The Disease of Me

by Bill Denton

Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’” (Mark 10:41-45, NASB).

In his book The Winner Within, Pat Riley, former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, talks about the danger of the Disease of Me. He tells how the Lakers’ out-of-control egos brought about one of the quickest falls in the history of the NBA. They had won the championship in 1980. The following season they were predicted to do it again. But then resentment set in among the players. Some thought Earvin Johnson got too much attention from the media. Kareem Abdul Jabbar believed that he was being snubbed by other players. Some players believed they weren’t getting the recognition they deserved. As a result, the Lakers shifted their focus from winning to whining. And they got beaten in the first playoff round. Riley summed it up by saying, “The Disease of Me leads to the Defeat of Us.” (Bible Illustrator)

Pat Riley has hit the proverbial nail on the head! The disease of Me leads to the defeat of Us. This is a much needed lesson among Christians.  Listen to us and often what you hear is a lot of whining. It sounds like a lot of people believe the philosophy that says, “It’s about me!”

Sadly, one of the greatest failings of spiritual leadership is that leaders can’t overcome the temptation to serve themselves. “Decisiveness” is sometimes little more than self-will. There is a great difference between making decisions for the benefit of others, and making decisions to please yourself. The issue isn’t decisiveness, it’s selfishness.

Ministry suffers, too. There is a great need for people to serve others. The problem happens when we only want to do what pleases us. The truth is that ministry demands that we put the needs of others ahead of the wants of self. It is a task that calls for the highest and noblest of human efforts. Perhaps it is high and noble because it demands that we overcome the lowest and least commendable qualities of human life.  Sacrifice isn’t the practice of the self-willed.

I think it’s fair to say that no team has ever succeeded where the members were only concerned about themselves, and are filled with pride and selfish motives and actions. No team wins unless the members are willing to bring out the best in each other, and that can’t happen if you’re concerned that the other guy might do something better than you. Maybe we should cheer for each other a bit more.

Watch out for the disease of Me! It will lead to the defeat of Us.

© Copyright 2002, Dr. Bill Denton

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