When you think of addictions, what do you think of?

Alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, video games, sugar, food, social power come to my mind.

But what about addiction to self?

We all have it.  All of us want to be #1.  We are infatuated with ourselves.

Watch an NFL player score the winning touchdown.  Or listen in on a phone conversation. Or babysit a toddler.

Most of the time, what we do is totally for us.  The other part of the time, we’re able to convince people it isn’t about us when it really is.

For years, I thought the answer to my problems was through a study of myself.

That’s a good way to go crazy.

I filled out personality tests, visited with counselors, talked for hours and hours about myself to anyone who would tolerate it, and even took the Rorschach inkblot test.  What I learned the hard way was there wasn’t anything hidden about myself that I wanted revealed.  There wasn’t anything secretive that I wanted published.  It was all a deep, dark hole of sin.

Miss Piggy is definitely my least favorite Muppet, but she does make a great illustration of who we ourselves are.

Miss Piggy is this overly makeuped pig who’s spent all this money on fancy clothes for herself.  Everything is about her, and if it’s not, there’s wrath to come.  What she wants to say, she says.  What she wants to do, she does.  She’s this clunky, obnoxious, self-engrossed pestilence that the other Muppets have to put up with.

She can get away with it because she’s a puppet, and we can turn the program off of our TV anytime we want.  We don’t have to watch Miss Piggy 24/7.  So we can kinda laugh about it (some of us anyway, she mostly annoys me).

But we cannot get away from ourselves.  And in all of us lives all manner of ungodly affection towards ourselves.  It’s as if all the glory we were supposed to give God, when we broke alliance with Him, has been turned inward.  We worship ourselves.  All of us do it.  We just don’t usually recognize the self-piggy that lives inside us, because we’re used to him or her.  We’ve lived with that self-piggy as long as we’ve been a self, and we don’t know any different.

And the self-piggy can be very, very crafty.  I used to watch reality TV a lot.  There would always be at least somebody who could have competed with Miss Piggy for the most obnoxious, self-absorbed megalomaniac alive.

But . . why did I watch that?

Wasn’t it so that I could feel better about myself, by picking apart the personality flaws of someone else?  Wasn’t I, actually, being a worse self-piggy, because I was watching someone else’s pig out of infatuation with myself (in other words, to make myself look and feel better)?

Pigs are incredibly tactless in what they will eat.  Give them something, and they will eat it.  Slop, garbage, even other pigs.  They will eat anything and absolutely everything without reverence.  In the same way, our self-piggy will gobble anything and everything that stands in its path to self-fame, self-abundance, self-promotion, and self-worth.  And in our society, there are plenty of highly educated doctors who say that we’re not at fault for this; and they treat it by giving us more of ourselves.

Jesus astonishes (and often) offends us in what He said one day,

As they were traveling on the road someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go! ”

Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”

“Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.”

But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62, HCSB)

Jesus gets a lot of flack for what He said here, because we revolt against anyone who would slay the idolatrous pig of self inside us for the cause of the real worship of God.

Jesus was walking to Jerusalem (see verse 51).  He knew these were the last days His sandaled feet would walk the dusty villages of Israel and Samaria before He walked the road to Golgotha with a cross on His back.  In the greatest moment of self-sacrifice ever in the history of mankind, Jesus was walking towards His cross.

Along the way, followers, maybe flirting with holiness, or thinking it might improve their image, or wanting to make themselves look good before God, or wishing for fire insurance for the life to come, or for whatever other self-duplicitous reason, approach Him.  They probably think they are about to look really good.  They might even think they have all the self-sacrifice they need.  After all, aren’t they offering to follow Jesus?

The first one comes out with a wow statement, perhaps to make himself look like the most devoted follower Jesus has ever had?  Maybe he can’t wait for the prize.  What will Jesus say when this man spiels his mighty ditty?  Maybe he thinks that Jesus will nearly worship him out of admiration for his devotion.

“I will follow You wherever You go! ”

Had he practiced this, rehearsed it along the way?  Or did he shout it in a sudden adrenaline-boosting feeling of posturing?  Did he think he meant it?  Probably.  That’s the way it is with self-piggy.  We think we mean things because we ourselves are fooled into believing what the puppet inside us says to us.  We hear our own words and we think they are true.

Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”

Jesus showed the man exactly where his allegiance lie.  Maybe the self-pig inside this man was hungry for comfort or security or assurance; whatever it was, I think Jesus took it away.

The second man wasn’t actually wanting to join Jesus, or at least he didn’t say he was.  He was busy doing something we’d nearly all of us respect.  He was preparing funeral arrangement for his father.  We maybe want to say (in the blasphemous god of our self-pig), “Don’t interrupt him, Jesus!”  We want to offer this man the best psychology can offer, and maybe an anti-depressant to help.  We certainly want to hear Jesus say things like, “I’m here for you” or “Don’t worry about following me now–come when you’re ready.”

