Few things in life are as difficult as dying to self. Unless of course we can decide when and how.
In his commentary, Daily Study Bible, William Barclay comments on the incident involving Mary, Martha, and Jesus in Luke 10:38-42. As Mary sits and listens to Jesus, Martha becomes upset. She wants Mary to serve Jesus the way she is serving Jesus. Barclay observes,
“Here is one of the great difficulties in life. So often we want to be kind to people—but we want to be kind to them in our way; and should it happen that our way is not the necessary way, we sometimes take offence and think that we are not appreciated. If we are trying to be kind the first necessity is to try to see into the heart of the person we desire to help—and then to forget all our own plans and to think only of what he or she needs.”
In his book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis picks up this theme,
“The real trouble is that ‘kindness’ is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that “his heart’s in the right place” and “he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature. We think we are kind when we are only happy: it is not so easy, on the same grounds, to imagine oneself temperate, chaste, or humble.”1
It’s easy being nice to someone else as long as we can be nice to ourselves first.
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” – Mark 8:34.
- C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1996), 49. Italics in original.