I have commitment issues. I’m afraid of getting too attached, whether to interests or relationships or pursuits. My friendships are too often like AYCE sushi buffets that start so good, yet end regretful. My New Year’s resolutions sound like the hopeful promises of political debates that inevitably lead to disappointment. A 30-day email list feels like the marathon runner who has gotten a cramp and flees from the racetrack to avoid confronting disappointed onlookers.
New Yorkers running despite/during Covid – Prospect Park, NYC – March 21, 2020
But at the root of such issues is being self-consumed.
Philippians 2:3 says “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Pride is being focused on one-self. It’s more than merely a big ego. It can be self-love but also self-hate. Pride can be constantly thinking of what others think of me, being afraid of others’ judgement, seeking approval from others.
Pride is fearing what others think of me, and thus constantly focusing on myself. This fear of man makes me forget about God and fearing Him instead.
Proverbs 29:25 tells us that “the fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”
My fear of what others thought of me crippled me. We’ve all experienced the fear from Covid-19 that has locked ourselves in our houses, afraid to go out.
A deserted 6th Ave – Manhattan, NYC – March 13, 2020
The fear of man is imposed by myself, but much to the same detrimental effects. I’m afraid to reach out to others or restart the email list for fear of judgement. Even being genuine in this email begets fear of being a let-down.
But being consumed by myself prevents me from being attentive to the needs of others. Disappointment is the inevitable path if I do this Scripture-thon wanting something out of it for myself.
However, Paul implores us to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
If everyone was always trying to get and never give, the world would be one of disappointed people not getting what they want. But if the world was one focused on giving, they’d receive more than they could have asked for in return. Yet even giving in order to receive is still inherently selfish.
Rather, Jesus Christ, who came to this earth giving his life and getting nothing in return except mockery, beatings, and crucifixion, points to true selflessness.
Paul describes Christ as one “who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
If anyone has the right to be prideful, it’s Christ – the freaking self-proclaimed son of God. Yet he came down to earth to live with us mortal beings and die for us. It’s as though there was an ant hill in my yard, and I cared about the ants so much that in order to save the ants, I took the form of an ant and got crucified by the ant colony instead. And that doesn’t even come close to what Christ did for us.
Jesus’ attitude to submit to his Father’s will to have him die on a cross is one of a humble servant. And that’s the servant attitude that has captivated so many people and drawn them to believe in him.
The selfish nature endemic to human flesh was on full display amidst this coronavirus crisis as people stocked up on food and toilet paper for their own family despite knowing this left little for those behind them.
Trader Joe’s freezers emptied by panicked shoppers – FiDi, NYC – March 11th, 2020
Even the American free market built on rational selfish actors broke down with the formation of queues and quotas.
Two hour long queue at H-Mart – Queens, NYC – April 17, 2020
It is amidst this climate of selfish pride (a climate that has existed in every moment of history) that people take notice when we act out of selfless servitude.
Just as people took notice with Jesus as “the light of the world” (John 8:12), we’re able to reflect his light in how we live in this world.
Sunlight peeking through the cherry blossoms – Flushing, NYC – March 21, 2020
We’re called to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). By acting selflessly, we draw attention away from ourselves and instead to our Father in heaven. Sharing this glory of God for others to see it as well is far better than any glory that we can accumulate for ourselves.
However, we don’t have the strength to do this on our own. Even Jesus cried out to and relied on his Father while he was on earth. If we try to act selflessly on our own, we’ll be burnt out, lacking commitment to what we set out to do, and bitter at the outcome. But if we “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), we point each other to the truth of a God who has never once lacked commitment, always offering His mercy and love to us.
I was really encouraged by y’all reaching out to me over these past few days, and through the grace of God, I’m looking forward to doing the same.
- Pray for light. Pray for people to see that there is a light in Christ amidst all the darkness of the world. Pray that this light draws people out of dark corners of self-depravity, anger, and depression.
- Pray for technology to connect rather than separate. Pray for God to use technology to connect people to Him and to each other. Pray for the church to leverage digital platforms to multiply God’s kingdom.