Research shows that those who take a lot of selfies over-estimate how good they look and how likeable they are. In other words, no one else find you as attractive as you do and no one else enjoys your life as much as you do. During their lifetime, millennials will take over 25,000 selfies, which is about one a day. I know what some of you parents are thinking, that is way too low a number. Remember that this is an average over a lifetime, so it’s more like dozens a day during the teenage years and then none as seniors. Here’s what’s even worse, the average millennial spends an hour a day on what is being called selfie duty – this is planning, taking, editing and posting that selfie.
Now please don’t misunderstand me, taking selfies are fun and they can document our presence at special times and places. When I was in Israel I took a lot of selfies – most never saw the light of the day because they looked so bad.
|Evening in Jerusalem|
I didn’t know where to look so my eyes were always looking weird, but I took them to remind myself that I was really at the Western Wall
|At the Western Wall|
My favorite one was of me on the bus –
|On the bus|
But selfies are also dangerous – literally. We have all heard about selfies gone wrong and people falling off of cliffs, being struck by lightning or mauled by animals as they were trying to get the perfect picture. In fact, more people were killed while taking a selfie than were killed by sharks, which I guess makes our phones more dangerous than a shark. But selfies can also be dangerous to our jobs and reputations and relationships. So here are some general rules to follow if you like to take selfies. Never take a selfie having fun on the day you call in sick. Never take a selfie while you are doing something illegal and let’s just say that you should never take a selfie in the bathroom no matter what.
Maybe you heard about the students at Yale who took a selfie while at a dental conference. It sounds pretty innocent and harmless, a student wanted a picture with the professor, but what people noticed once it was posted to social media were the severed heads lying on the table in the background. They were heads used by dental students to learn how to work on teeth but the students, professor and university were all trying to dig themselves out of that mess because someone decided to take and post a selfie.
So there can be problems in a selfie society when we point the camera at ourselves, but the truth is that the real problem isn’t with what the picture looks like, it’s with the picture of our heart. When our lives become all about us and we place ourselves at the center of everything the issue we are talking about is pride. When the camera is always pointed at us and when we are constantly promoting ourselves, we begin to believe that everything really is about us and that we are more important than everyone around us. While pride is listed as one of the 7 deadly sins, in Proverbs 6:16-19 we see that in many ways pride is the root of all those sins.
The word haughty means arrogant or prideful, so God hates pride and by putting it first on this list, Solomon understood that it is often pride that leads to other attitudes and actions that God hates. Pride is what often leads us to lie about others so that we look better. It leads us cheat and steal so we come out ahead and it causes us to plot and scheme so that we get our own way. Proverbs 16:18 - Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
In many ways it is pride that causes us to fall. What caused Adam and Eve to take hold of that forbidden fruit was pride, they wanted to be like God. The original sin isn’t our disobedience to God but the pride that leads to disobedience. So pride is something we all struggle with and if you think you are completely humble and don’t wrestle with this issue, well, that could be a sign of pride.
Let me give us a kind of pride test. Pride is a problem if:
We take everything personally and are always getting defensive.
Pride doesn’t mean thinking we do everything right, sometimes it is just putting ourselves in the center of everything. When we see two people talking and assume they are talking about us, that’s pride. When people ask a question and we take it as some kind of personal indictment and become offended, that’s pride. Not everything that goes on around us has to do with us. Sometimes we need to get over ourselves. The best advice I received going into ministry was from the associate pastor at my home church who told me, take your ego out of the picture. I really didn't understand what she meant until I had been a pastor for a while and realized that not everything that happened in the church, good or bad, had to do with me. It wasn’t always about me. I had to get over myself.
We think our feelings are the most important and our desires matter more than everyone else’s.
This kind of pride not only infects relationships but it is poisoning our society. Social and political discourse has come to a halt because everyone is convinced that their way is the best way and truly the only way. Pride is what not only elevates our own thoughts and desires but demonizes those who think differently from us. Our thoughts and views and desires are simply that – ours and we can share them and be clear about them, but that doesn’t mean they are more important than those of others. Philippians 2:3-4 says, in humility value others above yourselves not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the other.
Let me share with you what true humility looks like. I shared last week about the conflict in my first church and most of that came because we were making some musical changes in worship. Many people didn’t like the new music and so strongly objected. One day a woman in her 80’s asked if she could talk to me, her name was Virginia Smeltzer. I will never forget what she said. Andy, do you know all the new music we are singing in church? I don’t really like it, but I see how all the young people enjoy singing it – so I think we should keep doing it. When we think our views and desires matter more than everyone else’s and get upset that we don’t get our way, pride is an issue.
The other person needs to come to us and apologize.
When we hold unto grudges waiting for the other person to come to us and apologize, there is in this un-forgiveness an element of pride. When we blame others for our failure, we are struggling with pride. We talked about this the past few weeks when we talked about forgiveness and let me say again that to overcome pride we need to be quick to forgive and to be willing to go first when forgiveness is needed. If not, pride will keep a hold of our heart.
We are more negative and critical than we are positive and grateful.
