Some people’s favorite subject is themselves. At parties, they talk on and on about their own attributes, achievements, and accumulated belongings. Others at the party rotate through getting stuck with this person, and finding excuses to move on (saying something like, “Excuse me, I think that I see someone over there that I haven’t seen in forever.”)
This isn’t the same as storytellers, who provide entertaining accounts of interesting life events – often featuring other people in their accounts, and being willing to tell about their own mistakes. Still, there’s a fine line between entertaining and egotistical.
Having been warned about this risk, I sometimes mentally observe how many times I use the word “I” in an e-mail note or article. (In case you’re counting, this paragraph has 3 occurrences, but I’m hoping that the third one doesn’t count, since it’s in quotes.)
Regardless of how interesting, famous, or knowledgeable that we think we are, a follower of Jesus Christ has something much better to talk about than himself or herself:
You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.
2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT
I suppose that it was OK for Jesus to talk about Himself. He is God, after all. For the rest of us, though, once we learn about who He was, and what His purpose was in life, we realize that our lives aren’t nearly as important as His – not just in history, but to all people alive today. That doesn’t mean that we can’t accomplish great things with His help, but for followers of Jesus, our achievements are best done for His glory. That way, more people learn about Jesus, and how He can change their lives for the better, rather than just hearing stories about us (or, for parents, stories about our kids).
Still, there is a risk that our lives may be pointing people to the wrong person, in at least a couple of different ways.
In one scenario, our message is about ourselves. On the surface, we may be testifying to what God has done for us, but really all we’re doing is calling attention to ourselves and our fame. For instance, “I’m so thankful that God made it possible for me to buy that luxury car.” Or, like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable within Luke 18, we might give God credit for (in our minds) making us better than other people.
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
Luke 18:11-12 NLT
Another risk is that we begin to preach, teach, or otherwise present a message that really just comes from ourselves (and not from God). As we rely on our own, limited expertise, we may start to add to God’s word, “supplementing” it with our own ideas on what the world needs. When we aren’t filling up our mind with what God shared through the Bible, and opening up our hearts to listen to the Holy Spirit, we run the risk of dumb things coming out of our mouths (or keyboards)1.
Instead, Paul reminds us to remain focused on the truth, and not just what we think (nor what we might have heard from others).
When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.
1 Corinthians 2:13 NLT
We can – and should – certainly share our own testimony about Jesus (that is, telling others about how He has impacted our lives). However, all that we say and do should ultimately be referring those around us – in some way – back to God and His glory. Preaching about ourselves is going to make for a boring sermon, compared to telling people about God!
See also Which Way Does the Arrow Point?.
- Incidentally, there is a standing offer for readers of these articles: If you spot something that you think I’ve incorrectly interpolated or extrapolated from God’s Work, please let me know. We can talk about your own Bible research, so that I can make changes as required. ↩