Me, Myself, and I: Confronting Selfishness in our Culture

Recently, someone in my microchurch admitted they were selfish and didn’t know how to break out of it.  Selfishness is more widespread than we believe…

Someone finally admitted it.  They finally said the words:  “I’m selfish.”

That had to be a relief.

Several months ago, our microchurch planned a BBQ to take place on August 15–something we could invite our unchurched friends to just to hang out.  I purposefully didn’t plan any of it.  I sent out an email to everyone in our church saying as much–that we needed someone or a group of someones to step up a coordinate the event.  We’re not talking anything difficult:  coordinating who brings what food and drink, help for any activities (which would have been fishing, canoeing, pretty much do-it-yourself stuff).  Three months came and went.  No one stepped up.  No one volunteered.  No one did a thing.  There will be no event.

The person who admitted their selfishness said, “We purposefully ignored it because we didn’t want to do it.”  Why?  Selfishness.  Everyone that was there yesterday admitted to being selfish.  Those who were not there had admitted to selfishness in the very recent past.  This one admission led to a really open, honest discussion, a dive into the Bible to see that selfishness was not a characterisitic of the early, early church, and a discussion on what to do (these posts are part of that solution).

So what causes us to be so selfish?  First, our culture.

Imagine that there are 100 children on a playground.  It’s snack time, and the teacher hands out cookies.  She has 100 cookies.  She gives 6 of the children 50% of the cookies–6 kids have 50 cookies to split between them.  She gives the other 94 children the other 50 cookies.  Pretty absurd, right?  Well, that’s what the global economic picture is like.  The US population makes up about 5-6% of the world population, but we consume 50% of the world’s resources.  If you own one car, you are wealthier than 92% of the people on earth.  It’s been said that one American, in one month, consumes the same amount of resources as 520 Ethiopian people.  We live in a greedy, covetous, materialistic culture.

Think about the advertising we’re blasted with everyday.  We’re told that we suck if we don’t have the latest model car, the latest model computer, the latest model gaming system, the latest whatever.  And most of us fall for it.  How many thousands of dollars pass from our bank accounts to stores on things we want (not need)?  Way more than we’d like to admit.

This selfishness has bled over into the church–and is Satan’s most effective tool in our culture for lulling Christians into a spiritual stupor.  We can now shop for a church like we shop for underwear.  If you don’t like something in one church, just go to another… or go to several.  Be fed, be catered to, be doted on, be pampered.  As long as a church offers what you like, right?

Since when is church about what we like?  Consumerism, materialism, and selfishness have invaded our churches, and have invaded our faith.  And it has done a lot of damage…

Jesus once told the story of a wealthy man who had way more than he needed.  He had a choice–to be generous with what he had, or to be greedy.  He chose greed–he decided to tear down his warehouses and build bigger ones, retire early, and take it easy.  The story doesn’t have a happy ending.  Look what Jesus said happend in Luke 12:20-21,

But God said to him, “You fool!  This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?”  So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

The word Jesus used for fool literally means “out of one’s mind.”  It’s like God tells the guy, “You’re crazy!  You think life is all about you.  You’re out of your mind.  Now, you’ll be out of your life.”

Are we out of our minds?  I think we must admit that we are.  Many of us are falling for the lures of our culture hook, line, and sinker… and it has invaded our faith.  We have more than enough materially, and many in our world go without.  We have more Bible studies, small groups, church programs for every age and group imaginable.  Most people don’t have a Bible.  The fact is that many of us are living lives that look just like everyone elses:  we’re striving for the American “dream” (which is really a nightmare), we live just at or above our means, and we’re accumulating a lot of junk.

To break from selfishness, we must allow God to break our attitudes and mindsets… and then we must break from our culture.  More on that in a later post…

Leave some feedback:  how has our culture made you selfish?

Tomorrow, we’ll look at another reason for selfishness–busyness.


