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24th May, 2010

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Death to egomania!

How good and how pleasant life could be. I mean, wouldn't you love to live forever if you could be guaranteed robust health, eternal youth, the perfect companion, lots of friends, and no money worries. Sure you would. Kingdom life will provide all these. and much more. Here I want to amplify an idea covered in the recent blog, "It's not all about you". In the kingdom of heaven, God will "be everything to everyone", meaning that glorified saints will find their ultimate bliss in intimate, face-to-face friendship with God (the perfect companion). But God made us to be sociable creatures, too, and to need the company of peers, creatures like ourselves. That need will be met in the kingdom of God in the form of communion with billions of other saints, communion which will bring profound pleasure, albeit of an order of magnitude less than the joy of fellowship with our Father.

But one nasty feature of us human beings has a major negative impact on our collective pleasure quotient: to one degree or another, we are all egomaniacs. King Solomon had more insight into the human condition than anybody else has ever had (other than Jesus), and he tells us that,

Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor (Eccl. 4:4).

Unfortunately, this rendition fails to illuminate our senses. The Soncino translation is much more helpful:

Then I turned and saw that all labor, and all excelling in work, that it is a man's rivalry with his neighbor.

Or, as the Living Bible puts it, "the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy". Why do many women primp and preen themselves so assiduously? Why do testosterone-driven sportsmen train so hard in their sport? They want others to see them as more important or just plain better. Glory in the eyes of others is what human Endeavour is all about. Jesus Christ condemned the Pharisees for having this wretched attribute to an all-consuming degree:

But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, "Rabbi, Rabbi" (Matt. 23:5-7).

Though not all of us are infected to that extent, few people are so thoroughly humble that they don't desire to be seen as superior. Paul talks about this insidious malady using

a number of synonyms that have egomania as their centre of gravity. He tells us that some folks who were out there busily preaching Jesus Christ were motivated by vanity, the desire to be seen as better than other preachers (Phil. 1:15). He provides a global antidote to the poison:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Phil. 2:3).

Easier said than done, but an absolute prerequisite to attaining to eternal salvation. If this destructive impulse were to be carried over into kingdom life, I for one would find eternal life quite irksome. I find few attributes of my fellows more. well. just plain irritating than vanity. (Which, incidentally, is about the only thing that can thrive on a starvation diet.) Supercilious lips destroy camaraderie. Do you know anybody who is addicted to boasting, either in blatant or cloaked form? I do. At times I want to scream, "Stop it, stop it". Of course, if Niles or Frasier were to read this, they would probably tell me that I bristle because I'm jealous of the boaster's genuine grounds for crowing. Maybe.

Can you begin to imagine just how delightful social intercourse would be if everybody around you quit striving to outdo and outshine everybody else, and showed as much interest in others' glory as their own? Kingdom of God, here you come! True humility will reign. Jesus Christ, the coming Messiah, will ride forth in the causes of "truth, humility and righteousness" (Ps. 45:4). He will utterly conquer self-love and boasting and give access into the kingdom exclusively to the "poor and needy".

Actually, kingdom of God life will be better still; egomania will be replaced by theomania. There, every saint will shine as the sun in glory (Matt. 13:43) but sing the praises of God's glory. Then, God will be "everything to everyone". Fellow saints will have no interest in glorifying themselves in your eyes, they will be obsessed with helping you see how magnificent God is. And vice versa, of course. That's the sort of world I want to live in. But if I want to be there, I must take Jesus' words with the utmost gravity:

He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory ; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him (John 7:18).

The principle contained here applies to all, not just to those who have been sent. All of us put together are nothing, nothing, nothing. God is everything. Seek His glory and everlasting joy will be yours.


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