23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24 For whoever will save his life shall lose it: but whoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
Last night, my wife and I did some online training related to our work. One of the first things the trainer talked about was the necessity for us to take care of ourselves. He termed it as being ‘selfish’, with the understanding that we can’t properly help other people if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first.
I understand the point — at least in principle. If I were a doctor, I would be in no position to treat somebody with Ebola if I was infected with the same virus. I’m in no position to work as a personal trainer if I am terribly out of shape myself. And yet, I was still uneasy with the trainer’s emphasis on taking time for self.
Jesus reminded all those who wanted to follow him that doing so would cost them something. Indeed, being a genuine disciple of Christ involves a lot of sacrifice. We like to use the clichéd phrase ‘dying to self’ to allude to this sacrifice. But what does that really mean?
To Serve One Another
Thinking about last night’s training session led me to wonder if the ‘me time’ mentality is compatible with taking up one’s cross and following Jesus. I have concluded that it can be, under certain circumstances. But it’s equally incompatible under other circumstances.
For example, Scripture commands us to serve one another as Christian brothers and sisters. In order to serve you the best I possibly can, I have to be up to the task. So that requires that I take care of myself.
Practically speaking, if I want to minister the Word to you as a Bible teacher, I have to know and understand the word myself. I’m ill prepared to teach if I don’t know the material.
In this sense, blocking out time to study is compatible with serving people. My motivation is not to improve myself, make myself feel better, or anything else having to do with self. My motivation is to serve the LORD by serving you. Therein lies the difference.
If I set aside ‘me time’ with the emphasis on me, I am missing the point completely. On the other hand, if I am physically, emotionally, and mentally taking care of myself so that I can serve God and others properly, then I’m simultaneously fulfilling the scriptural command to do my best for the LORD.
Do you have ‘me time’? If so, are you focused on yourself or others? There is a big difference. And it makes a world of difference in relation to taking up your cross and following Christ.