AW Tozer once described “self-hyphenated” sins. It’s a long list of things like self-worship, self-focus, self-centeredness – you get the idea. At the core, of course, of all these is a focus on the self. And at the end of all these is an extreme commitment to self-preservation.
That is the commitment, at any cost, to keep and protect what one is, has, and has achieved.
On the surface, this commitment to self-preservation might easily be written off as pragmatic responsibility. I mean, you have to look out for yourself. Only the fool doesn’t take precautions to protect him or herself, especially in a world when people will so quickly and easily take advantage of you.
And yet self-preservation is, for the Christian, one of the more seductive and easily justified means of arrogance. We are not self-sustaining creatures, and we are not meant to think we are. In fact, for the Christian, growing more aware of our deep need of God is one of the ironic marks of spiritual maturity.
As we grow up in Christ, we actually become more and more aware of our great need for God. This is one of the reversals that happens in the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of the world. In the kingdom of the world, grown-ups are more self-reliant. But in the kingdom of God, spiritual grown-ups are exactly the opposite. They are more cognizant of their need for God.
This is, I think, one of the reasons why Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread. Not the bread for next week; not the bread for retirement; but the bread for today. Implied in that request is an acknowledgment of the fact that no matter how secure we might seem based on our health, bank accounts, or careers, we are still dependent on God for everything we need on a daily basis. This kind of daily praying is one of the ways we fight against the pull of self-preservation.
Let’s not make the prideful error today of believing in ourselves and committing ourselves to self-preservation. Let’s instead take the road of humility, for this is the road of good news. We actually don’t have to toil and worry about preserving ourselves, for God is the One who sustains. And we can trust Him to do just that.