“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Last week I began reading and commenting on Jeremiah Burroughs’ book, Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions, exploring the destructive power of the chief sin of Pride. Continuing to examine the causes of divisions in the Christian’s heart and fellowship, Burroughs next turns to the dividing distemper of Self-Love.
I think this chapter is particularly relevant today. Our culture encourages “self-love” as a base of therapy. How often have we heard it said, “you have to learn to love yourself before you can love others”? The popular mantra of the day is that healthy self-esteem is a prerequisite for a healthy relationship; that without sufficient self-love, we’re not capable of truly loving others.
The problem is, this is exactly the opposite of what the Scriptures say. It’s not that we have to learn to love ourselves more, but that we loves ourselves too much. Please understand me, I don’t mean that we should become self-loathing people without any self esteem. Indeed, the Scriptures show us that we were created in the image of God (Gen 1), with dignity and honor just below that of the heavenly beings (Psalm 8:5), and for those in Christ Jesus, God has set His love and affection on us since before the world was created (Eph 1:3), and has demonstrated that love by sending His Son to redeem us, even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Rom 5:8). As comedian Brad Stine once said, “If the creator of matter thinks that you matter, that is the source of your self esteem.”
The problem of the human condition is not that we love ourselves too little, but that we love ourselves too much. This self-love is the root and cause of nearly every public strife. When we are motivated by self-love, Burroughs says, we have “no common ends to join us.” If two people are filled with self-love, they will both be seeking their own ends, and therefore will eventually be at odds with one another.
It’s very interesting that Burroughs fills this chapter with illustrations from those serving in the public/political arena. He writes of politicians who start with great intentions, saying they are there to serve the people, but end up serving only themselves. (It’s a good thing that doesn’t happen these days.)
How does this Self-Love show itself?
- Self-Love results in wickedness in men’s hearts: “Even those things that men acknowledge to be right and good in the general, yet if they shall not particularly suit with something they would have, it will put men upon the opposing.” Driven by selfishness, we will abandon what we know to be right and good if it stands in the way of personal gain. We will do wrong to get what we want rather than to do what is right and learn to be content with what we have.
- Self-Love leads to blindness: “It causes men not to see their own evils, or if they do, to indulge themselves in them; but to be quick-sighted and severe in the discovering and opposing those evils that are in others, and this causes many breaches and fallings out.” Think of Jesus in Matthew 7, all we can see is the speck in our brother’s eye, while we are blind to the plank in our own.
- Self-Love makes us schemers: “It sets men’s wits on work, in all cunning craftiness, to fetch others about to their own ends.” We use other people to achieve our selfish desires, and see others only as a means to our own ends, then discard them as soon as we have reached our goal. “Crooked windings are the goings of the serpent: but if a man shall not only seek to make use of another to serve his own turn by him, but after he hath done that, then to cast him off to shift for himself; this is so provoking a thing, that it makes breaches irreconcilable.”
This Self-Love, rather than being a cure to our personal problems, leads only to broken relationships. “It is vile,” Burroughs says, “in the eyes of God.”
So what is the solution to this Self-Love? Quite simply, the cure of Self-Love is Christ. Were we to fix our hearts upon Him, to make His glory, His honor, His Word, His pleasure our chief delight, then our hearts would be unified under one Lord, one Savior, one Spirit, one Love. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Burroughs offers that as the answer to selfishness. “If we owned [our selfish concerns] less; He would own them more. The more we deny them, the more hath he a care of them. We may, by our giving them up to the honor of Christ, make them to be among the number of his things, and then they would be precious indeed. Let us make his things ours, and he will make our things his.”
Give your selfish cares to Christ, let Him attend to your every need. Seek first Christ and His kingdom, and He will give you all things!
From the Pastor’s Desk – Some things I’ve been reading lately.
How the Two-Hour Marathon Limit Was Broken – Okay, so technically this is a video, and not something I read, but still very impressive. Consider, you have to run under a 4:35 pace per mile to do this. It is inspiring, and I can take comfort in the fact that my half marathon is still faster than this (barely). Now it will be interesting to see if someone can break the 2-hour barrier in an actual race.
Disciple your Children – Here’s an encouraging and informative article for parents who feel unprepared to disciple their Children.
The Conversion of Kanye: There has been a lot of talk lately about prominent Christian leaders who have walked away from the faith. Now there is news that Kanye West, hip-hop performer and producer, has come to faith in Jesus Christ. This article is more about the Pastor who has been working with Many. I think it is appropriate to rejoice when anyone who is lost comes to salvation, so I rejoice that Kanye has come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Still, I am leery of any kind of “celebrity culture” in the Church, so I pray that God will sustain Kanye, and help him to grow in grace, giving glory to God in all that he does.