Luke 14:1, 7-14;
You know the story of Narcissus? It comes from ancient Greek mythology and involves a young man who rejects the love of others and falls in love with his own self-image. It gives rise to the term narcissism, an unhealthy form of self-love. As with all mythological stories, it touches on something deeper than mere story. It points to something endemic in human life, something that we are aware of today just as people were two and a half thousand years ago. As a race and as individuals, we are capable of falling in love with ourselves, with our abilities and achievements. We think that we can do whatever we want to do; we have no need of God for direction. In our arrogance, we push God aside and centre everything on ourselves, our wants, our desires. The most pervasive and persistent addiction in a world full of addictions is this addiction to Self. Over and over again the Old Testament tells us of God’s chosen people substituting their own self-centred decision-making for God’s will and purpose. Instead of trusting God fully and completely, they went after other gods. As Jeremiah 2:13 says, they abandoned the plentiful source of life-giving water to rely on tanks that leaked. A temptation that is with us still. We think that we know better than God does; a destructive form of self-love, an addiction to the glorification of Self. But the way of Jesus is not like this. Instead of thinking of ourselves more highly that we ought to think, we, as his followers, are to live humbly, recognizing always God’s superior wisdom and ordering. It’s God’s world; not ours. And basic to this is love. Humility is not our own achievement, something to pride ourselves for. The way of humility is the way of love, love that cares about others in reflection of the care and concern that God has for every one of us. This leaves no room for feelings of superiority such as Jesus criticized in the Pharisees of his time.
- What are some ways in which people push God aside in favour of Self?
- Instead of trusting God, the ancient Israelites turned to Baal, the god of fertility and prosperity. What gods or pseudo-gods do people today turn to?
- “The way of humility is the way of love”: what other ways to humility do people try?
- What is ‘spiritual superiority’ and how does it show itself?