By Larry R. DeVore
The word “ego” is defined as: “the thinking, feeling, and acting self that is conscious of itself and aware of its distinction from the selves of others and from the object of its thought and other operations” (Readers’ Digest Great Encyclopedia Dictionary, p. 422). The ego is not evil in and of itself. Paul may have been dealing with this in Romans 7, when he said in v. 23; “But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (NASB).
Perhaps, it is somewhat like the conscience; it depends on how it is trained. Paul said in Romans 2:15b: “their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending themselves” (NASB).
But let us look further at this word and its variations. An “egoist” is defined as “one who is completely devoted to his own interests; a selfish person.” “Egoism” is defined as: “Inordinate concern for one’s own welfare and interests; selfishness.”
Now, you may be able to see why I titled this article “Edging God Out.” The ego will edge God completely out of our lives, if we are “completely devoted to (our) own interests.” We will have no room for God; we will be leaving him out of our lives. A person who is selfish, concerned only for his own welfare, is a person who is pushing or edging God out of his life. This is contrary to God’s will for us.
We have in Scripture such a man set forth for us to learn from in Luke 12. He tore down his barns to build larger ones and said: “Soul (ego? LRD), you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Lk. 12:19, NASB).
But God said to him, “You fool” (v. 20). Here was a man who was devoted to his own selfish interests. He made no provisions to help his fellow man and, most importantly, he completely left God out of his plans! Paul tells us in Romans 14:7, “For no one of us lives for himself, and no one dies for himself” (NASB). Christians are not to be selfish. Again, Philippians 2:2, the apostle writes, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (NASB).
How do we edge God out of our lives? There may be many ways, but let us look at some areas of our lives in which we may be edging God out.
We may edge God out of our worship services. What! Never! How could this happen? Brother John Haley pointed this out in his good article “Developing Men Without Hampering The Public Service” (Guardian of Truth, Vol. 33, No. 1, p. 10 Jan. 5, 1989). He said this: “Quality worship then becomes synonymous with worship that effectively meets my needs. Our central question always seems to be, ‘How did this worship benefit me? What did I get out of it?’ Self-enhancement and gratification becomes an object and end within itself.” “Frequently it seems worship today feeds man’s ever expanding ego and exalts his view of himself” (emphasis mine, LRD). “This is just the opposite of God’s intention.” This perceptive observation by an elder in the Lord’s church should make us stop and think, and ask ourselves; “Am I-edging God out of my worship to him?” You may have heard the story about the brother who inadvertently said while praying for the sick: “and we pray that they may soon recover and be back to worship us with thee!” A slip of the tongue? Or are we too self-centered and self-oriented?
We may edge God out of the work of the church. How? Do we give God the glory when good things happen in our work for the Lord? Or do we take the credit? The great preacher and apostle Paul points out the truth for us when he says: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was,causing the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7, NASB). Again, he wrote, “Whatever you do, do all to the glroy of God” (1 Cor. 10:31b, NASB). So then, let us not boast that “I coverted so many,” or “I restored so many,” but let us recognize that the gospel is God’s saving power (Rom. 1:16) and give him the glory (Eph. 3:21).
But we must be on guard lest we edge God out of our personal lives. How can this happen? In many ways. We noticed how it happened to the rich man in Luke 12. We are not immune to temptation. Jesus warned us, just before he told that story in Luke 12: “Beware, and be’ on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Lk. 12;15, NASB). In the words of the old hymn:
“O, the bitter pain and sorrow
That a time could ever be,
When I proudly said to Jesus
‘All of self, and none of thee.”‘
We may become egotistic about our jobs. I am the best salesman/foreman/worker they have! They cannot get along without me! I have to be there to make decisions/get the overtime/etc. So God gets edged out, there’s no time for him.
We may become egotistic about our social/community activities. I am president of the PTA/Lion’s Club/Library Committee. They can’t get along without me/I have to be there/etc. There is no time left for God.
The same principles apply to our recreational activities, our hobbies, perhaps even our families. In one way or another, and it may be very slowly, Christianity gets put on the back burner, and God is edged out of our lives. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33). If I am seeking the kingdom first, this precludes my being egotistic.
Don’t be an egoist (self-centered). Simply be a Christian. Have a Christ-centered life. This is the way to true happiness and contentment (1 Tim. 6:6-8). Move the ego out and let God in!
“Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, thy love at last has conquered,
None of self, and all of thee.”
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 16, pp. 481, 503
August 17, 1989