I am going to share some words with you now that are sometimes difficult to hear. Most people do not like to hear them, and even when they hear them, they don’t want to believe them. But these words are true almost all of the time. Take a deep breath, and here we go:
IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU
I will wait just a minute while some of you shake your fist at the computer screen. Or maybe you want to leave and come back to read the rest of this later. I can wait.
Ready to move on? Okay, let’s go about this rationally.
When we are born into this world, we immediately think that the whole world is all about us. Just think about it – every need that you have is immediately met by someone to the best of their abilities. It is a pretty sweet life. But then as that life goes on, the world stops revolving around us individually, although some people have trouble coming to terms with that or accepting that little fact of reality. Some still think that the whole world is all about me. What I want. What I like. What I just have to have right at this immediate moment without waiting a single nanosecond longer. And if things are not to my liking, I am going to make my feelings known in the strongest way possible to get the results that I want. Sometimes maybe it is not quite so extreme as that makes it sound, but sometimes many people feel hurt or betrayed or angry when something does not go the way that they want it to go.
I was reminded of this recently by our son Jaylin, who was not all that happy about the dress code for his 8th grade class trip to Washington DC. When I asked him what the problem was, he said, “They won’t let us wear athletic shorts except for on the days when we travel.” I tried to explain to him that many of the places that they were going were places of honor, built to honor past presidents, government officials, war heroes, and others who have done different things to earn respect. Therefore, those in charge of the trip were trying to make sure that the students showed the proper respect in the way that they dress on the trip, which also presents a better image of those they represent: the school, their families, and God. And I finished up with that great line in all capitals up above. “What it comes down to is that it is not all about you and what you want, and not about whatever you might want.” I tried to say it as lovingly as possible, but it still needed to be said.
One of the ways we can truly let our lights shine for God’s glory, as Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 5:16, is to put others above ourselves. We should not get caught up in the trap of thinking that we are the most important ones, but rather we should look to the needs of others instead, putting them ahead of us.
The apostle Paul wrote of this in Philippians 4:3-4, which says, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” That should be pretty plain, I think. Yes, there are times when we do have to look out for our own needs, but we can still consider others more important than ourselves.
Separately, Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” That is the tricky part – not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to. Tricky, yes, but it is what we are called to do.
The key to all of this is humility. Humility is not something we are born with. Humility is not something that the world in general teaches us. But humility is what is expected of us as Christians. Humility is one of the underlying themes of all of the teachings of Jesus. He illustrated it with a story in Luke 14:7-11.
He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us. Maybe not in the way that we might want, but in His own way.
The ultimate humility is putting God first in our lives, which is absolutely essential once we put on Jesus Christ in baptism. And then if we truly do put Him first, it will become easier to put others before ourselves as well.
There is not a magic switch inside of any of us where we can suddenly realize that it is not all about us. Instead, it is a journey that we are all on. Some of us are farther down that journey than others of us, and some have an easier road down that journey than others do. But that does not mean that any of us should give up on our journey. We should continue on, learning as we go, learning both from our mistakes and from observing others.
As we learn more and more that it is not all about us, our lights can shine more and more brightly for God. And through that, He will be glorified.