Oh No, Not Another Selfie!

There is little doubt that we have become a "selfie" society.
There is little doubt that we have become a "selfie" society. (Flickr )

"Selfie" is one of the most recognized terms of our time. According to Wikipedia: "By 2013, the word 'selfie' had become commonplace enough to be monitored for inclusion in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary.

"In November 2013, the word 'selfie' was announced as being the 'word of the year' by the Oxford English Dictionary, which gave the word itself an Australian origin."

I was recently ministering at a church in Brazil where there was a significant language barrier. Everyone there spoke Portuguese, and our team understood almost nothing. We exchanged many friendly gestures with the wonderful people there, but we could not carry on conversations with them. However, we quickly found common linguistic ground when one of the ladies on our team pulled out her camera and pulled one of the Brazilian ladies close to her. She kept the camera in her hand at arm's length and took a joint photo.

The Brazilian woman looked at her with a beautiful smile and said, "Selfie!" They both smiled and took another picture together. Amazingly, in a country where they could not even understand, "May I have some water please?" they understood selfie.

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Selfies are fun and socially acceptable; no one is offended that the person taking the picture is the "star" of the photo. I have no problem with the idea in and of itself, but I wonder if the prevalence of what the selfie represents manifests a deeper sign of our times. Paul the apostle warns "...that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves..." (2 Tim. 3:1-2a, KJV).

It is not that the peril directly results when men love themselves. The peril comes as a consequence of behaviors that accompany the love of self. Paul continues in 2 Timothy 3:2b-5 about these issues: "...covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

Whew! What a list! Note that none of these behaviors would have been possible unless too much self was involved.

I fear that our society has embraced narcissism without even knowing it. Standard nursery school behavior has become society's norm. We see the signs over and over from an entitlement mentality to lack of personality responsibility. We are self-absorbed. Love of self, like the love of money, is a root of many evils. Let us consider a few.

Lucifer fell due to love of self. Read Isaiah 14:12-17 and examine the language of Lucifer and his desire to ascend and become like God. You will see again and again the phrase, "I will."

Delve further into the fall of Adam and Eve and you will find the motive behind eating the fruit of the tree was, you guessed it, self-gratification. "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate" (Gen. 3:6, NKJV). 

Furthermore, the Old Testament law was given to reveal the inadequacy of self in fulfilling God's just demands. Perhaps this is the reason a true embrace of the gospel requires selfless sacrifice. Jesus made it clear by saying, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" (Matt. 16:24-25). It makes sense that if selfishness produces destruction, selflessness is required for salvation. To fully embrace the kingdom of God we must learn to embrace the Jesus model:

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:3-8).

Self denial is not asceticism; we cannot use the flesh to deny the flesh. It is simply placing God and others before yourself. Here are three ways we can practice it:

1. Check your motives. Why do you do what you do? Nothing should be done for selfish personal ambition or from pride. Ask the Lord to show you all that emanates from this motive and repent of it. Change your mind to seek after a motive to serve.

2. Estimate all others higher than you estimate yourself. We must literally estimate the worth and value of all others as higher than our worth and value. This is only possible through the lens of grace. If grace is our measuring rod, then the beggar on the street can receive esteem from us because we realize "but for the grace of God, go I."

3. Regularly spend time serving others. This should include not only those you must serve but those you choose to serve. Remember the Good Samaritan story? Our new true neighbor is anyone in need. We must find needs and meet them as Jesus did.

These are simple things but they take effort to practice regularly. Instead of being "selfie" oriented, let us be "others-ie" focused. Hey, maybe this will be the most popular word in the next few years. Well, don't hold your breath. But for you, me, and other followers of Jesus let us make this our modus operandi.

Kyle Searcy serves as senior pastor of Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery, Alabama, and Norcross, Georgia.

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