Recognizing Modern Idolatry Day 12: The Idol of Self, Part 2
In today’s concluding post we will look a little deeper into why the love of self is so destructive, and why we are to look outside ourselves and to God for satisfaction and becoming “truly and freely ourselves” (see full quote below).
Our current Western culture has embraced what they call “self-love” to an extreme degree and, unfortunately, many professing Christians are being drawn in. Scripture even warns us how susceptible we are; we love what feels good and we love to listen to people who tell us what makes us feel good (2 Timothy 4:3). Biola theology professor Thaddeus Williams bluntly exposes the dangers of this feel-good idolatry of the self in this way:
“Here’s the problem with this cult of self-worship—besides the obvious problem of being a rebellion against God: When we try to be our own sources of truth, we slowly drive ourselves crazy. When we try to be our own sources of satisfaction, we become miserable wrecks. When we become our own standard of goodness and justice, we become obnoxiously self-righteous. When we seek self-glorification, we become more inglorious. Why? It’s simple. We are not God. We were never meant to trust in or be defined by, satisfied in, and captivated by ourselves. We were made to revere someone infinitely more interesting and awesome than ourselves. We become most truly and freely ourselves in a state of self-forgetful reverence. As Albert Einstein put it, ‘A person first starts to live when he can live outside himself.’ The more self-absorbed we are, the less awe we experience; the less awe we experience, the less fully and freely ourselves we become” (Williams, “Self-Worship Is the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion,” The Gospel Coalition).
Self-worship substitutes the self for God based on the idea that the satisfaction of the self is our highest good. But, pleasing ourselves is definitely not what is always best for us or for others. God’s will is for us to flourish under His authority in a way that we simply cannot when we pursue our pleasure and fulfillment. He designed us and knows that such a pursuit will destroy us in every possible way.
Our view of what following God looks like and what loving others looks like is seriously distorted when we have an exaggerated perception of our own importance. Do we see any signs of this idolatry in our hearts? Or, perhaps more importantly, do those close to us see any signs of this in our speech and behavior? Maybe, instead of giving freely of our time and resources to others, we make excuses about why we cannot and list all the reasons they should rather be giving to us. Maybe, instead of obeying what God says out of love and submission, we claim that God will understand if we don’t listen this time because all that He really cares about is what makes us happy. Do we actually believe that a god who would prize our individual comfort over his own glory and the good of all people is a god who would be worthy of our worship?
Let’s take some time today to examine our hearts before the Lord. If, like me, you are sensing the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your soul as we look into His Word, repent and turn to Him for mercy. When we lean on the Lord’s wisdom and intentionally reject the narcissistic idea that the world revolves around us, we will learn how to interact with the world around us in a way that emphasizes the value of others and, most importantly, God Himself. We will throw away our conceited attitudes and allow God to grow our compassion for others and our concern for God’s honor and glory.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. … Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (Romans 12:10,16, ESV)