Whoever Wants to Save His Life

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
Lk. 9:24

I am constantly being reminded of the reality of the above verse. It is a hard truth to accept because we naturally view life from our own perspective. Perhaps in different ways, but we naturally view life with ourselves as the nucleus in which everything else revolves around us. It may not be intentional,  but it is, nonetheless, a reality. Selflessness is part of spiritual maturity, and it must be learned. Self is not only the root of sin; it is also the root of misery and self-destruction.  Let’s consider the selfish approach from three different aspects: life, marriage, and the church.

A Selfishness approach to life. The book of Ecclesiastes is probably the best example of how this approach to life leaves a person empty and miserable. The writer, King Solomon had everything most people strive for in life. He was incredibly intelligent. People traveled far and wide to seek the advice of this king. He had fame, power, control, and incredible wealth. He lived at the height of Israel’s prosperity and power. His nation was wealthy, at peace and respected. Solomon had the power and means to about anything he desired. So you’d think he’d be happy, right? Wrong! The first two verses of Ecclesiastes is thematic of a self-centered life.

The words of the Teacher, [1] son of David, king in Jerusalem:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. 

“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” 

 He had it all, tried it all, and knew it all, but he still came up empty. The whole book is a masterpiece of literature, and a great testimony for all of us to read who think happiness can be achieved by living life from a selfish standpoint.

A Selfish approach to Marriage. Many approach marriage in much the same way: what’s in it for me? In our immature years, we seek out a mate mainly for selfish reasons. It may be to quench some innate desires such as our sex drive, the desire for children, or the need for companionship. We also recognize the fact that we all need help in life. So we are naturally drawn to other people, but largely out of selfish motives. But relationships will not tolerate selfishness. If you are going to get the benefits of a relationship, you must first be willing to give to the relationship.

Therefore, we gladly put selfish traits behind us in order achieve something greater than ourselves. So we may clean ourselves more, while farting and burping (along with other rude behaviors) less. We sacrifice time with our buddies and our own personal interest to with our perspective mate. We will try to do things with our mate that we have no desire to do, but we do it anyway because that is what they want to do. You see? We gain the relationship by giving up our self.   This is really what love is all about. Love is selfless. Love and self are incompatible.  That is where the problem comes in.

As time goes on, we tend to revert to old habits of self. What was quite natural while the relationship was developing, will now take effort if the relationship is to continue. As our desires turn inward, we are pushing love and the relationship outward. We all have different desires, but nobody appreciates a spouse who is selfish. The more we insist on placing our desires above that of our spouse, the more the relationships deteriorates. Not only does the relationship deteriorate, so does our happiness. The only real hope is to once again put your own selfish desires behind us, and seek to unconditionally love our spouse.

A Selfish Approach to the church. The last place we should expect selfishness is in our spiritual lives, but it is quite prevalent in many ways. Jesus spoke often about the need to rid ourselves of selfish desires. It is also a very common theme throughout the whole New Testament. One of my favorites is found in Philippians chapter 2, where Paul insist that Christians must follow the example of their savior. . .

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death-
even death on a cross!
Phil. 2:6-8

But this is something with which all Christians struggle. My point here is not to lay another guilt trip on people for not being sacrificial enough. If you understand losing yourself as sacrificial, I think you are missing the point. The point isn’t on what you give up; it’s on what you gain. There is always a correlation between how self-centered we are, and how miserable we are.

Take for example how people approach the Sunday morning assembly. The person who comes to the assembly for the purpose of being served is more likely to be disappointed than the person who comes to serve and worship God.Quite often such people complain to themselves and others about the varies things that wasn’t to their satisfaction. The sermon was to long. Sermon was too short. The sermon didn’t use enough Scriptures. The sermon had too many Scriptures. The sermon wasn’t aimed at my situations in life.  The preacher was boring The prayer leader went too long. The songs were too old. The songs were too new. The songs were off pitch.  On and on it can go. “I just didn’t get anything out of the service today,” the people complain. Who said it was about you?

How we compare ourselves to others in the church is another factor that adds to our misery. Self-righteous is an oxymoron for the Christian. It goes against the very foundation of our theology. We would have no need of a savior if we could obtain righteousness in and of ourselves. However, this doesn’t seem to stop people from thinking that their own sins are less significant than the sins of others. It is a mistake to think such people are happier in life since they think they are better than those around them. This is not the case. Instead, such people are the biggest complainers, and the most miserable people in the church. People will never be able to meet their expectations. If you are looking for flaws in the church, you won’t have to look very hard.

The same can be said about the social aspects of the church. Some will come to the assemblies excited to be able to socialize with fellow Christians. Such people often come early and leave late. They stand out in the foyer talking to people. If they see somebody they don’t know, they head that direction to meet them. Others come in at the last minute and can’t seem to get out the door fast enough when it is all over. Those who do come early head directly to a pew and sit down. Some people don’t want to be bothered while others are very annoyed if people don’t come to them. Here’s a though, instead of expecting people to be friendly to you, why not set out to be friendly to them.

Focusing on self isn’t doing any of any favors. If you overcome with depressing and disappointment, it may be a good idea to do some self-evaluation. Try to see things from a different perspective. The truth is, you can’t control other people. The more you try, the more disappointed you will be. All you really have control of in life is your own behavior and your own response to the situations in life you face. When our actions towards others are based on what is right instead of what we expect from them, our whole outlook changes. I don’t have this down yet, but I recognize it.  Identifying a problem is the most important step in fixing it.

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About Ken Sayers

I'm currently employed by a children's home where my wife and I care for a cottage of girls who have been displaced from their families. I'm a middle age man with two grown children of my own and one grandchild. I have worked as a United States Marine, a youth minister, a preacher, a childcare worker, and a truck driver. My hobbies include photography, horses, playing guitar, writing, and fitness.
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