Wednesday, April 10, 2013
The Struggle with Selfishness
The struggle with selfishness starts early. Before we can talk, really. As soon as a baby starts becoming possessive of her toys, we, as parents, start thinking about the best way to teach her to share. Do we take it away? Do we let her feel that sense of ownership? Do we start the battle now or when she’s older and able to be more reasonable?
Then she becomes a teenager (or at least starts acting like one). She may be compassionate and giving and sweet… she may be moody and sassy… she may be diligent and hardworking… she may be funny and confident and outgoing… but she, just like you and me, will struggle with selfishness to some degree for the rest of her life.
I was recently reading Acts chapter 7. Stephen is testifying before the Sanhedrin and summarizes the story starting from God telling Abraham to “leave your country and your people and go to the land I will show you,” through Joseph being sold as a slave by his brothers, to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and away from a life of slavery, sent by God Himself! Verse 36 says, “He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.” The Israelites experienced some pretty amazing things and were well take care of, yet they continued to grumble and complain and forsake the God who brought them out of slavery. In verse 41, Stephen continues by saying, “That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor what their hands had made.”
They “held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made.” This hit me like a brick… or maybe it was more like a load of bricks. Either way, it hit me hard! How often do we do that? How often do we celebrate our accomplishments and pat ourselves on the back and say, “Look what I’ve done!” We celebrate promotions, graduations, good grades, buying a home or new car, our creative works… We give ourselves glory and take pride in what we have done.
This is what I finally realized. I’ve spoken this before, but it’s taken a long time to truly grasp it… everything I do is only because God gave me the gifts to do it. Everything I have is only because God gave me the ability to make the money to buy it. Nothing is mine. But so often I treat it as though it is.
A few weeks ago my daughter told me she should be able to do pretty much anything in her room because it was her room. I corrected her and told her this was my house and, therefore, it was my room. End of discussion. As I was walking away, the Holy Spirit hit me upside the head. DARN IT! I’m teaching my daughter how to be selfish. In that one moment, I was showing her that these worldly possessions have a hold over me and her and our family.
I turned around and headed back to her room. I apologized and told her I was wrong. I told her that the house we live in doesn’t belong to her, me, or even daddy – our house belongs to God, and He has entrusted us with these worldly possessions. Our house, cars, furniture, clothes, food – it’s all blessings from a God who loves us more than we can imagine (unless you can imagine giving up the life of your child for the sake of another… personally, I can’t).
I like to think that I’m not a selfish person. I give of my time and treasure, I make meals for friends, I let people go ahead of me in the grocery line, I donate to missionaries… but every time I think of something as mine – like I deserve it or have earned it – I’m not giving God the glory He deserves, and I’m not teaching my daughter the right lessons. I know I’m not the only reason she struggles with selfishness – it’s part of our innate sinful nature; but I know I can be a better example.
Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
My prayer is that I can be an example to my daughter of a woman who seeks and stores up heavenly treasures, not selfishly holding on to those earthly possessions. While I want my daughter to be able to enjoy nice things and special comforts, I pray that those earthly things never become a treasure to her and that she looks upon those things as great blessings – not as things she feels she deserves or has earned… because if we truly got what we deserved, there would be nothing heavenly about our existence. Here’s the thing… Jesus didn’t deserve to die. He took our place, took on our sin (being sinless himself), and died so that we may live. There was nothing selfish about that.