THE KINGDOM OF “SELF-IE”
In May, my husband and I had the privilege of attending the Carrie Underwood concert here in Kansas City. We were given tickets to sit in the Time Warner Executive Suite by one of my husband’s business associates.
I must say, it was a fabulous concert. That girl’s got some pipes on her! She can sing, she can play the guitar, she plays a mean harmonica, and she can all out entertain. I absolutely loved the show.
But something happened in the Time Warner suite that I won’t soon forget. We were joined by eight other people. I’d never met any of them and my husband only knew his business associate and her husband. Two of these eight other people were young girls who were maybe 20 years old. They had plenty to drink while they were there, so they may have been 21, but I’m not convinced of that.
Anyway…when they first came into the suite, they took a few selfies with the stage in the background. I thought nothing of it at the time because many other people (my family included) have done the same thing. But it didn’t stop there. They took selfie after selfie after selfie. While Carrie was performing, they were shooting videos of themselves—with the camera on their phone facing them so they could watch themselves. They sang with Carrie while they videoed themselves, fluffed their hair, and flirted with the camera. They took pictures of themselves in various poses, then texted them to whomever and posted them on social media. They did this over…and over…and over again. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was sorta mesmerized by this all-out display of self-consumption. For about 80-90% of the show, these gals were more enamored with themselves on the screen of their phone than they were with the queen of country music Carrie Underwood.
I was speechless. I was dumbfounded. Again I have never seen anything like this. Ever!
Selfies! Oh my! (And just to be honest…I’ve taken a few of these myself.)
Did you know in 2013, the word “selfie” was the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year?
This week I heard there were an estimated 93 million selfies taken every day. I also heard it’s estimated that young adults will take around 25,000 pictures of themselves before they die. It’s no wonder there’s a growing concern that this technology is making us more self-obsessed and more narcissistic than ever before.
But self-obsession and narcissism is nothing new. It just has a different (albeit instant and international) form nowadays.
There’s a story in the Old Testament in which King Saul was told to go completely wipe out the Amelikites—including “men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (1 Samuel 15:3). It’s a pretty straight-forward command, but Saul didn’t quite carry it out. He spared the king and some of the choice livestock. In his own self-absorption, however, he was thoroughly convinced that he carried out the order completely and gained victory. He was pretty darn proud of himself. So proud, as a matter of fact, he “went to the town of Carmel to set up a monument to himself” (1 Samuel 15:12). That’s right, he set up a victory monument in his own honor, to himself, for himself. If King Saul would have had a smartphone back then, you can bet he would have taken several selfies indicative of his insta-victory and put them on insta-display for all his insta-kingdom to see. King Saul, who was once a humble guy, now had become consumed with one kingdom—the kingdom of self.
Right before we read about King Saul’s “kingdom of self” moment, we read what God thought about him. God said, “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me…” (1 Samuel 15:11). Ouch! God actually said He regretted making Saul king. Yeah, that one stings. But it was because he turned away from God. He was consumed with himself. Why else would he build a monument in his own honor. I mean…who does that?
I know who. Those girls at the Carrie Underwood concert. All the selfies, all the videos they posted on social media, all the fixation on the camera pointed toward themselves were little monuments in their own honor. All about the kingdom of self. All little moments of turning away from God.
Because how can we be all about God and all about ourselves at the same time? Is there room at the top for both of us?
Matthew Poole said of King Saul, “But the truth is, he was zealous for his own honour and interest, but lukewarm where God only was concerned.”
If we’re zealous for one, we’re lukewarm for the other.