A Wonderful Ending

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Another version of the Christmas Crier . . . you know those full-page typed summaries of everything that happened in the life of one’s family in the past year.  Fortunately, those documents have come and gone with most generations, but there are a few who hold on for dear life. I continue to receive the annual updates from a few college friends, and because they send – I somehow feel obligated to read them. For the most part, they contain far too much information. I really don’t need to know that the puppy is now full-grown or the specifics of the family’s daily exercise routine. One of my friends actually had a serious health scare which could have resulted as cancer. Okay, I was interested in that and most grateful her procedure had gone well, that she is healthy. But what I didn’t care to hear about was that she and her husband missed out on their European cruise due to the surgery. “Good grief,” I thought, be grateful you are okay. How many cruises have you been privileged to take, without incident, in the last few years?”  I’m sorry, but I guess I get a little impatient when I feel folks are just a little too self-absorbed.

Speaking of being self-absorbed, I recently heard a statistic that nearly 6000 pedestrians die each year. A significant amount of these 2016 and 2017 figures was attributed to individuals who were preoccupied while they were walking. One analyst said that if you take a distracted walker, combine it with a inattentive or impaired driver, and introduce a slightly decreased vision from a foggy or poorly illuminated environment – it can only set up a hypothetically deadly combination. While there are those communities which have passed ordinances to outlaw the use of smartphones while strolling, the opinion of some is that even widespread laws against distracted walking probably won’t prevent people from accidentally wandering onto the road. You simply can’t regulate individuals who are so self-absorbed that their self-absorption becomes a public nuisance and a potential fatality simply waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, the preoccupation with one’s self has become a disastrous flaw in our society as a whole. In its rawest form, selfishness and self-interest deny us the opportunity to carry out God’s plan for our lives. By doing so, we fail to be useful in the offering of our talents and encouragement to those who need it. Furthermore, we allow ourselves to become detached from providing service in His name. When Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees to answer questions regarding the Kingdom of God, one of His profound statements was this: “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it” (Luke 16;33). I recently read that a woman who had been dedicated to a life of service attributed her motivation to something she had been told in her youth by a relative.  That motivation – “Do something that God will notice or else you’ll get lost in the big shuffle of life.”

The Apostle Paul provided this counsel: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Self-centeredness is a sin because it leads to being devoted to self-gratification and overlooking other people’s needs. Jesus strikes at the very heart of the sin of self-centeredness with this unmistakable declaration: ““If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way…” (Matthew 16:24). Do you find that you regularly hold yourself and your desires above the Lord’s calling to help others? If your first response is to obey any prodding from the Holy Spirit, it is a sure sign that the self-consumed attitude of the world does not have a place in your heart. If, however, you find it hard to say no to your own comforts and regularly ignore His invitation to help someone else, you can be assured that the attitude of the world is working its way into your heart and soul. As we prepare to enter a new year, we should take every opportunity to ‘deny oneself’. In doing so, we make a conscious turn from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. We are no longer in charge; God is. What a wonderful ending to another celebration of Christmas, knowing that Christ is the One ruling our heart.

REFLECTION: When you look at the world around you today, do you see a high level of selfishness and self-centeredness permeating every sphere of society? How do you know if you have fallen into this very same trap? What steps will you consciously take to be less self-absorbed?

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