Posts Tagged ‘Selfishness’

Matthew 16:24-26 – WHEN SELF-ESTEEM MET SELF-DENIAL

When Self-esteem met Self-denial. Image created by Ross Cochrane and Morguefile

When Self-esteem met Self-denial. Image created by Ross Cochrane and Morguefile

Recently a firm of reputable psychologists were looking to hire another partner and Selfishness applied. The interview went well and his résumé was impressive; in fact very convincing. Selfishness pointed out that his best-selling book “Be Selfish, Be Happy” is in great demand of late because everyone needs a “healthy selfishness” to drive them through life with passionate enthusiasm. His picture on the front cover didn’t look at all like him. It seems that the camera of psychological pursuit, when faced with the stark realities of our humanness, develops it’s images with Photoshop to arrive at the image it wants, inverting the colours and disguising the blurs at times. All the partners were so fascinated by his credentials, however, that they decided to try him out in the firm for a probationary period.

Self-esteem, Self-worth, Self-respect, Self-care and Self-nurturing, Partners in Psychology, have all worked well together for some time. They spark off each other in animated conversation and are able to laugh at themselves. They all belong to the same cycling club because they all believe that to show true care to others involves staying healthy themselves. They continually upgrade their own credentials and each has a Personal Development Plan (PDP) to motivate them in their successful business. The plaque on the waiting room door is from the Bible. It reads “Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.” (Matthew 19:19 NLT).

At the time of his dismissal, Selfishness was continually placing his own wishes above the well-being of both the clients and the firm. When confronted by Self-Respect he made it clear that he did not need her advice. He went to his office muttering under his breath about never needing anyone. But he had to admit that Self-Respect had almost changed his mind. She startled him with her intelligence and beauty and he secretly hungered for her company more and more. His infatuation with her grew so much that he thought he would never be himself again.

Selfishness was asked to leave the firm. He foolishly made sexual advances to Self-Respect and it was discovered that he was having affairs with two of his clients, Self-interest and Egotism. The partners soon saw the shallowness of his ways. The cold manipulation of Selfishness takes rather than gives. The partners were not convinced that he was as healthy as he had declared. Selfishness decided to form his own company running one man shows and seminars.

Fortunately the partners soon hired a man who Jesus had recommended all along – “Self-denial”. Self-denial is not as popular as Selfishness, but he was trained by Integrity. As a committed Christian the first thing Self-denial did was to place a plaque above his desk which reads. Jesus says “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-28 NLT)

Although Self-denial is related to Self-love, there is no conflict of interest. He is often confused with Self-doubt because he seems so serious and your first impression of him may be that he is Negative because he was chosen above Selfishness, but once you get to know him you soon discover he lives life to the full. He has learned the value of thinking long-term. He chooses the interests of God above his own interests in order to show love to others and in turn to himself. He is healthy and athletic and inevitably wins races against Self-interest.

Self-denial has developed a wonderful mentoring role with Self-esteem, the daughter of Truth. He inspires her to see herself as God sees her, both in terms of her negative and positive behaviours. Self-esteem was mixing with Recognition, Social-acceptability, Status, and Appreciation, but inevitably found such friendships so fragile that they were easily lost. Self-denial says that we do not find Self-esteem from others or from ourselves but from God. Seeking after God enables us to find a true appraisal of ourselves, and to grow in maturity. It is not dependent on what others think about us.

Self-denial works closely with Self-evaluation, a consultant for the team; a valuable member who recognizes his own strengths and weaknesses, whereas Self denial encourages us to co-operate with God, and live beyond ourselves. Another favourite saying of Self-denial is Proverbs 3:5-7 (NLT) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil” 

What does Self-denial mean? Self-denial invites us to make an active commitment to turn away from Selfishness and Status-seeking and to make a deliberate, voluntary choice to follow Christ with a determined and unwavering resolve, no matter what the cost (Matthew 16:21). 

Pastor Ross

MATTHEW 15:1-20 – CATCH 22

Catch 22Image created by the author

Catch 22
Image created by the author

The door is open as I knock but the curtain is pulled across. I don’t know what to expect as I walk towards him but find him sitting beside his bed. He looks up with a welcoming smile and says “And who might you be?” As I sit with John he confides with me about his life as a soldier and a decorated officer. He is a respected man who saw the horrors of war. Now he wages a battle with cancer with brave dignity.

We laugh and talk together for some time with easy conversation, though his breathing is laboured. Then, when he knows that I am willing to listen he opens up to me concerning his dilemma. John (not his real name) received a visit from his family yesterday. They took the news of their father’s cancer with pragmatic stoicism, but it has been 3 years and he has lingered until the cancer has spread throughout his body. He is now in palliative care, breathing from only one of his lungs. On finding out that it is now difficult for him to eat, his sons tell their father that it is time for him to give up and accept that he will die. They have had enough. They don’t want to see him suffer, or is it that their inheritance is being eaten up by the cancer too? “Stop eating and fade away! It would be better for all of us. We have a life to live!” The registered nurse is asked to stop his meals but she refuses.

