Do you matter more than God? That’s kind of a silly question, isn’t it? Any decent Christian is going to respond quickly with a big fat NO. But sometimes our actions disagree with that answer!
For instance, when we . . .
- whine about interruptions or inconveniences.
- complain about being too busy or stressed.
- throw self-pity parties and expect everyone else to attend.
- withdraw rather than share someone else’s pain.
- turn our gaze inward instead of upward.
Whenever we do any of that, our attitude starts screaming about our own significance.
When we whine or complain, we’re saying: “My way is better — my ideas are smarter — my plans are more important.” When we become consumed with self-pity, we’re saying: “My desires are the most important priority!” When we ignore the needs of others, for the sake of protecting ourselves, we’re saying: “My needs matter more than yours — my comfort is more important than yours!”
Our world is absorbed in pleasing itself. We’re told to do our own thing, follow our heart, love ourselves. But here’s the thing: we already do all that quite naturally! We’re born with the innate ability to put our needs and desires above everything else. We don’t need to work at loving ourselves!
From the very beginning, when Adam and Eve were presented with the first temptation to sin, people have been making themselves more important than God.
When Eve reached out her hand to take that piece of fruit in the Garden, she had already put her desires ahead of God’s. When she found it pleasant, and shared it with Adam, he had already put his desires ahead of God’s.
They didn’t want to know God the way He had prescribed. They wanted to invent new paths to pleasure and knowledge. They wanted their own way, more than the sacrifice commanded by their Creator.
We’re no different today!
Our churches are filled with programs to lift our spirits, embrace our inner passions, improve our self-image, and establish personal boundaries. Our bookstores are filled with shelves about healing our memories, breaking free from our past, overcoming hardships, and accepting our unique dispositions and personalities.
Instead of focusing on the cost of discipleship, the hard task of self-denial, and our utter inadequacy to merit any favor, we’ve shifted our gaze to building up our spirits and gorging ourselves on the sugary-sweet sentiments of being enough. We’ve replaced guilt with self-affirmation, inadequacy with self-love, and vulnerability with self-preservation.
We focus on the feel-good, and forget about the horror of our sinfulness.
We gloss over the statements that speak of mortifying the flesh, but dive deep into the promises of blessings and grace. We memorize verses about sharing Christ’s power, but ignore those that speak of sharing in His suffering. We clamor after assurance, but run right past the path to true spiritual growth. We expound upon the glorious truth of our new identity in Christ, but neglect the accompanying revelation of the world’s hatred for Christ.
Larry Crabb* put it this way (emphasis mine):
“We have become committed to relieving the pain behind our problems rather than using our pain to wrestle more passionately with the character and purpose of God. Feeling better has become more important than finding God . . .
As a result, we happily camp on biblical ideas that help us feel loved and accepted, and we pass over Scripture that calls us to higher ground. We twist wonderful truths about God’s acceptance, his redeeming love, and our new identity in Christ into a basis for honoring ourselves rather than seeing those truths for what they are: the stunning revelation of a God gracious enough to love people who hated him, a God worthy to be honored above everyone and everything else . . .
We have rearranged things so that God is now worthy of honor because he has honored us. ‘Worthy is the Lamb,’ we cry, not in response to his amazing grace, but because he has recovered what we value most: the ability to like ourselves. We now matter more than God.”
I see this in women’s Bible studies, in the devotionals that fill our bookstores, in the messages of social media. I hear it in the pop music of today, the attitudes of secular newscasters, the teens that fill our communities.
We matter more than God.
Our comfort matters more than our spiritual growth. Our personal happiness matters more than His command to love others. Our relief from uncertainty, stress, grief, weariness, or anything else we find unpleasant matters more than His desire to conform us to the image of His Son.
But that’s in direct opposition to the command of Romans 12:1-2, which beseeches us to live in a way that is holy and acceptable in God’s sight, renewed and transformed by in His Word, living as grateful sacrifices for His glory.
We can’t be a living sacrifice that’s acceptable to God, if we’re more concerned about accepting ourselves.
We can’t worship Him as we should, if we’re already worshiping ourselves. We can’t be transformed by the renewal of our minds, if we’re constantly tuning into the whisperings of our flesh. We can’t discern God’s will for our lives, if we’re captivated by the idea of self-gratification.
Yet that is our reasonable service . . . our spiritual worship . . . our sacrifice of praise.
- Seeking His pleasure more than our own.
- Taking in the whole counsel of Scripture.
- Obeying whether we feel like it or not.
- Loving others more than ourselves.
- Ignoring comfort for the sake of sharing Christ.
- Being spent for the sake of the gospel.
If we do those things, then our lives will affirm with John: He must increase, but I must decrease.
*Mentions do not equal endorsements.