Summary: An apologetic on why to choose a servant attitude over a selfish attitude.
July 8, 2001
For eleven years a man named Merhan Karimi Nasseri was a man without a country. For eleven years he lived in a Paris airport. He had no passport. He had no citizenship. He had no papers that enabled him to leave the airport or fly to another country. He had been expelled from his native country of Iran.
Then he was sent away from Paris, France, because he lacked documentation. He said his Belgian-issued refugee document had been stolen. He flew to England but was denied entry and sent back to Paris. When he was returned to the Paris airport in 1988, airport authorities allowed him to live in Terminal 1, and there he stayed for eleven years, writing in a diary, living off of handouts from airport employees, cleaning up in the airport bathroom.
Then in September 1999 the situation reversed. French authorities presented Nasseri with an international travel card and a French residency permit. Suddenly he was free to go anywhere he wanted. But when airport officials handed him his walking papers, to everyone’s surprise, he simply smiled, tucked the documents in his folder, and resumed writing in his diary.
They found he was afraid to leave the bench and table that had been his home for eleven years. (1)
Airports are transition places. They are not for making your permanent home. Last week’s message from James 3 (Let Go; Let God) described the plane – the way to get to the place of peace in our lives.
Now, James backs up a little and tells us why we should get on that plane. In doing so, he takes the negative approach, showing what will happen to us if we decide to make the airport our home.
There is control over that choice, by the way. That control is what we call attitude. Many would say that we have all sorts of choices regarding attitude. There is the Robert Schuler choice, Positive Mental Attitude. There is the negative Woe, Despair and Agony on Me choice, and so – on.
For the Christian there are really only two choices when it comes to attitude – selfish or servant. Let’s consider both:
The Price of a Selfish Attitude
All choices incur consequences. To choose a selfish attitude brings certain consequences that are set as a matter of God’s unchangeable nature. Here are three basic prices you pay when you opt to be selfish:
1. Distorted Personal Relationships.
1From whence come wars and fightings among you?
come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? James 4:1 (KJV)
Wars and fightings – what a profound way to describe the human conflict caused by selfishness. I immediately get images of the daytime shows, Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, with all the in-your-face antics.
These, according to James, are the symptoms which appear when our inner desires are out of balance. God gave us desires for food, sex, breathing and even to possess – these are necessary to life. But, when the desire becomes so overwhelming it takes over, it is out of balance – it is then lust. It controls, rather than doing what it was intended – to remind of our basic needs. It can cause life to spin out of balance.
Bedouin camel drivers in the mid-East understand how relationships can get out-of-balance this way. Camels are notoriously moody. Their selfish ways are legendary.
From time to time a camel-driver senses his camel is fed-up with the owner. Wanting to head-off an explosion, the owner will hand his own outer coat to the camel. The camel will bite, spit-at, and trample the coat into the desert floor, until all that is left is a thread or two. Once the camel’s anger is spent, the relationship can get back on balance.
Listen to how another translation describes the problem:
Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.
James 4.1 The Message New Testament
The price of a selfish attitude includes distorted personal relationships – wars, fightings. And,
2. Personal Unhappiness.
2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.James 4.2 (KJV)
Last week James told us (3.17-18) that if we are truly seeking peace, giving in to God was the path we need to walk (Let Go; Let God). The opposite here – selfishly wanting things so badly you’re willing to go to any length to get it – is the foundation for the opposite of peace: FRUSTRATION!
James also says we don’t ask God (or pray) because instinctively we know our hearts are selfish.