Jesus interrupts this man’s plans and speaks directly to him.  Jesus didn’t call just everyone.  Some He called and some He drew and some He let find Him.  But this man, Jesus specifically talked to, and at such a ‘bad time’.

Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”

“Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.”

But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”

What?  Jesus says what? 

Where is the sympathy our self-pity is so fond of hearing?  Where is the sympathy that draws the eye of everyone to feed our self-hunger?  Where is the sympathy that plays the violin of self-entitlement before us?  It isn’t here.

Jesus was choosing to die for the news of the kingdom of God.  The least this man could do was leave a dead man behind.  Jesus revealed this man’s self-pig.  Maybe it was worship for his family, or maybe in being the important, in-charge one who made the funeral arrangements, or maybe in being the one who always did what was right in society’s eyes, or maybe he had cold feet about helping Jesus and he was more comfortable staying at home.  We don’t know.  But whatever his self-pig was, I think Jesus exposed it.  And the man had only two options: face his ugly pig and give up what he thought he should do, or do what he wanted and squeal in anger & disappointment at Jesus.

The third man sounds like a great guy.  Maybe he thought he was, too.  Maybe he was a real family man, true-blue to those he loved.  Maybe he thought he couldn’t, of course, leave his family without a proper goodbye.  Maybe he thought he couldn’t just vanish on them one day (as if they wouldn’t hear about where he’d gone).  Maybe he thought he had to do things the proper way, the appropriate way.  Maybe he was willing to follow Jesus, but first he needed or he craved for his goodbye.  Maybe he was hoping all his friends and family would admire him for his ‘brave obedience to God’.  Or maybe he was just using the goodbye excuse as a cop-out to not really follow at all.

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

It didn’t work the way the man had planned.  Whatever his self-piggy was, whether it was family, or looking important in relationships, or popularity, or looking brave, or affirmation, Jesus confronted his self-piggy and he was left without an excuse.

All of these men were left to face their self-piggies or throw their anger for the exposure back at Jesus.  We don’t know what they chose.

But we do know what Jesus chose.  He chose to keep walking.  With every footprint His sandals left in the dust, He was one step closer to the footprints that would leave behind a trail of blood.  Earlier, verse 51 of the same chapter tells us,

When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem.

Verse 53b restates,

He determined to journey to Jerusalem.

And this after a self-pig squabble among His disciples about who mattered most among them, who was the coolest, who was the supreme follower, who was getting the biggest reward, who would have the best future.  Verse 46 of the same chapter tells us,

Then an argument started among them about who would be the greatest of them.

Please read Luke 9 for yourself.  There is a very real theme of the self-pig of the disciples, followers of Jesus, and others . . contrasted with the total unselfishness of Jesus, time and time again.

We, like the disciples and followers and everyone who has ever lived on this earth except Jesus have a self-pig inside us.  A pig that will consume every good thing in our lives if we let it go unmuzzled.  A pig that will destroy us.  A pig that we cannot control.

But we can surrender our pig to God to slay.  Only Jesus can destroy the selfishness within us.  He can do this because He lived without selfishness and yet He took on every consequence for our selfishness on that walk to Golgotha.  Golgotha means Skull Place (see Mark 15:22), and there, as He was being put to death by our sin, He was putting to death our sin.

If we want to live with the skeleton of self-pig left inside us, we can.  But we can leave it right there in Golgotha, at the foot of the cross, if we choose.  Christ has slain our sin nature; the decision in ours as to whether we’ll pick it up again.

He gives us this decision because He is totally unselfish.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21, HCSB)


State of Depression

I used to live in the state of Depression.  I didn’t want to move from there because, after all, that was where I lived.  It was home.  It was most familiar.   Self-help did not work because I just grew more interested in depression the more I studied it and more sympathetic to myself.  If anything, self-help meant I helped myself build a bigger house in the state of Depression.

(State boundaries are fiercely fought over and subject to change.)

Even when I really wanted to move, I didn’t know where to go.  I’d always end up driving to some place worse.  Don’t ever drive to the eastern border of Depression, because you end up right in Anger and you have to pay a big toll to boot.

And don’t ever go west, because you’ll run right into the state of Self-Indulgence and probably live in the city of Debt.

And don’t go north, whatever you do, because there’s a fork in the road and you’ll either wind up in Confusion or Hypocrisy.

But whatever you do, whatever you do, don’t drive south or you’ll be sure to hit the terrible traffic in the state of Panic and you’ll never find your way back out.

What I needed was a plane ride right out of the state of Depression, right out of the country of Misery, as a matter of fact.

And that is just what I got through Jesus Christ.

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” –Jesus

Matthew 11:28, CEB