I read an article recently by a plastic surgeon who noted that he was seeing an uptick in much younger people seeking his services. The reason? To look better in selfies. The closeness and the angle with which selfies are taken, he writes, typically distorts the subject’s facial features. So he tries to dissuade them from having surgery if this is their primary reason for seeking his services. Yet, many refuse to take his advice.
Think about the implications of this for a moment. Selfies have become so important that plastic surgery is seen by increasing numbers of people as a necessity in order to improve how they look to the camera. We’re not talking here of movie stars and other celebrities who make a living of off their looks. Rather, we are talking about everyday people who either go to school or work ordinary jobs. Their social media personas are that important.
This is the cultural context in which we live. While self-centeredness has always been a human bent, the advent of social media has amplified that a hundred-fold. I recall a message Francis Chan gave a few years ago where he talked about Facebook and how each individual page was, in essence, an altar to ourselves. We often think of idolatry in terms of statues, candles, and incense, but idolatry in the biblical sense is to worship anyone or anything other than the one true God. It is literally to declare its worth. Thus, anything we consider more worthy than God is an idol.
In the US, by far the most prominent idol is ME. ME comes first. What ME wants is the number one priority. What ME thinks or believes is always right (at least to ME) and never to be challenged because ME’s feelings are the most important. ME does only what benefits ME. Whatever service or sacrifice ME engages in, it must benefit ME in some way. In other words, ME is totally about ME.
If you think this is over the top, think about what is happening in our culture. People post pictures of themselves on social media for no other reason than to get reactions from others. ME first. People have become obsessed with MY rights—the right to say whatever they want, wear whatever they want, to not be offended or to hear what they prefer not to hear. ME first.
My concern is that those of us who follow Jesus are naïve about the danger we are in. Like the proverbial frog in the pot, we may be worshipping ourselves and are totally unaware of it. The culture has a way of sucking us in if we are not intentional with our resistance. And resist we must.
When we read and truly comprehend Jesus’s teachings, we cannot help but see that in order to follow him, we must take ME off the throne of our lives. For the Christian, ME has no place other than being the submissive servant to the One whom all worship is due. Here are just a few of his teachings that make this point:
7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 14:7-11 NIV)
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 NIV)
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:23-26 NIV)
So what can we do to be intentional about keeping ME from being the ultimate focus of our lives? A legalistic approach, such as do this and don’t do that, is not really helpful because our lives are all different in many ways. My suggestion is we continually assess our motivation for doing what we are doing by asking questions:
Why do I want to post this selfie?
What are my reasons for being friends with this one or that one?
When I express an opinion, what is my purpose?
Why do I attend a church or Bible study?
Why have I chosen this major or job?
Why do I spend my time the way I do?
There are many more we can ask, but this gives you some idea of how to approach it.
It may sound like an oxymoron, but the best way to avoid ME-centered living is self-examination of our current lives. If we never ask, we will never know, and we will be certain to live solely for ME because that is human nature. To live for God and to truly worship him with our lives will not just happen; it must be intentional.
© Jim Musser 2019