off Self. For instance, Philippians 2:3-4 teaches, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Whoa! Not exactly what Self wants to hear.
It doesn’t stop there. Jesus explained what it requires to be His true follower: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
Not long after that, Jesus became the ultimate role model, willingly enduring scorn and ridicule, torture, and then crucifixion, not because of anything He had done or deserved, but because we all owed a great penalty for our sins – a price we couldn’t begin to pay – so He paid the full price Himself, giving His life on our behalf. God incarnate denying self.
The apostle Paul, once as full of Self as anyone who ever walked the earth, understood well the importance of denying self. He declared, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31), not referring to physical death but death to the desires and demands of self, so that he might serve Christ more effectively and consistently.
To believers in the church in Rome, Paul wrote, “…just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life…. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:4-13).
Seems God is telling, if we needing help in how to craft a compelling resume for a new job, hit a golf ball straighter, or bake a special cake for the holidays, by all means seek out all of the self-help we need. However, if our desire is to learn how to love God and others, and to serve Him and those He sends our way, it’s a good idea to shove Self out of the way and let Him take control.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.