We have been looking at Pride (Part 1 and Part 2) as the gateway to other sins. Sin is what separates us from God. And Pride is idolatry of Self. When our minds, words, and lives are consumed with Self, we are not able to love God as He ought to be loved. We cannot love others either when we obsess over ourselves. Self-centered thinking runs against this command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-39).
Self-centered thinking can fuel Fear in us, which is rooted in Doubt of God. When your mind constantly nurses worry, thoughts of God are pushed out. When our thinking turns away from God, our troubles increase. And God gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). We are promised self-control as a Fruit of the Spirit. It is always available to us. And we need that self-control when Fear assaults us, so we can choose a better thought pattern: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Ps 91:1-2).
Self-centered thinking can lead to Complaining. Complaining comes from the idea that we are not getting what we deserve. When we complain against our loved ones, friends, or work…we are disparaging God’s Provision for us. Some of my “worst” experiences have brought me the closest to God. These “worsts” were the best for me. Of course that didn’t keep me from complaining about them! 😉
Joseph didn’t complain about his circumstances, even after his brothers plotted to kill him and sold him into slavery. Much worse happened after that, which led him to observe: As for you [my brothers], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Gen 50:20).
Doubt in God’s Provision can lead us to Gluttony, Greed, and Lust as well. Sometimes there is doubt that this promise could be true for us: And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19). We feel sure that we must need more. We guess that we will just have to supply our own needs. When we feel we are missing something essential, we decide that God’s generosity has fallen short, in our case. I have wrestled for years with Gluttony, the desire to overeat or overspend. I have to be careful that I don’t overindulge in work too. I can fill up on all the wrong things, thinking that I know what is best for me.
Slothfulness is rooted in self-centered pride as well. This is Mommy’s “screen time” run amuck, with dinner late on the table. Sometimes I can struggle to balance housekeeping with keeping up with friends or keeping up with my writing. Slothfulness may be seen in a disordered house, but a heart that craves slothful living can run a really tight ship, and hate every minute of it. Slothfulness is self-indulgence and it starts in the heart. We hear this a lot: Mommies, you need more “me time” because, well, you deserve it! I think that women in third world countries, with babies on their backs in the field, wouldn’t know what to make of that! Can you see Ma Ingalls, in Little House on the Prairie, going on strike for some “me time”? We live in an age where we have more free time than any other period of history and, of course, it still not enough. We will always crave more. Satisfaction can’t come to us this way.
All of this is to say that when we get comfortable with self-centered thinking, it can begin to be our new normal. We all struggle with some of these problems, a little bit, from time to time. But if sin dominates your life, you will start to feel it pressing down on you. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness (Romans 6:16)?
Sin is slavery. Obedience to God is freedom. So often our culture (and our heart) gets it the other way around. And sometimes we see God’s Way as the hard way. This is an illusion. Sin, anything that separates us from God, is always the hard way. And that is why God desires the Acceptable Offering of our Obedience above all: Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams (1 Sam 15:22). He knows what will set us free.
Is there any way I can pray for you? Are you struggling with some of these unwelcome, lingering thoughts or behaviors? Me too! It is hard to believe that God never gives up on us – even with all of our mess. But He really, really loves us, no matter what!