We learn a lot about ourselves in the midst of a crisis, particularly one of global size. Most of us like to think we are good people in the general sense, and those of us who are Christians, tend to think of ourselves as having a trust in God. But a crisis tends to reveal our true selves; it lays bare our strengths and our shortcomings, which, we should admit, we all have.
As I have observed the behavior of my fellow citizens over the past two weeks, and have thought about my own, I realize how large self-centeredness looms in each of us. The evidence has been all around us—shelves emptied of toilet paper, sanitizers, face masks, and more recently, certain food items such as rice and frozen vegetables; college students refusing to cancel their Spring Break plans, and others still gathering in bars to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Our natural tendency is to live for ourselves, whether that be through self-protection or self-indulgence. And the reality is, most of the time we do it without thinking.
Last week, when I saw shelves emptying of toilet paper and sanitizer wipes, my instinct was to start looking for them in stores all over town. And when I did eventually find some, the temptation was to buy a lot, because, well, what if that’s all there will be for awhile? I had to be intentional in buying only one package of each because the urge to protect myself was in overdrive.
This is what leads to panic buying. We become afraid that we will not have what we need, so we grab all we can because, well, you never know. Better to be safe than sorry. As a result shelves empty out quickly. And when they are re-supplied, they quickly are emptied again because, well, you never know if there will be any more when you need them.
And then there are those who are self-indulgent. Regardless of the circumstances, they feel entitled to do what they want. College students feel they have a right to enjoy a long-planned Spring Break in Florida, revelers the right to enjoy a good St. Patrick’s Day party, and some sick people minimizing their illnesses so they can go out and do what they want to do.
Regardless if we are bent more one way or the other, to self-protect or to self-indulge, neither of these instincts honor the Lord, nor do they help in a time of national crisis. Yesterday, the Lord brought to my mind this command: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 New International Version 2011) Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was in my heart as I contemplated whether or not to buy the remaining packages of sanitizer wipes. I just thought I should leave the rest for others. Think about what panic buying does to some who perhaps can only get out once a week or have little strength or time to go from store to store in hopes of finding what they need. Or think about the temptation to self-isolate in order not to acquire the virus to the point we are unwilling to risk helping a neighbor or family member.
Or to those of us who are frustrated by all of the disruptions to our lives and consider them over-reactions, what are the implications for others if you insist on doing what you want because you don’t think the virus is anything you need to worry about? What if your brashness leads to you becoming infected and everywhere you go, you expose others to the virus, including the elderly, cancer patients, etc.?
Keeping in mind the words of Jesus, would you want others to treat you this way if you were in a similar situation? Would you want others to leave the shelves bare of necessities by the time you arrived at the store? Would you want others to fear helping you because of the virus threat? Would you want to others to spread the virus around when your age or health conditions put you at risk just because it appears to be no real threat to them? I think the answer to all of these questions is no.
So, as we enter into this crisis and endure it for however long the Lord allows, let’s approach life with this question in our minds regarding others: How would I want to be treated? To repeatedly ask it is the only way to keep our self-centeredness in check and do what honors the Lord.
© Jim Musser 2020