Posted tagged ‘selfish’

Self-Centered Generosity

December 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             December 30, 2017

                                     

The year 2018 will be a telling experience that will show just how generous middle-class Americans are. New tax laws will reduce the benefits “kinda”… for many of moderate-income to give to charitable organizations.

One of the changes in the new tax laws includes a doubling of the standard deduction. That means an individual filer can deduct $12,000 and a married couple $24,000 without itemizing their deductions. Estimates are that less than 10% of taxpayers will continue to itemize their deductions. Thus, the incentive to give to charity will go to how genuine a person’s generosity really is!

Except for this year! Charitable organizations are seeing an increase in giving as the year ends for givers to take advantage of itemizing deductions. In other words, some people are being charitable in 2017 who will think twice about giving next year. It smacks of self-centered generosity. “What do I get out of this?”

To be honest, churches have been scrambling for years to make ends meet. In 2016 the typical church attender gave about 2.5% of their income to their church. During the Great Depression of 1929 the percentage was estimated at 3.3%! Generosity has not exactly run roughshod through the pews as things are. Now most ministries are expecting a decrease in giving to budgets that are already looking pretty threadbare!

So 2018 will be a year of indicators! Are Americans, especially followers of Jesus, generous or only generous when it helps their tax burden?

It’s not like there won’t be people in need next year. In Colorado Springs there are not enough available beds to take care of the growing homeless situation. The various shelters are looking for options to increase capacity, but more capacity requires more money to fund the ministries to the poor…and where will these funds come from?

The optimistic faith-based view of the coming situation is that the nation will see the heart of Jesus in the incredible outpouring of financial support from his followers; that Christians will take seriously Jesus’ directive to care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. That’s a view that could indicate a spiritual renewal in our midst!

The pessimistic view is that the tax law changes will show just how greedy and self-centered we really are!

Denying Self To Build Community

June 5, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     June 5, 2015

                                    

Recently I watched a DVD that brought to the surface the breakdown of a community in a major metropolitan area of our nation. The deterioration didn’t happen overnight, but rather over a period of twenty years or so. One of the fractures that rose to the surface was the breakdown in the family system. Absentee fathers…parents not investing into their kids lives, sometimes because they were working two jobs to make ends meet…gangs moving into the area to fill the void in young men’s lives that needed some kind of family.

Another fracture was caused by people becoming more concerned with themselves than those who lived in their community. A hint of self-preservation gradually grew to become the odor of selfish ambition. Suspicions grew about people’s agendas. Gang activity resulted in residents being protective of the few things they had. “My brother’s keeper” became non-existent as people felt community concern for their well-being decreased.

Survival defined the environment instead of living life.

The DVD showed how the community was gradually saved…emotionally, economically, relationally, and spiritually…but it was a long journey on a pothole-filled road. It showed one church’s commitment to the high school in that community that changed the lives of students, their families, but also volunteers from the church. A community was resurrected!

And it all came back to that denying oneself to build a safe community for others. What a concept!

Jesus once said some pretty challenging words. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, NIV)

A little while later after he had experienced death and then resurrection he told is disciples to go into all the world making disciples of all nations, baptizing, and teaching them. It seems that following Jesus is about the person stepping off the throne, risking oneself, and loving others. Building community involves some people who are willing to pick up some crosses.

This afternoon I went by the elementary school close to our church that we partner with. The principal had approached me a couple of weeks ago about getting together and strategizing about our partnership next year. Today we set up the appointment and I gave her that DVD to watch before we meet.

It takes more than a community to raise a child. It takes people who would rather share half of their sandwich at lunchtime with a hungry kid than eating the whole thing. It takes vision to see the imbalance and ears to hear the impoverished. It takes a hand to comfort and feet to go the distance.

And, quite honestly, not many people are willing to be that!

Church Selfies

January 20, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       January 19, 2015

                                                     

        “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

Selfies are the new self-expression! What did we do before photo-taking cell phones! Not many people back in those old days…ten years ago…were into the habit of taking their instamatics and snapping themselves in multiple places and numerous facial expressions.

In case you’ve been a cave for a while, “selfies” are snapshots someone takes with their cell phone…of himself/herself. Usually they end up on the person’s Facebook page for people to admire. They aren’t bad, but there are some people who are a little bit overly focused on themselves.

