“I can do it myself.” It’s a phrase that we hear little children say. They can say it in trying to tie their shoes, put on their clothes, or put away their dishes. We smile as we watch these little ones begin to assert their independence. We look upon statements like “I can do it myself” as good things, recognizing them as signs of that child growing up. And they are good things, because growing up and maturing is part of life. But is there a place where that statement can lead to an attitude, which leads to a way of life that might take us away from what God intends? Can “I can do it myself” actually lead to selfishness? Because selfishness isn’t just an attitude. It’s a belief that that centers on the “self,” and at its core, it’s a belief that says, “This will be better if I just take care of it.” Or, it says, “I have what it takes to figure this out, and I don’t need any help.”
From an early age, we catch this idea that “doing it ourselves” is important. Perhaps this is why ideas like humility and submission are so hard for us. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up,” James says (James 4:10). “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” (James 4:7) We balk at words like these.
Dallas Willard, in a speech to Wheaton College Chapel, once gave a good picture of what humility looks like.
Never pretend. Be exactly who you are. Share your gifts honestly, share your struggles and shortcomings honestly.
Never presume. Never presume that you should be treated in a certain way, that you are entitled. Be who you are, where you are.
Never push. Stand for yourself, stand for God, stand for what is right…but let God do the pushing.
Willard goes on and says, “This doesn’t mean you are passive. It means that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t undertake” because you believe that “He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)
Those three pieces of advice Willard gives are telling: never pretend, never presume, and never push. In the world we live in today, how hard is it to live those out? How often do we see others pretending, presuming, and pushing? And how often do we find ourselves doing the same thing?
James 3:13-18 ends with talking about a wisdom that is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” What a contrast to a life of pretending, presuming, and pushing! Who could ever live such a life? The truth is, we probably can’t. But we can learn, and turn, again and again, day after day, to the One who did…and someone once said they couldn’t even tie His sandals…