How to be selfless in a self-centered society? How to tell the difference between the voice of God and the voice of the world?
The world tells us “follow your heart, follow your dreams, do what you want to do, do what you like to do, and persevere until you get it and find happiness doing what you like.” Is that from God or from the world?
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is for man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Is that from the world or is that from God? (Luke 9:23-25). Can you imagine any travel agency advert with a slogan like that? And is that how we tell the difference between the world and God? Do we test if it sounds like an advert or not?
“Explore the world and discover yourself.” The world or God?
“Go and make disciples of every nation, baptising them (…) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you?” The world or God?
Travelling is the new “being rich”. It used to be that people would boast about their brand new and expensive car or their three storeys manor but nowadays not so much anymore. Somehow mostly everybody understood that money doesn’t buy happiness and that big money is ugly and not sexy anymore. How does the world boast then? You must have noticed that our generation is all about travelling. Who would share a photo of their new Ferrari on Faceboook? That would be contemptible, knowing the price of such a car, but posting pictures of a trip that cost the same price is the must-achieve of our age. I myself live abroad and love travelling and I am not saying it is wrong to travel, it broadens the mind and the heart, but I dare ask what are our purposes in travelling? This new travel industry or trend is about having a good time, seeing and experiencing the most things, and soon we will be accustomed with a new saying like “travelling doesn’t lead you to happiness” because our generation or our children’s generation will have understood that living for ourselves doesn’t make us happy whether it is by spending money on possessions, or on exotic memories. And when that happens the ruler of this world will have to find something else for people to chase after in hope of happiness.
The way the devil lies to us is by convincing us that we are the most important person in our life. What are Jesus greatest commandments? ‘Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ Look at the order: 1.God 2.Others 3.You.
This is only the greatest commandments but Jesus teaches a lot of other things that we must teach others and that we must obey, and if you look at it – and we shall never stop looking at it- it is all about sacrificing ourselves for the good of others.
Take just one paragraph from Luke for example: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31)
If we really do that, then what is our gain? We are taught not only to love our enemies, but to do good to them, to not defend ourselves, to give to everyone who asks and not demand back what is taken from us. As the Christian philosopher Kierkegaard wrote “Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in this world?”
My question is therefore how do we live selflessly in a self-centered society? How do we live like Christ in society that is Christianized but self-obsessed?
My answer is recognise the voice of your Shepherd. Recognise when Jesus is calling you and when the world is. Because the ruler of this world would love to see you happy, but with a wordly happiness.
We know there are wolves in sheep’s clothing in the church and maybe that means individuals but I am more convinced that it means theologies or philosophies. The voice of the world may creep in in Churches and Christian circles though slightly self-centered teachings that comes from ourselves. For example when the “God time” becomes “me time.” Is time with God time for ourselves or for others? Because if the ultimate goal of our daily or weekly time with God is to content ourselves then the devil has done his job and we are salt that has lost its saltiness and light that doesn’t shine. We are the workers, the soldiers of Christ, and time with God is a time with the chief of the army, a time where He equips us and prepare us for the fight to come. Out time with God is a time to be made more like Him so that we will glorify Him where He sends us. What is our front line? Where and when do we spend time with non-Christians? When and where are we witnessing? That is our front line, and if it is only 5 minutes every Saturday when we talk to the cashier at the cinema then why do we need two hours with God every day? And why would we feel guilty about not spending that time with God every day if it is not going to be useful for anybody? Time with God is not about us, it is a time to be filled to be emptied again, time to receive only to give out after. After my first Biblical class, I was very content, I had accumulated a lot of knowledge concerning the four Gospels and I felt happy about it because I love learning, but the next day I was working as a bartender in a pub and a customer started talking to me about the Gospels. That man, non Christian, had obviously studied it in depth and was using Biblical arguments to defend his lack of faith. He was quite surprised I knew about certain theological concepts he was talking about but that nice chat didn’t end up in him changing his mind about Christ, but it did end up in me feeling a different kind of happy. I was no longer happy about some knowledge I had acquired but I was happy and joyful that I had been an instrument for God to share his Good News. I am sure it has happened to you before; you studied your Bible, just to spend time with God you thought, but then within a few days you were given the opportunity to share what you learnt to someone. That’s it you’ve just shined! But it is not reserved to knowledge being passed on, when we spend time with God we are being transformed, we are being made into His likeness and it will shine in our personality, in our actions and reactions and it will bring Him glory.
There is an intriguing parable that Jesus teaches; the parable of the talents. Three servants are given different numbers of talents, two invest them and one bury his in the ground. When the master returns he “cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30) In this parable the devil has done his work well, he convinced the third servant that burring his talent in the ground was the best thing to do, but like a light that would be hidden under a bowl, that is useless. Those talents might mean different things for different people, for some it is gifts that we are neglecting or not using for the Kingdom, or it may be resources that we are not using or not using for the right purpose. The two faithful servants invested the talents they were given and because of that “they shared with the master’s happiness.” (Matthew 25:23)
I beleive that happiness comes by putting ourselves last and serving others for the glory of God. Helping someone brings any human being joy, Christian or not. There are so many ways the devil uses to make us live for ourselves, but don’t think that he only works in the world. By holding firm to the word of life may we be made into blameless and pure children of God, shining like stars in the universe in a crooked and depraved generation. (Philippians 2:15).