I’ve noticed recently, however, that there are a growing number of churches that are a little bit stuck on themselves. They turn the camera toward themselves and fill up space and time with “selfies” of how awesome they are.

Don’t get me wrong! There are multitudes of churches that are seeking the face of God instead of the click of their own faces. It’s these churches that still give me hope. They are congregations that understand that it’s not all about themselves, and are committed to being agents of mercy, listeners of heartaches, and doers of the Word.

In terms of “church selfies” I’m not talking about advertising and publicity. I’ve got no problem with congregations advertising about themselves on Facebook, in the newspaper, on radio, and even mass mailings. I’m talking about a kind of religious arrogance that conveys visions of churches that are a step above everybody else.

Recently I heard of a congregation that conveyed to their denominational reps that they had it all together…that the representative could focus on all those other churches that weren’t on that first name basis with Jesus like they were. When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi he says “put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.” (Philippians 2:3, The Message paraphrase; Eugene Peterson) It’s hard to put yourself aside when you’ve got the camera turned towards yourself.

There are a number of churches that are more concerned with how they look than how people are seeing Jesus in them. They are more obsessed with primping than proclaiming, posing rather than praying. Modern-day Corinthians…obsessed with themselves at the expense of others. (Read 1 Corinthians 11)

As a rapidly aging pastor I would much rather have someone in front of me that I can be authentic with. They don’t have to have their hair all in perfected placement. They don’t even have to have hair! The older I get the more I need people who have a little mud on their clothes and crap on their shoes. When I feel like my life is falling apart I need to know the person sitting beside me has experienced some “Woe is me” moments. Someone who can be selfless instead of ready for the next selfie; a church that isn’t afraid of repentance and forgiveness that are primers for praising and celebration.

But that’s just me! I’m admittedly ancient and have a hard time taking selfies of myself…not because I’m so humble, but rather because I’m not as smart as my phone!

One last burning question! When you’re about to take a selfie of yourself do you utter those words “Say cheese!”

Extended Grace

July 10, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          July 10, 2013

 

                                           “Extended Grace”

 

I met yesterday with a group of pastors that I journey with half a day once a month. It’s a intimate group of five. We begin each session with a time of reflective reading of scripture, reading through it three times, and noticing something that speaks to us in the text each time it is read.

Yesterday the text came from James 4:1-10. The text could justifiably be summed up with the words “Get your act together!” It’s a little on the lecture side…lecture, as in standing in the midst of the principal’s office and being told the deeds just committed will not be tolerated.

Frequent words used in the scripture include “don’t”, “do not”,  and “can’t”. 

But in the midst of the reading of the holy riot act, these words appear: “But he gives us more grace. (James 4:6a, NIV)

Our group noted that our tendency, which the text hints at, is to be selfish and self-centered. The foot washing act of service by Jesus in the Upper Room is uncomfortable for most of us if it is not planned ahead of time. If we know it’s coming we’re able to rev up our piousness enough to lower ourselves to our knees. But when that opportunity for surrender and humbleness comes unannounced the reception is often cooler than Saskatchewan in early December.

It seems from the text that our God knows of our tendency to yield to no one. He knows that we can talk the walk. We can even walk the walk with others, but walking the walk at the pace of others is another thing. A couple of weeks ago I was walking in an airport terminal and I came upon an elderly woman being pushed in a wheelchair by an attendant. The terminal hallway had narrowed. My first thought was to speed by, but then I thought “I’ve got four hours until my flight leaves.” So I strolled slowly behind them…but I was taken back by how many people rushed to get by the lady who could no longer rush. Perhaps some people were rushing to get to connecting flights, but, honestly, I’m sure most were rushing because the wheeled occupant was slowing down their self-absorption.

And the amazing and even perplexing thing about God is that he knows our selfish ways…and he gives us more grace!

I would think he would set a grace limit. We would! We would be willing to ride grace for a while, but pretty soon we’d put that pony back in the barn. Like a pair of shoes that don’t fit snuggly, we’re only willing to wear grace for so long.

But grace is a garment that God never discards. It becomes a representative feature of who he is, like whenever I see or smell a pipe I think of my Uncle Bernie.

Could it be that when we think of grace we automatically think of God? Of course, whether we think of it or not, God will continue to extend it. He doesn’t need our approval. He just would like us to accept it!