The plane was late leaving Las Vegas so people were overly-tired, easily-agitated but most-of-all ready to go home. A little boy who was no more than 12-14 months old was playing peek-a-boo with me a couple of airport aisles in front of me. After a while he was tired of playing and then shortly he started to scream as if all screams on earth suddenly fused into this little boy’s lungs. It was loud. I could feel the tension in the mother but mostly I could feel the tension around the room as people looked at this boy with eyes that said, “I hope he is not on our plane!” Without missing a beat this girl that was beside us (and her family) proceeded to mouth what most everyone was thinking: “I hope that boy is not on our plane!” The boy kept screaming and the girl beside me said, “They need to give him some benadryl or something because I can’t handle that on this flight.” Her brother who was sitting behind me said, “Give him a tranquilizer or something!”
They were serious…
I thought: “How selfish could these people be? I guess they were perfect children growing up and never cried, complained or bothered anyone’s ‘peaceful’ flight.” I got up and walked away because I was so agitated. Reflecting upon this I thought how selfish we all are. In our parenting we think we are the best parents in the world and nobody is better than us and when anyone offers us advice we dismiss it because..again…we know it all. How selfish! We help programs in church that only affect us and we do that because we see no redemptive value in helping someone if we are not getting anything out of it. How selfish! We like certain bible class teachers, certain preachers who make us feel good, we like certain songs, certain people who pray, certain Scriptures (conveniently avoiding certain ones as well) all because these things are about us. How selfish! We think as if God wrote Scripture to give us a self-help book to give us a verse-of-the-day to make us feel better about the day (you won’t see 2 Cor. 5:10 as a verse of the day) as if God wrote the Scriptures to make us feel better. How selfish! We don’t like certain ministers because they “clash” with our personalities and we start dissension behind his back so we can eventually find a minister that “fits our personality.” How selfish! We get upset when that “minister” says something about our personal spirituality that we disagree with and so we ignore him because, “He doesn’t know what he is talking about!” How selfish! We go on vacation after vacation complaining how the drive was so long, the food was ok, the room was less-than-par and the kids ruined our peaceful leisure not really cognizant of the fact that in many of the world’s countries people live on less than $2 a day (“But we give money to missions for people overseas so we are ok”). How selfish!
Another selfish aspect of our lives is the sad reality that most of us walk our spiritual lives as if we are righteous because of us alone. Listen to Moses when he encouraged the Israelites to remember everything they received had nothing to do with them.
“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God” (Deut. 8:11-20).
And as if they did not get the picture Moses says in the next chapter…
“Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deut. 9:4-5).
I have been thinking about this a lot lately and my heart has been heavy about this so I just want to say it: The person that will send you to hell is YOU. You read this right. YOU! I could have been nice and said that the person that will keep you from going to heaven is you but the reality is that the person who will send you to hell is you. That is not popular for me to say this and I realize that some of the things I mention are some of the things I have struggled with but I know that selfishness is the pre-flight manual for the trip to hell. Don’t like what I am saying? I don’t either but it’s the truth…no…it’s the GOSPEL! If we are to imitate Christ (see 1 Cor. 11:1) then our act of obedience is to make the selfless act of following God and taking up our cross (a symbol of shame). If God calls us to suffer…it is the gospel. If God calls us to a church with only 60 people…it is the gospel. If God calls us to serve in a capacity we despise…it is the gospel. I am tired of the church, its leaders (myself included) and its adherents opting for a more selfish gospel when the words of Christ and his followers were radical, selfless and life-changing principles with one goal in mind: “Thy kingdom come…thy will be done!” IT’S NOT MY KINGDOM COME AND MY WILL BE DONE IT IS THY KINGDOM COME THY WILL BE DONE. ALWAYS!!!
Quit being selfish and think of other people (Phil. 2:1-4). Be gracious to God for everything He has given you (Rom. 8:32). Confess those things you need to confess (1 John 1:5-9). Resist the urge to fight discipline (Heb. 12:7-11). Realize that your, my and our entire existence is to praise God.