Pride can also be the cause of our constant critical and negative attitudes. When we can’t find anything good in a person or situation it’s often because we think we are better, our ideas are better, our way of doing things is better and the outcome of our actions would be better. The more positive and grateful we are the more humble and God centered we are.
We are thinking about that person we know who should be here today.
Again, we can’t be thinking of how other people need to come to terms with their pride, we need to be willing to focus on our own problem with pride. Jesus said we can’t be looking at the speck of dust in someone else’s eye when there is a plank coming out of our own.
So we all struggle with pride. We all have that camera pointed at ourselves and one solution to pride comes from 1 Timothy 6:17.
Paul is giving a warning here to all who are rich because when we are rich, or even just financially independent, we place more trust in ourselves than we do in God. When we can take care of all our own needs and store up enough resources for our own future then we begin to think that we don’t need God, but let’s expand this idea out beyond money. When we trust more in our own skills and abilities or ideas and thinking, then we begin to think that we don’t need God. So Paul really isn’t talking about a problem with money, he is talking about a problem with pride. When our hearts are so full of ourselves that there is no room for God, it is a problem. When we trust more in ourselves than in God, it is pride - which leads to destruction.
Paul tells us that the fundamental problem with trusting in our own wisdom and strength, skills and abilities, ideas and feelings and yes our money is that all these things will eventually fail us. Our money and the work of our hands can be here today and gone tomorrow. This week we saw the largest single day decline in the stock market and it reminded us again that all the wealth we trust in can be wiped out in a just one day of trading. An accident, fire or illness can destroy all that we own and fundamentally change all that we are. Paul says wealth is uncertain but again, let’s expand on that and say that everything we trust in this world – including ourselves - is uncertain. Our lives, our skills and abilities, our homes and possessions as well as our power, strength and intellect are uncertain and temporary and if we only trust in those things, if we only trust in ourselves, we are headed for destruction.
The answer, Paul says, is to put our hope in God. The answer is to stop looking at ourselves and to start looking to God. It is to stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting in God. It is to stop loving ourselves and start loving God. When we place our faith, hope and trust in God we begin to see God as the source of all that we have and all that we are. When we place our faith, hope and trust in God we become more grateful and appreciate all we have in life which leads us to a better life – the good life.
Jesus says that those who hear God’s word and puts that word into practice, which I would say is trusting God, is like the person who builds their house on the rock. When the wind and rains come – the house stands. When our trust is in God we have a foundation in life that is sure and certain and that will carry us through all things. When our hope and trust is in God we will not be shaken or moved. So the focus in life can’t be our self – it needs to be God. We need to shift from a selfie way of life to a God centered way of life.
Paul then gives direction on how to start living this way, 1 Timothy 6:18. Do good. Be rich in good deeds. Be generous and willing to share. We can’t do good deeds for others, be generous and share what we have when we are only focused on ourselves, this way of life requires us to turn the lens around so we not only see others but see the needs of others. This way of life teaches us that we don’t need to horde and store up resources here because God will take care of us and this attitude gives us the freedom to be generous and share what we have with others.
What protects us from being self-absorbed, self-focused and living a selfie way of life is a simple creed we talked about last fall – the Jesus Creed which is loving God and loving others.
The season of Lent begins on Wednesday and many people look at Lent as a time to give something up, so what I want to invite you to give up is the selfie – not the picture but the way of life. Identify two good habits you can embrace each week that will deepen your love for God. Maybe it is scripture reading, or prayer, or being in worship, but what two things can you do to help shift your focus toward God?
Then identify two ways you can give generously during Lent that will help you trust God more than you trust yourself. Give to the Mission Auction or some time to the food bank. Volunteer in the community. Maybe God is calling you to serve your neighbor, take a meal to someone you know or offer to help a single mom or dad. What two acts of generosity and sacrifice can you make during the season of Lent that will help you love God and not yourself?
Here’s something great to think about. If each of us connected with Faith Church did just two good deeds during Lent, there would be close to 1,000 acts of kindness done in our community. 1,000 expressions of God’s love that can inspire others and change hearts. That is so much more powerful than the 1,000 selfies that were just posted to Instagram. So this week, this Valentine’s Day, during this season of Lent, love God – not the selfie.
Love God not the Selfie
1. Do you take more pictures of others or yourself?
More pictures of God’s creation or your own face?
2. In what ways do you identify with these statements:
• I tend to take everything seriously and personally
• My thoughts and feelings are the most reasonable
• My desires and my way are the most important
• It is the other person who needs to apologize to me
How might these statements reflect your own problem with pride?
3. Read 1 Timothy 6:17-18. We fight pride by trusting in God, doing good deeds and giving generously.
• What two habits can you embrace during Lent that reflect your love for God? (Bible reading, worship, prayer)
• What two good deeds can you do during the Lenten season?
• What two ways can you give generously and sacrificially to God and others?
4. This Valentine’s Day, show your love for God and your desire to let go of pride by joining us for our Ash Wednesday Worship at 7:00 PM.
5. Donate an item to the Helping Hands Silent Auction and come for lunch and fellowship as we raise money for Missions at Faith Church. Next Sunday at 12 noon.