Summary: Our culture tells us that believing in ourselves, being independent, and getting what we want out of life are great values. But these are worldly ideas, and we need to realize the shortsightedness in them. As disciples of Jesus, we need to do the opposite.
In my last post, I talked about how we don’t own anything and it all belongs to God. In this post, I teach on pride and selfishness, and how they will destroy you.
It’s the original sin, a sin as old as creation. Everyone knows how dangerous pride, selfishness, and self-reliance can be. Yet every person I know struggles with them. The age-old adage is that you can be proud of yourself for not being prideful.
We live in a world that applauds people for “believing in themselves,” relying on themselves instead of relying on others, and “pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.” Selfish ambition is baked into Wall Street. Rappers write entire songs and albums based on their pride and arrogance in themselves. We began to worship and applaud the very character traits the Bible rejects.
So what’s wrong with believing in yourself, supplying your own needs, and being self-sufficient? We are about to tackle these issues for the disciple of Jesus. As you may suspect in this Christian Perspectives miniseries, Jesus turns the values of the world upside down in His Kingdom. Let’s get started.
It’s Not about You
Many voices are clamoring for attention. “Look at me!” “Look at what I can do.” “I want to be like Mike.” We are drowning in a culture of celebrity. I’m not saying natural talents are bad. We place way too much emphasis on wanting to be like someone who is popular, successful, or unique. I’ll just put it to bed right now: everyone is unique. You are unique. I’m unique.
Especially teenagers are susceptible to peer pressure and the influence of the crowd. They want to be liked. So do I. I’m guessing you do too. There’s nothing wrong with that. Except when it challenges the biblical principles and Kingdom values Jesus taught us. Daniel and his friends are great examples of how to stand up against peer pressure when it goes against godly values.
Every disciple of Jesus knows that it’s not about you. You are a servant of God. You serve others and put them before you (1 Corinthians 10:24; Philippians 2:4). Jesus taught us to serve others before He was crucified, the ultimate service to others (John 13:1-5, 12-17). We don’t want center stage. We want for Jesus to be center stage. We don’t live to please others. We only want to please Jesus.
Pride, self-reliance, and selfishness put us at the center. But many theologians argue this was the sin of Adam and Eve, to want to make their own decisions and be their own boss. We all get caught up in these ancient problems of pride. But we must reject them as Jesus’s disciples. They do not follow His teachings or biblical principles. We reverse the decision Adam and Eve made in the garden. We want Jesus to be in charge of our lives.
Pride and Selfishness
Pride and selfishness are very closely related. One proverb says that pride goes before the fall (). A person can plan his steps, but the Lord determines his path (Proverbs 16:9). Jesus saved us out of our selfishness. There are several problems with selfishness and pride, and having a Christian perspective helps us realize how shortsighted and dangerous they are.
You can have pride in yourself, but anyone who looks deep down inside realizes that they are not God. They can’t do what He can. When it comes down to it, we are truly helpless beings. It is one lesson I’ve had to learn as a quadriplegic. I can’t do anything for myself, not even breathe. I can’t feed myself, clothe myself, or do what I want to do all the time,
It’s probably the hardest lesson I have learned as a type A personality. I was used to having things my way, being able to arrange things my way, go where I wanted to go, and do what I wanted to do. Those are no longer possibilities for me until the Lord heals me. I may be a bit further along on this journey of realizing I cannot do for myself then you are, but you’ll get there.
Many people come to God and surrender themselves to Him because they reach the end of themselves. They can’t do what they want to do, get what they want, or go where they want to go. They run out of resources or find out they don’t have anyone else to rely on. When they falter, they realize how futile their efforts and fleeting their lives are.
The Bible tells us that our lives are fleeting (Psalm 90:3-10; James 4:14). God reduced the lifespan to 120 years in Genesis (Genesis 6:3) and Moses said that our lives are 70 years, maybe up to 80 (Psalm 90:10). With such a short time on the earth to begin with, we certainly can’t waste the time we have. We think we know what’s best for ourselves. We can only plan so much for an emergency.
