It Is “Difficult” To Be Full Of Ourselves

It Is “Difficult” To Be Full Of Ourselves

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Being full of self seems easy, doesn’t it? So many seem to excel at it and so many of us constantly fight self-centered tendencies. Yet, the apostle Paul connects selfishness to difficult times. In fact, he says, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self…” (2 Tim. 3:1-2). Our times can be aptly described as difficult. And what Paul warns about seems to characterize what we see every day. 

Have you looked at the entirety of that list in chapter three lately? While there are extreme behaviors on that list, like “brutal” (savage) and “treacherous,” most of them seem very familiar–like disobedient to parents, ungrateful, and malicious gossips. But what struck me was how many of the items in this list point to pride.

Men will be boastful (2). This word refers to one who “‘makes more of himself’ than the reality justifies, ‘ascribing to himself either more and better things than he has, or even what he does not possess at all’; who ‘promises what he cannot perform'” (TDNT, 226). This is building up our accomplishments or our characteristics in order to impress others. It’s a word only found twice in the New Testament, both in lists describing those who love themselves and have no place for God (see Rom. 1:20). Beware of letting others know how good, smart, capable, and otherwise impressive you are. That’s a sign of difficulty! 

Men will be arrogant (2). This synonymous word refers to “an empty boaster who brags of his position and despises others” (Friberg and Miller, 390). It is found five times in the New Testament, most often translated “proud.” This is a person who not only lifts himself up, but feels the need to push others down at the same time. It is one jockeying for the figurative spot as king or queen of the mountain, shoving others off in the process. Trench says that the boastful one is restricted to showing this sin in the company of others, but “He that is sick of this sin (arrogance, NP) compares himself, it may be secretly or openly, with others, and lifts himself above others, in honour preferring himself” (Synonyms, 101). His perfect example of this? Haman (Est. 3:5-6). With arrogance, I must look good and I must make you look bad at the same time. 

Men will be conceited (4). This word is only found in the New Testament letters of Paul to Timothy (also in 1 Tim. 3:6; 6:4). It is an interesting word, meaning “to wrap up in smoke” or “to be in the clouds, to be crazed, demented” (Liddell and Scott, 825). What a mental picture! Strong says it means “to inflate with self-conceit:–high-minded, be lifted up with pride, be proud” (73). It means “to swell or inflate with pride” (Zodhiates, np). It’s all smoke and no flame. It’s a deluded sense of self, thinking we are greater and better than we are.  

Obviously, what’s really difficult is weeding out these self-centered tendencies from our hearts and lives. These warnings exist because they are common struggles. When we don’t fight these tendencies, we make life difficult for others and make it difficult for ourselves to be right with God or ready to meet Him. We must do the difficult and daily deed of putting self-will to death (1 Pet. 2:24; Luke 9:23-26)! It’s difficult, but it’s doable! 

Neal Pollard

4 thoughts on “It Is “Difficult” To Be Full Of Ourselves

  1. yes it doable neal.I must be reminded of John chapter 3 v 3. and 1 Peter chapter1 verse 23.Great lesson Mr neal.

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