About Aaron

Aaron is a follower of Jesus. He's married to his smokin' hot wife Laura and is the father of three adorable girls. He enjoys a robust cigar, a complex root beer, a good movie, writing, football, thought-provoking books, and rousing discussions about subjects you're not supposed to talk about (like theology and politics). Religious people irritate him (because he once was one). He's on a quest to find the perfect dry rub and sauce for ribs.
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5 Responses to Me, Myself, and I: Confronting Selfishness in our Culture

  1. Aaron says:

    How our culture has made me selfish:

    I still struggle with materialism at times. To quote that great philosopher Hannibal Lector, I covet… I covet what I see everyday. The 50″ HDTV, the Blu-Ray player, etc. God has really worked on me with this, and I’m seeing the chains starting to break… but I still go through times of struggle with it.

    Our culture has also created a generation of sheltered people–we rarely associate with those around us. When Laura and the girls travel to NC and I can’t go, I like my time alone. I like to chill and watch movies. I like it too much. I don’t know half my neighbors, and the ones I do know, they’re more like acquaintences. I’m selfish with my time.

  2. Laura says:

    I’ve been struggling with this for a long time. I am selfish with my things. I am a recovering materialist (is that a word?!). I am growing to hate consumerism and honestly I am getting better about sharing my things. About not coveting, etc.

    However I am still selfish with my time. Because I work full time (including occasional Friday evenings and 1–sometimes 2–weekends a month) the time I do have is precious to me. I want to spend it with you and the girls. I know that we all as a society are busy people and that we all use the excuse that we are too busy. What do you do when that really is the case? Like last night for instance–I worked from 9am until 7:30 pm (and still didn’t finish all my paperwork!). How can I not be selfish with my time when my work requires frequent late hours and weekends? When I do have ‘free time’ I am too tired! I’m just thinking out loud. I don’t know how I can give more of my time because I have so little of it to give!

    And in my own defense I didn’t help or attempt to plan any of the BBQ because it was scheduled for this weekend which is my weekend to work Friday, Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday! : )

  3. Aaron says:

    I think I’ll be addressing this in another post, but I think a lot of it starts with our mindset (and I’m really wrestling with this right now). We refer to things as ours, especially our possessions and our money. When we become Christians, we learn (hopefully) that our stuff and our money aren’t really ours, but His… unfortunately, we still live like they’re ours.

    Shouldn’t the same apply to time? It’s not our time, but His time. What if we gave all of our time to Him instead of just our ‘free time’ and let Him dictate our usage of it? I’m not necessarily saying that we must quit our jobs and go be monks. But what if we got serious about (as Ephesians 5:15-17 says) being careful how we live, not as unwise but wise, making the most of our time because the days are evil. To not do so, Paul says, is to be foolish… which means I’m pretty foolish when it comes to my time.

    What if we, as a family, intentionally gave an evening or two each week to ambushing people with God’s love? Some evenings, we hang with people in our church; other evenings, we’re serving our neighbors or the poor in some way. You and I would certainly grow in our faith, and it would definitely teach our kids how to live (and they’d see it in us).

    Just thinking out loud (and now we need to do something about it!).

  4. Wendy says:

    I feel the same way as Laura. Time…I just can’t find the time and what time I do have “I want.” Once again selfish. How do you find that balance of God, Family, Work, Recreation, Outside Family? Hummmm….I guess if I did things in that order it probably would be a much better balance. My life it getting ready to do a 180 and I’m sure this challenge is only going to get worse. Glad I am asking God for help now.

  5. Steve says:

    Selfishness is something we all struggle with– we have already mentioned being selfish with time and mone, but what about other things? we may be selfish with our bodies, or selfish with our posessions. The bottom line really seems to be a line somewhere between selfishness (which says “i want…”) and pride (which says “I deserve..”). Either way, we fool ourselves (and so does society) into thinking that we honestly ‘deserve more’ (“Well- I work X hours a week, so when i come home I SHOULD be able to do what I want with my time (notice the words: ‘I, my, etc’). Don’t get me wrong, I myself have had many struggles with these things too, and God has done a great deal (and continues to) in breaking me of selfish habits and transforming them into Christ-like habits like love, selflessness, compassion, etc…
    When we boil it all down, we just need to recognize that our number one priority can only be in one place, and our actions and how we spend our time usually makes that clear. The biggest obstacle between ourselves and God is ……. OURSELVES! 🙂 … so where are our priorities and what will it take to get them in line with where God wants them?

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