“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
—2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)
A sociology professor of mine once lamented a magazine he noticed in the grocery store checkout line. The magazine was called Self.
“Self! Can you believe it?”
The magazine launched in 1979 and just recently ended its print run this year. It continues online, however, focusing on women’s health, beauty, fitness and style.
So, what’s wrong with focusing on women’s health, beauty, fitness and style?
It seems harmless enough on the surface, like so many other things. Yet it must be viewed in the larger context of the culture. That’s what my professor was doing. He was noticing a trend. Basically what he was foreseeing was a society of people focused on themselves, resulting in a shallow, narcissistic, and God-forgetting nation. And that was twenty years ago! It was before the term “selfie” so egregiously appeared on the scene.
Having a preoccupation with oneself leads to the type of thing Paul is warning Timothy about in the verse above from the New Testament.
Paul and my sociology professor echo the principle which is key to our Christian faith: we are a fallen people, inherently flawed. Anytime we overly focus on ourselves, we are in danger of forgetting our true nature and our need for God.
Attending to externals, which is largely the focus of the self movement, ignores our need for an internal makeover. We are trying to clean the “outside of the cup” (as Jesus told the Pharisees) while the “inside is full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25).
Jesus is warning against focusing on externals for a reason. The New Living Translation says doing this leads to an awaiting sorrow.
The really dangerous thing is that most people today don’t realize self-focus is a problem or see it as a bad thing. At. All. The mindset has become engrained and the practices normalized.
With the proliferation of social media, the temptation to post endless pictures of ourselves is real. We can become obsessed with checking our “likes” and start thinking we’re all that. May I suggest checking our “likes” in the Bible? See the sacrifice Jesus made in leaving heaven to come to earth and be mistreated by sinful man. All because He wasn’t focused on self. He followed God’s will, put others first, and gained the reward.
Remember the secret to true joy? As in, J-O-Y?
Jesus, Others, and Yourself—that’s the formula. It may seem old-fashioned or corny, but like any well-worn phrase, it’s true because it works.
Here are a few ideas to try if you realize your selfie button is getting stuck.
*Take a self-evaluation instead of a selfie. Be honest with yourself and with God. Write out a confession in a prayer journal. Then do one small thing that focuses on God and/or someone else.
*If you want to brag, talk about what God has done in your life rather than what you’re doing. Skip the vacation pictures as a form of bragging. (Remember when people joked about others who dared to show endless slides of their last trip? Yawn.)
*Take a social media break. Start with whatever absence is do-able for you whether it be a day, a week or a month. Replace this time with Christian music, teachings, or an outreach you’re passionate about. You will notice what you have been neglecting because of time spent online. When you do go back online, you will realize how shallow and temporal most of it is.
*Follow Paul’s advice to Timothy and let some relationships go. If the people you associate with do not share your values, it may be time for some new friends. Spending time with lovers of self will influence you in a similar way, resulting in an unhappy and “sorrowful” future.
God has a better plan!
Finding Joy on the Journey,