We don’t know what can happen next. No one knows the future except for God. That’s why we can’t put all our faith in ourselves. At a moment’s notice, we could be in dire straits. It took less than half an hour for me to be completely paralyzed, unable to breathe, and passed out on my bed not knowing if I would live or die. You cannot prepare for some things in life.
Selfishness digs a deep hole for us. The more selfish we are, the less people want to be around us. Even people who were truly friends at one time fall away from us. No one likes the selfish guy. It grates on people. They get sick of it, and sick of you. All they have to realize is that they don’t have to feed into your selfish desires. Then you will be all alone and forced to rely on yourself.
It’s the American way, that streak of independence everyone admires. It sounds so good, and we romanticize this ideal. It has the same problem as pride. When you’re all by yourself and have to rely only on you, Joe resources, talents, abilities, and planning only go so far. You can only take so many things into account.
You may ask, “But isn’t it better to not have to bother the people for what you need?” To a point. If you are an extremely needy or high maintenance person, you could probably use a little independence. But for most of us, we need other people to rely on. From the day of your birth until your adulthood, you need the guidance and help of your parents.
We begin to believe the lie that we don’t need anybody’s help. We think we can handle anything. Our youth betrays us to this lie. When we are younger, we think we know everything and can do anything. It doesn’t take long for us to realize we need people around us. It’s a good thing wisdom usually comes with age, unless we are exceptionally stubborn or bullheaded.
Let’s stop romanticizing this idea of self-reliance and independence. There’s a reason the phrase, “It takes a village,” has become a commonplace saying. I think it goes too far, but it points to our need for community and others around us.
A Much Better Way
Jesus teaches us a better way than pride, selfishness, and self-reliance. He knows we need one another because He made us. We are social creatures. Very few of us can stand being alone for very long. Even introverts need other people. The Bible shows us that these sinful ways don’t get us very far.
God knows exactly what we need. He designed us, and He knows how we function best. It’s time for us to stop admiring people who don’t do what the Bible says. As a disciple of Jesus, you must reject these worldly ways and ideals. If you don’t, you will be wondering why you’re having such trouble obeying the Holy Spirit and following Jesus.
It’s time to put away the ways of the world and follow Jesus. By the way, just that phrase, “following Jesus,” means you’re not relying on yourself. Anyone who follows a guide as they are hiking has made a wise decision when they are unfamiliar with the terrain. It keeps them from getting lost and in dangerous situations. It’s the same for following Jesus. He keeps us from walking into the traps and temptations of life. But we have to follow Him and obey the Holy Spirit..
Humility and Selflessness
Jesus teaches that the person who exalt himself will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 22:12; Luke 14:11). James reminds us as he quotes from the Old Testament that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Here are some Scriptures about humility, and you can see how much the Bible extols this virtue (Proverbs 3:24; 27:2; Isaiah 13:11; Daniel 4:37; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 3:8; 5:5-6; I’m just scratching the surface on the topic of humility. You get the point. The Bible extols humility over pride.
Selfish ways don’t get us anywhere. We need to turn to Jesus and allow Him to show us how to start living for Him and putting away ourselves. Jesus made us to live for others, to live in community, and to contribute as much as we take, if not more. Selfishness hasn’t worked out for us, so it’s time to try things Jesus’s way.
Relying on Jesus
We’ve tried it our way, and it doesn’t work out. It’s much safer to rely on Jesus. He knows the future. He sees much farther ahead than you do. Even if something “bad” happens to you, He can take it away or walk with you through it. An old hymn says, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But I know holds the future and I know who holds my hand.”
You can trust Jesus with your tomorrow. You can trust Him with your life today. He wants His best for you. He will lead you astray like the devil or your own desires. Turn your life over to Jesus and He will make it what He wants it to be. His vision is way better than ours. Make godly decisions and live for Jesus alone. Unlike living for yourself, you will never be disappointed in Jesus’s hands.
Do you live a prideful, selfish, or self-reliant life without realizing it? Think about how much you really trust Jesus with your everything. Is there an area of your life you need to fully commit to Jesus? Even as a disciple of Jesus, you may not realize how much you haven’t surrendered to Him.
Now that we have put Jesus in the proper place in our hearts, let us visit in the final perspective for our Developing Christian Perspectives miniseries on vengeance versus forgiveness.