Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thinking of Oneself

In the Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom wrote:

    "And as the cold increased, so did the special temptation
of concentration-camp life: the temptation to think only of oneself.  It took a thousand cunning forms.  I quickly discovered that when I maneuvered our way toward the middle of the roll call formation we had a little protection from the wind.
     I knew this was self-centered:  when Betsie and I stood in the center, someone else had to stand on the edge.  How easy it was to give it other names!  I was acting only for Betsie's sake. We were in an important ministry and must keep well.  It was colder in Poland than in Holland; these Polish women probably were not feeling the chill the way we were.
     Selfishness had a life of its own....And even if it wasn't right---it wasn't so very wrong, was it?  Not wrong like sadism and murder and the other monstrous evils we saw in Ravensbruck every day.  Oh, this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his:  to display such blatant evil that one could almost believe one's own secret sins didn't matter."

This thinking only of oneself is such a daily temptation outside of concentration-camp life. I see it in myself and other Christians.  When we grab the first place,  try to be the one recognized or elevated, look for ways that our kids get the best opportunities over others, subtly take whatever it is that we want first for ourselves....this is plain selfishness. Whenever we do it, our actions impact someone (or many) more.  Selfishness has room for only one and it is NOT the other person.  We make excuses: "after all, I worked hard and deserve this"; "I was mistreated and that gives me a right"; "if I don't work to get this it won't come to me";  "it is just a little thing and doesn't really matter"; "my kid is so special and should have this"; and so forth.  Whatever it is, to whatever degree, it is still selfishness and it is still sin. This temptation is rampant in modern American Christianity. We are all about coming out ahead or in first, having it all together and things going our way, and being admired for what we have and are.  We have forgotten what God values: humility, faithfulness, service, sacrifice, and most of all, love. We forget that what we do to the least of the brethren even in small things--all these selfish acts--we actually are doing to Christ.

So what's the cure? Miss Ten Boom said, "It was all Christ's strength...that made the difference."  Christ at work in our weaknesses and sin, Christ showing us our tendency to selfishness and excuses, Christ leading us to repentance and confession, Christ enabling us to put others first instead of ourselves. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)  It starts with putting aside ANY selfish ambition and all excuses for it.  Then changing our minds and our thinking so that we hold others in high regard (esteem).  We actually need to consider others better than ourselves. The rest of Philippians chapter two tells us how Christ lived it and He is our example. What we need is His strength to produce in us self-LESS-ness. 

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