Monday, September 10, 2012

What if we focused less on ourselves...

It's pretty easy to look at the people around us and wish we were more like them. Some of us want the bigger house (or better decorated one). Some of us want to be the size of our neighbor or have their perfect clothes, their perfectly well-behaved children, or their perfect, indulgent spouse. Some of us focus on our failings and how others are smarter, healthier, more patient, more wise, more anything...than us.

Some of us walk around thinking we are awesome, that we are better than others either because we have more money, a better education, a better job, God on our side or a better whatever than those around us.

I've been on both sides of this fence. I've spent a lot of my life feeling that I don't measure up and yet at the same time I have taken a wierd sense of pride in being a part of the minority opinion or group of outcasts. I remember being part of a group in seminary that a friend named "the beautiful people" and feeling torn because I liked the feeling of being part of the "in" crowd for the first time but also feeling ashamed for those same feelings.

We hear a lot today about 'us' and 'them': the rich and the poor, Republicans and Democrats, legals and illegals. Within our own communities we even break ourselves into groups: families who do private school and families who do public, Christian and non-Christian, homes with luxury bathrooms and kitchens and homes with 'normal' facilities.

No matter which group you find yourself in, there are usually pros and cons to belonging beginning with a strange mixture of pride and shame.

The point of all this is that when we get right down to it, most of us spend about 99% of our time thinking about ourselves. This is a pretty unbiblical position to find ourselves in and yet we tend to live most of our lives in this self-centered place of how "I" compare to the rest of the world.

In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus said, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul?

When we only look at our peers or the people "ahead" of us, we will always find ourselves lacking and continue to focus on 'catching up'. If we focus on those who Jesus tells us to minister to, those who are "behind" us in wealth, faith, education, or ability, then our focus on ourselves will diminish as we step off the treadmill of the suburban race - the race that makes us run faster but never really gets us anywhere.

Chesney Szaniszlo

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  - Luke 14: 12-14