When did you last take a selfie? Fairly recently I would imagine!
Just in case you don’t know, a selfie is ‘a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically…with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media’ . A few years ago, quality cameras became the norm on smartphones – before long the selfie was born and with it a new word in the English language. Indeed ‘selfie’ was the Oxford English Dictionary word of the year for 2013!
These days selfies are everywhere, we take them and we share them, almost without thinking. However, as with all things it is worth stopping and thinking carefully about what the Bible has to say about it. Obviously the Bible does not talk about selfies as such, but are there any useful lessons we can learn from the modern selfie culture? Considering this, two points came to mind, one negative and one more positive.
1 – Me, me, me!
When we take selfies, what is our motivation? Maybe we’re just sharing with others what we are doing. Maybe we’re recording an event with a group of friends. However, if we look at 21st century culture, one of the most widespread traits is selfishness – people are increasingly putting themselves first in everything. This ‘me, me, me’ attitude leads to many social problems such as family breakdown. It’s pretty obvious that ‘selfie’ and ‘selfish’ come from the same root – they both start with ‘self’.
The Bible has a lot to say about pride and selfishness – particularly emphasising that we should put others, and especially God, first. Christians are continually exhorted to humility.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV))
Jesus of course was the greatest example of this. Continuing the passage from Philippians,
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
Whilst our selfies may not have a blatant selfish or egotistical motive, we need to be careful that we are not inadvertently embracing the selfish, ‘me first’ mindset so common around us.
2 – A Spiritual Selfie
Very often we don’t like photos of ourselves, as they tend to show up all those features we don’t like! In a spiritual sense this can be very positive. The Bible talks a lot about self-examination, which means looking closely at our own heart, life and attitude to see where we are coming short of God’s standard. It’s a bit like taking a spiritual selfie and looking closely to see the blemishes and faults it shows up.
First and foremost, Paul says to the Corinthians ‘Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith;..’ (2 Corinthians 13:5). This is vital – are you a real Christian?
Secondly, when the Israelites were focusing on themselves, rebuilding their own homes rather than the temple, the house of God, the prophet Haggai said, ‘Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.’ (Haggai 1:5, 7) Are there things we are doing wrong? If so, as Jeremiah writes in Lamentations, ‘Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD’ (Lamentations 3:40).
The apostle James tackles this from a slightly different angle, telling us that if we hear the word of God, but do not apply it to our lives, we are like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, sees a dirty mark on it, but carries on without washing it off (see James 1:21-25). It is so important to prayerfully look at ourselves in the mirror of the Bible and, where we see shortcomings, ask God for help to change, then with his help make the change.
In conclusion, I’m unsure who said it, but one quote on the subject of selfies states that ‘occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary’. This is a good principle to apply. Today we live in a world obsessed with image rather than substance – God told Samuel, ‘man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7). So, whenever taking or sharing a selfie, think about your motives and let it remind you to look honestly at your own heart and life to see where you could be a better Christian. Definition of ‘selfie’ from the Oxford English Dictionary. [A00046 – 28/08/2017]