Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor. (Proverbs 14:21) I know a guy who sold his business and went to be a missionary in Asia. While many young men were seeking success (whatever that means), he found it and left it to share...
I am dealing with how to be selfless when I feel like someone is invading my space. Annoyances pop up, one after another, making my frustration level run high. Why won’t they go away? Can they not use their own stuff? Sinful thoughts like these fill my mind as I justify them. I earned this; they didn’t. They owe me. My sin escalates: I don’t care if they know Jesus or not. I just want them to go away—forever.
Our attitude defaults to selfishness, even at the beginning of our day. We get mad if someone wakes us up before the alarm jingles, or if our morning time with our Bible and coffee is interrupted. We naturally think of ourselves first—our needs and our wants. It takes effort and, most of all, it takes Christ to overcome our selfishness.
A Selfish World
The world doesn’t help us pursue selflessness. It encourages selfishness and self-idolization. We pose for selfies, edit our images, and self-promote the best parts of our lives. We post selfies to get “likes” and admiration, while the time we spend thinking of ourselves (and refreshing the notifications) grows as a result.
Our selfies shout, “Look at me! Look at what I’m doing! Look at what I have!” This world feeds our innate ability to be selfish. We improve our looks. We do more document-worthy stuff. We acquire more things to “snap” and “share”. Tony Reinke interviewed an Instagram protégée in his new book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You:
“I buy a lot of things to maintain my image,” she said. “I pay for meals out…beautiful printed dresses nearly once a week, fresh flowers religiously once a week, etc…I spend money to make my life look a certain way.” (67)
We may not be famous on Instagram, but perhaps we think of ourselves too much. Scrolling through or actively posting to social media adds to such overthinking. The less we guard ourselves in this world of selfies, the more we turn the lenses of our minds onto ourselves.
[Tweet “We must turn the selfie lens away from our faces, onto others, and onto Christ.”]
I want to look like her. So, we spend our resources selfishly to improve ourselves.
I want to do things like him. So, we spend our time selfishly to gain fulfillment through activities.
I want to have what they have. So, we spend our money selfishly to possess similar things.
A Selfless Call
The more we think of ourselves, the less we think of others, and the more self-centered we become. Jesus tells us that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 12:31). Again, our default affection is for ourselves. We love ourselves and care for our bodies by eating and sleeping. We rarely ignore our own needs. Jesus says to think of our neighbors with the same affection. We must care for them, give to them, and seek to meet their needs.
Paul, through the authority given to him by God, explains Jesus’ command further. Not only do we need to love our neighbors as ourselves, but we also need to value them more than ourselves. He says this in Philippians 2:3-4:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.
A Selfless Savior
How do we get past such self-centered thinking and lifestyles as we see (or post) selfie after selfie on our screens each day? The ongoing self-glorification on social media may not have directly caused you to stumble into the sin of selfishness today. But, the social acceptability of this self-worship feeds our tendency to make light of such sin in our world today. When we feed our minds constantly with thoughts of ourselves, we easily disregard others, and justify our own sin. Paul continues in Philippians 2 with this:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (v.5-8)
To love our neighbors and think of them above ourselves as the Lord commands us to in Philippians 2:3-4, we must have the mind of Christ—a humble mind. The way to fight the sin of selfishness is to ask God to renew our minds so that they become like Christ’s. In perfect selflessness, he regarded the greatest need of every human—forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God—and the will of his Father as more important than his own glory, to the point of laying down his life for us at the cross.
Turn Your Camera Around
We must turn the selfie lens away from our faces—away from our needs and wants—onto others, and onto Christ. We must pray that he will humble us enough to care for our neighbors above ourselves.
When our point of fixation changes, we will start using our resources differently by inviting others into our homes, giving more than we receive, helping others succeed, admiring others’ beauty, and doing more activities for the sake of lost souls, not just lost “likes”. Humility will never be our default attitude on our own, but it is Christ’s. Let us keep running boldly to his throne of grace in our time of need and ask for help (Hebrews 4:16). We need help from the only one who is perfectly selfless, and he promises to give it.