Self Sacrifice vs Self Promotion

When I was a child, particularly before I knew Jesus everything was about me. For it is human nature. All children have a tendency to think everything is about them. If you think of it from a survival perspectives a child is weak, vulnerable and in need of protection. It is this innate desire to have their needs meet that allows children to survive, particularly in a world that does not have adults doing their job.

Then the child grows up and is able to take care of themselves without the assistance of adults. There are of course exceptions to this for people with disabilities and such. In America many people still live a life that is all about getting what I want, what I desire, what I need. I do not believe these desires in themselves are wrong for again they come from a need to survive but the problem I have encountered within myself and many others is that our image of what we want, think we should have and need is false. For what God says we need and what many Americans think they need are very different.

When I was a young adult I tried to live out the saying “Do as Jesus did.” “Be like Jesus.” For there are many slogans out there pointing people toward Jesus. Again I do not think these wrong per say. For me it pushed me toward TOTAL self sacrifice. So as a young confused adult I bore my cross and tried to be like Jesus. Guess what? I am not Jesus and I did not bare my cross with the same grace Jesus did. This left me not only confused but broken and disabled. Which has brought me to the question time and time again, was it wrong to try live like Jesus, was it wrong to sacrifice?

This was further confused by my counseling and therapy. For much of my counseling and doctor appointments have focused on me learning to protect myself and take care of myself. This confused me. I thought to myself is this self promotion? What about self sacrifice?

I think I am still in the process of reconciling all of this. But what God has spoken to me is that self protection and taking care of self is not self promotion. Self promotion is about living in excess where as taking care of self and protecting self are about honoring God temple. Furthermore you cannot serve God’s kingdom if you are sick and beat up all the time. He has also shown me that even Jesus had seasons in his life. He had seasons of rest, relaxation and ease. He did not die on the cross every day of his life for his 30+ years on earth.

In some Christian circles there is so much talk about dying to self, self sacrifice and bearing your cross that it can mislead people like me who have a tendency to over-give. I believe God does not call us to self promote, live in excess, or be self centered but this does not mean we do not first and for most attempt to take care our basic needs. For I truly believe there is a time and place for everything. There may be a time God clearly asks you to sacrifice your own basic needs for the kingdom but this should be a rare occurrence not a daily act.

On the other hand, I do bare my cross daily. For my cross to bare is my mental illness and disability. It is a daily reminder of my need for Jesus and a daily reminder that one day this cross will be taken from me. With all of this said, it brings me back to the importance of a relationship with God. For how did Jesus know when it was a season of rest, ease, rejoicing vs sacrifice? It was the father who lead him daily and it is through the Holy Spirit inside us that we too should be lead daily.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be liketen virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:1-13

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