Bartering in the Age of Narcissism (or, Self-Help Guru For Sale – Will Trade For Sparrows, a Lock of Hair and a Scratchy Old 45 of “I’m ‘Enery the Eighth I Am”)

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31 (ESV)

“Historians will probably call our era ‘the age of anxiety'”, wrote the evangelist Billy Graham in 1965.  Indeed, the sixties gave the world plenty to be anxious about: the Cold War, civil rights violence, Vietnam, the space race, nuclear arms, Herman’s Hermits…

Sadly, the anxiety of the times didn’t fade away when the calendar rolled into 1970.

Or 1980.

Or the 21st century.

Indeed, today we still have plenty of opportunity for worry on the world stage: Isis, terrorism, Trump v. Clinton, the economy, North Korea, Herman’s Hermits…  Instead of rising above the anxiety of the times, I believe we have morphed into the age of anxiety fueled by narcissism.

We all have concerns.  Deeper than the fears of this world, many people feel lost, isolated, disconnected.  The internet is a wonderful tool.  But social media tends to reduce our human contact down to tiny, impersonal (or, at times, overly personal), bite-size ready-to-eat mini-messages, more concerned with letter count than content.

That’s all fine and well for mass communication.  But it’s no substitute for real, personal interaction.

When you add to the mix the busyness of our lives (kids in soccer and baseball and basketball and football and foosball and on and on and on…), there simply is not enough time for developing true relationships.

And many people feel a deep longing for relationship.  Not buddies.  Not just fellow soccer moms or co-workers.  I’m talking brothers and sisters.  People with whom we develop deep, abiding relationships.  Community.  Iron sharpening iron.

So we feel lost.  Empty.  And we look to fill this huge, gaping void.  We search for meaning, for a panacea to cover the pain of the empty pit in our souls.  Maybe a self-help guru, someone to move in and help us each develop into the best possible version of ourselves so we can be better and do even more and be more focused on self-improvement.

And the narcissism of our times rolls on.

Part of our problem is that, with everything going on – with our being lonely in a crowd, our lack of true communication and deep relationships and, worst of all, our lack of relationship and time with God – we lose our bearings.  We lose our sense of being.  We lose the importance of who we really are, who we are created to be.

And we turn ourselves inward to discover who we are, what we should do, who we should be.

And we get our heads stuck sideways in our own navels.

Do you want to understand your self worth?  Stop looking inward, and start looking upward.  Consider what Luke wrote:

6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Luke 12:6-7 (ESV)

Yes, this is basically the same message as our key verse at the top of this post (Matthew 10:29).  But I prefer Luke’s rendering over Matthew’s.  Luke offers a better deal: five sparrows for two cents as opposed to two birds for a penny.  I like a good deal.  And, no matter what my wife may tell you, I’m not cheap.  Just frugal.

The message here is simple: a one cent bird, the only sacrificial offering many poor Jews of Jesus’ day could afford (lambs didn’t quite figure into the average budget).  Yet God keeps such a close eye on His creation that He knows – and cares for – even this most seemingly insignificant of beings.  He knows how many hairs you have on your head.  And, even if you are pulling out hair in anxiety or frustration or fear, the Lord is still keeping an accurate count.

So consider this: how much more valuable are you in God’s eyes?  Where is your self-worth?  If you want to discover who you are, don’t look inward.

Look upward.

Join a community of fellow believers and begin to serve.  Contribute.  Love others and help others.  Seek God first in all things.  And quit putting so much focus on busyness.  In doing so, in talking time to be with God and others and humbly listening, seeking, loving, contributing, giving, doing… here you will find who you really are, who God created you to be.

Focus on God.  Focus on love.  Don’t focus on troubles.

Seek God first.  Love one another.


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