“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,” (2 Timothy 3:1–2 ESV).
He wrote it like it's a bad thing. Why? Because it is. Paul said that, in the last days, times of difficulty would arise. All kinds of chaos will unleash. The first one mentioned? "People will be lovers of self."
Self-love is heralded as the accepted religion of our day. The Roman Empire had its religio-licita, and today's West has its own. To love the self is the greatest of all religions for many of earth's inhabitants today.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34–35). To add color to the life of self-denial he looked for, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).
But the voices of today's religion pay no mind to Jesus. Even his followers declare the mantras of the self. "Follow your dreams." "Go get yours!" "Be whatever you want to be." But do we really need to go find ourselves? Is that really what it means to be Jesus' disciple? Is it through self-discovery that we'll unlock the treasures of joy and peace and happiness?
We live in an age that believes suffering ought to be avoided. We think prosperity in the forms of beauty, success, power, and possessions are ideals for which humanity should aim. If we believe in God, we believe he surely wishes for our happiness, and we get to define just what that happiness looks like.
But Jesus Christ came to set the captives free. On the cross, he paved the way for the greatest emancipation history has ever known. When he did, he made way for those of us bound by the shackles of self-worship to find release. We no longer have to live a life dominated by self-care, self-hacks, and self-image. We are free to receive and run in the love of God! We no longer have to demand and fight and claw for the worship of the self.
Finding Our Life
Instead, we can live our lives as worship unto God. Perhaps we're healthy enough to pursue fitness -- but we'll do it as a means of stewardship, not image idolatry. Perhaps we'll engage in furthering our education -- but we'll do it as a way to worship the God who gave us the mind and the opportunity. Perhaps we'll invest and save and industrialize -- but we'll do this as a way to "fill the earth and subdue it" for the glory of God.
Gone are the days when we must travel deep within to find ourselves. We no longer need to self-prioritize and proclaim our own worth. God has announced how much he values us. He paid the price of the blood of his Son to make us his precious possession. In this, we rejoice. We sing and run and are free in him. No longer are we held captive by the need to love the self, for God has loved us, and we are valued in and by him.
He will sustain and care and watch out for us. He is the one worth spending our lives for, and when we do, just as Christ said, we actually find our lives.