“How can I find true happiness? / Abundant Life” Nothing is more “backward”/counter-intuitive that Jesus’ answer to this question. In fact, Jesus had a radically different answer.
During the last supper, Jesus knew that he was about to be betrayed, forsaken, arrested, unjustly condemned, beaten and killed. The room they were using for the last supper had no household slave to wash their feet. Jesus’ disciples were consumed with which one of them is the greatest, so none of them was about to admit he is lesser by assuming this role – and wash others’ feet.
Jesus eventually went down like a slave and washed their feet. After explaining that his action was a picture of his way of life, he said John 13:17
17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
This was not the first time Jesus tried to drive this point home to his disciples. He also taught it through a paradox that is the most frequently quoted of his paradoxes in the gospels, Matt 16:24-26
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
This passage not only suggests that if you are willing to lose your life you will save it – it also strongly rejects the world’s culture of selfish living to achieve life-fulfillment (abundance) – by saying that selfish living will eventually destroy/lose one’s life.
Self-Centered Life Will Destroy Your Life
Consider this passage in 2 Tim 3:
1 You should know this, Timothy that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.
This passage teaches about the problems that will be developed when people are away from God – which is that people will focus on themselves (vs. 2, 4, and 5).
Living for self means several things according to this passage:
1. Loving money
2. Establishing a proud identity
When people are living for self, what we see above is quite reflective of what we see in 1 John 2 (lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life) – there is no logical alternative that will make sense. Living for self means I must create my own sense of significance, satisfy my own needs, and make myself happy. The other problems are just some resulting damages that result from our selfishness.