He wants to end the misery his family feels, but fights to hold onto every precious second of life. He cried a little when they left him with the extra weight of this problem and he is not a man who cries. Must he compete between family and eternity, life and love? Caught in a double bind, a false dilemma; forced to choose between two conflicting demands, he is left to question his very existence and becomes increasingly distressed. He is standing in no-mans-land and bullets fly at him from both directions. Is he ready to face God?

In Matthew 15:3, when the Pharisees challenge Jesus about His disciples not practising ceremonial hand washing, Jesus responds by challenging their selfishness and the False Dilemmas they create. He begins by saying, “Why do your rules and traditions contradict what God is asking of you?” What’s the use of a habit, ritual or tradition that actually cuts off my ability to love God and love others?

Jesus says, “For instance, God says, ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honour their parents…” (Matthew 15:5 NLT).

It seems even God can be used as an excuse to devalue our parents. Does Jesus agree with the death sentence for not honouring father and mother? So easy for me to misfire my focus with cultural ethics on capital punishment. That’s not the main thrust of what He is trying to say to me. Jesus accepts the extreme gravity of this law without wanting to water it down because it provides stark contrast with giving value to my relationship with my parents? Dishonouring parents by pitting them in competition with God leaves both our lives in peril if it came down to the law. In an age when taking care of our parents is not always valued, Jesus says, “…you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition” (Matthew 15:6 NLT). Our own selfish standards and demands bear a death sentence in so many ways, but especially when we carry them into our relationships.

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” (Matthew 15:7-9 NLT) 

Tears flow down her cheeks and helplessness is written into her expression. My wife looks at me after a phonecall to her parents who live in an aged care facility and who are becoming more and more frail. Her love for God translates into the honour she shows to them. She values them, visits them, cares for them without using God or other selfish demands as an excuse to abandon them. God is not pitted in competition with my responsibilities concerning other relationships.

Matthew 26:39 (NLT) says that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus “…bowed with His face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.”” Jesus faced His own Catch 22, wanting to bring forgiveness and eternal life to us yet understanding that the only way to accomplish this would be to die upon the Cross for our sins. Easter celebrates His victory over such a dilemma. His love and obedience to God the Father led Him to the Cross, and His resurrection from the dead defeated the power of the Catch 22 caused by our sin.

“Lord, so often You deal with the catch 22’s, selfish habits, behaviours, and self-imposed dilemmas I have established in my life by exposing my false assumptions and beliefs. Forgive me. Correct me. Let nothing get in the way of what You desire for me. Rid me of the false demands I build around my life and leave me with the simplicity of loving Christ and loving others. Thankyou Lord for loving me unselfishly enough to die for my sins, and bringing forgiveness to my life. Help me honour You from my heart and in my actions, words and thoughts as I relate with others today.” 

Pastor Ross

If this article has resonated with you, would you please pass it forward to those whose lives you think may also be touched by Words of Life. Thanks and God bless you.

My wife Julie

Matthew 7:12THE GOLDEN RULE AND THE TREASURE OF MY LIFE

She is selfless and giving. Yesterday, knowing that my son and his family are all sick, she cooked them a casserole, travelled to see them in another part of Sydney, and encouraged them to go to the park with her. They had a great time basking in the sun and enjoying each others company. Ever since I have known her my wife Julie has been generous with the people around her, not only her family. She acts without expecting anything in return. She is practical and sensitive to the needs of others.

She loves the unlovely and those who don’t particularly deserve it, like me. She is very much a treasure in my life, a gift from God. She lives out the Golden Rule not so much by intention but as a natural outworking of her relationship with God. It’s a part of her life. She seems to see opportunities to “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NLT). This rule of life, verbalised by Jesus so long ago, has been activated in Julie’s life in the most beautiful of ways.

It fascinates me that versions of the “GOLDEN RULE” existed even before Christ? Commentaries say that it is found in the Rabbinic writings, Hinduism and Buddhism, even Confucius had a version. The difference, according to John Macarthur and other scholars, is that all of them cast the rule as a NEGATIVE command. Rabbi Hillel’s version, for example, said “What is hateful to yourself do not (do) to someone else.” In other words I just have to make sure I don’t do negative things to others. But these negative versions exclude and EXCUSE me from doing anything positive.

Jesus puts this command in the POSITIVE, and says in Matthew 7:12 (NLT) “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you …” I am to be actively and INTENTIONALLY doing something positive and not simply AVOIDING doing what is wrong or hurtful to others. The Golden Rule turns these other versions around and confronts me with what I so often omit to do for others.

The Golden Rule doesn’t make me DEPENDENT on others. My wife, Julie, didn’t wait to send a meal to our sick family members. She wasn’t returning a favour. The Golden Rule doesn’t tie me to unrealistic EXPECTATIONS of obligation, but frees me to express love to others without the prospect of anything in return. Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NLT)

Given that our selfishness will always tend to manipulate others, this law suspends selfishness and gives us a compass and invitation for living generously. It has the capacity to change the heart of dictators who instigate civil unrest by their greed by breaking the chains of injustice, deceit and manipulation. It heals marriages and disharmony in families. Most of all it changes ME, my perspective about others and cuts across my selfishness. It reaches out to others, like Julie does, and seeks to make a difference. The Golden Rule and the treasure of my life.

Pastor Ross