Years ago it became popular to tell people that they needed to love themselves. For how, it was put, can we love others as ourselves, if we don’t love ourselves. This sounded good, but it was pointed out that loving ourselves comes quite naturally; it is a given that everyone loves themselves. Those suffering from “low self-esteem” may actually be plagued with too much self-absorption. The key then is to stop focusing on one’s self and begin to esteem others “better” than one’s self. This requires the lowliness of heart and mind that Christ said we should learn from Him. (Matt. 11:29; Philippians 2:3)
The new buzzword is “self-care.” This is spoken of as though one has been neglecting one’s self while focusing too much on the needs of others. I don’t understand this because scripture tells us it is more blessed to give than receive. In successive verses we read:
“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” (Proverbs 11:24,25)
The world caters to all forms of self-love. It seems like more than ever men have become “lovers of their own selves.” (2 Tim. 3:2) But even in Paul’s day selfishness was a problem. Writing to the Philippians, Paul said: “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Phil. 2:21) Being caught up in our own “things” is the easiest thing in the world to do. Considering others must be a conscious pursuit. We are to “let” this mind be in us that was in Christ. Having the mind of Christ causes us to care for the things that concern someone else, delivering us from a “me-first” attitude, and moving us to action on behalf of another. It may actually cause us to act sacrificially, taking the “goods” we had reserved for ourselves and expending them elsewhere.
Jesus warned His disciples against covetousness. (Luke 12:15) He told the story of the man who was rich toward himself, but not rich toward God. The man accrued much wealth but it was all laid up for himself. The prospect of all he had caused his mind to go into overdrive, thinking of all could do to make his life easier and better. But where was a thought toward those around him? More importantly, where was a thought toward God?
Earthly treasure has a way of flying away real fast. Before you know it, the mountain of moolah that was going to keep you humming along nicely for years is down to a few coins. Where did it all go, you ask. Money WILL BE spent; it’s just a matter of where and on whom. Even as God gives us a body that we can utilize for our own pleasure or for His; He gives us resources that can be used according to our own mind, or placed at His disposal. To acknowledge God as the giver of every good gift we have and to give Him the right to direct those resources is essential to a life of true worship. We declare that we are not our own, we have been bought with a price, and it is now our chief desire to glorify our Redeemer by what we do with the life He has returned us. Surrender signals that we understand the rightful claim of God over our life. It’s been well said that when the Lord has all our pocketbook, He has all our heart.
A miser is not miserly toward themselves. Even when they hoard, they hoard for themselves, for their own comfort and peace of mind. A miser can and will never be blessed. The miser’s road is lonely because he must take care of himself. He has little or no hope of others giving to him because generosity begets generosity and those with a closed heart and hand can expect the same in return.
What does God do with a miser? Certainly Zacchaeus was the epitome of selfishness. If anyone deserved to be ignored, uncared for, left to himself, it was this one who made himself and his “needs” all that mattered. But Jesus was the epitome of grace. Grace gives to the undeserving. Grace does not give us our just deserts; it does not repay us in kind. That is what makes grace so amazing. Truth be told, before we become the recipients of God’s grace we are all misers. “ALL seek their own.” It takes an encounter with the uber-generosity of God to turn us into great givers. We need a visit from Jesus. We need to freely receive before we know how to freely give.
Here is where our problem lies. We have not been amazed by the grace of God. Zacchaeus surely lived in continual astonishment that Jesus had found him hiding in a tree and, of all people, came to his house. Those who are grace receivers become grace givers. They do not confirm to misers that all men are basically selfish; they amaze them with displays of grace and graciousness. For what reason do they shine before men? So that even misers will learn to glorify the gracious Father who is kind to the evil and ungrateful. And while they are at it they amaze (and anger) townsfolk that still need a visitation.