Monday, October 02, 2006

The Devil's Sharpest Tool

It seems like the Devil's best tool against us gazes at us from our mirrors each day.

When it comes to a Christian walk, I am my own worst enemy.

Is there anything that we do (aside from our pure worship of God) that isn't deeply rooted in selfishness? Go ahead. Think of something you do that doesn't involve indulging yourself. I'll wait.

Find something? I couldn't.

The more we are fixated on self, the further from God we become.

I don't think I'm being cynical when I say that most of the supposed "good deeds" we do are rooted in selfishness. Yes, even the time spent helping someone, or being nice to someone who isn't all that nice. Dropping coins in the kettle for the Salvation Army or giving blood can also be outgrowths of our own selfishness.

Maybe it's just me, but I know plenty of people who are nice to someone just for the good feeling of helping someone else. They give gifts for the tax deduction or donate clothes because they are too lazy to have a garage sale. That's not selfless. That's just the opposite. "That good feeling inside" is the motivator. The deduction is the motivator. The laziness and a need to clean out the closet is the motivator. It's not the fact that someone else is helped. Can those two things be separated? Sure. It's your motive.

If I am driving somewhere and I see a vehicle in trouble, I will usually stop and try to help. I do this despite the fact that I am nowhere near a mechanical genius. The reason I stop is because I developed that habit in early adulthood. Back then, my car was a not-so-gently-used vehicle, and I often found myself on the side of a road in need of assistance. I figured that if I saw someone who could use my help, then I should help. After all, the roles could very easily be reversed the next week!

So my pure motives for stopping are not so pure.

How many generous donations to universities or hospitals or charities come with strings attached? Why are wings of buildings or stadiums or awards named after individuals? Because quite often putting that name on the building is a stipulation of the gift. That generosity isn't so pure either.

Let's face it, even in our Christian walk we are tempted to be selfish. At Attention Span I've often detailed situations where churches are split apart because of a power struggle between groups of people. There's the woman who sings a special song in worship to draw attention to herself, instead of deflecting the praise to God. There is the man who serves on the board so faithfully because of the power it gives him. There are the Sunday School teachers who teach because they like to be looked up to. There are the pew fillers who show up for services so they look pious to other people.

Selfishness is like a pair of handcuffs which keep us from being very effective. The Devil makes sure our wrists are bound each day.

Of course, Christ has the key to the cuffs.

"Lord, help me to die to self every single day... in my work, in my family, and especially in my relationship with You."


Weekend Fisher said...

Sinners sin. That's who we are and what we do. Now, I'm not exactly in a position to donate money to build a hospital wing. But I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to people who do: are they at least 10% motivated by love? 20%? If our actions aren't completely pure, are they completely filthy either? That would leave the 80% in the "filthy rags" category. But everything we do is tainted. That doesn't mean we're completely loveless, just not completely free either.

rev-ed said...

And that's my point. Those who point to the "goodness" in humanity point to these outward signs as if they effectively demonstrate how good we are. Yet they miss the fact that you have eloquently expressed. Sinners sin, and everything we do is tainted. That "goodness" they see is the reflection of His image.

Carol said...

You're right! About our selfishness and about how we were thinking along the same lines on Monday.

Excellent points, Ed!