I Did It My Way
The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. Matthew 16:1
Addiction is an inevitable symptom of a life spent in pursuit of self. When I live for me, doing what I want, I follow whatever self-destructive behaviors I’m prone to, and eventually, I engage compulsively in that behavior. I become enslaved to the very thing I thought I wanted in the first place.
This is most obvious with drugs and alcohol, but most people have more subtle addictions: work, money, food, pornography, resentments, appearance, status, or pride. We all have a toxic behavior we wish we could stop. Whatever our thing is, we follow our self-destructive nature, until we become controlled by it, despite knowing the painful consequences. It’s absurd, but still, we live for ourselves and we suffer.
The problem is that this is just natural. No one has to teach us to live for ourselves, we’re just born that way. Natural though, in this case, doesn’t mean helpful. In fact, our natural way of life is completely upside down to the way Jesus asks us to live. God doesn’t exist to serve us. We exist to live for and follow him.
In today’s passage, the Pharisees went to Jesus, demanding a sign. Prove yourself. Dance for us (my paraphrase). In response, Jesus called them adulterous and evil. He didn’t come to follow the demands of men. Christ came to lead men to a new life. If the Pharisees weren’t interested, he wasn’t going to try to impress them. The Pharisees, like us, had it backwards. God doesn’t exist for mankind. We exist for him.
How much misery do we cause ourselves by getting this wrong? In failing to live in submission to God, we pursue ourselves above all . . . and we pay the price. Our battle cry is, I did it my way! But still, we’re discontent, unhappy, miserable, and anxious. It’s only in putting God first in all things, that everything is in its proper place. But I won’t be true to myself! I’ll lose who I am! For those of us who have realized the misery of following self though, we don’t mind surrendering the pain. Paradoxically, it is only in giving up our way, and following God’s, that we become who we were truly made to be. Only in him do we find authentic life, joy, and peace.