“Men Will Be Lovers of Themselves”
“BUT know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves.” Thus the inspired apostle Paul begins his prophecy that, without a shadow of doubt, finds its fulfillment in our day.—2 Tim. 3:1, 2.
Perhaps someone will ask, What is wrong with loving oneself? Does not God’s Word tell us to love ourselves when it commands: “You must love your fellow as yourself”?—Lev. 19:18.
Yes, it does. We must have a love of self to be happy, and God purposed that we be happy, for he is a “happy God.” Making oneself miserable in the name of piety finds no support in God’s Word. According to it, “a severe treatment of the body” is a mere “appearance of wisdom” but it is “of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.”—1 Tim. 1:11; Col. 2:23.
However, love of self, to be enlightened and wholesome, must be balanced with love of neighbor. Obviously, when Paul said that “men will be lovers of themselves” he meant that they would be so to the neglect of love of others. This is indicated by his foretelling that men also would be “having no natural affection.”—2 Tim. 3:3.
Ever since Adam men have been “lovers of themselves.” He was the first one who transgressed along this line, otherwise he would not have disobeyed God nor would he have blamed his wife for his sin, and that with the words, “The woman whom you gave to be with me”—instead of, ‘My dear wife’—“she gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate it.” Not that Eve could complain—after all, she also showed herself to be a ‘lover of self.’—Gen. 3:1-12.
Though being “lovers of themselves” has stamped most of the human race from Adam’s day forward, today it has gone to extremes as never before. Therefore all who love God and what is right will do well to be on guard against its various forms. Many of those taking the lead in politics, commerce and worldly religion betray that they are lovers of themselves by their avid pursuit of power, wealth and fame. Men such as these are said to have egocentric personalities, for their thoughts, plans and actions all center about themselves, their ego. Such kind are schemers, domineering, unfeeling and unable to submit to the authority of another. They use their friends for their own advantage but drop them when they are no longer of use to them, thus showing themselves wholly lacking in affection.
Then, again, actors and actresses, on stage and screen, operatic prima donnas and suchlike often betray that they are lovers of themselves by the many and arbitrary demands they make, at the price they set for cooperation. Typical was the course of a certain ill-fated “star,” of whom it was said that she showed “a stubborn indifference to others,” and that she usually reported late for work anywhere from one to twenty-four hours; which selfishness added to the cost of producing a single picture as much as a million dollars. Other “stars,” still in the land of the living, have even eclipsed her; their temperamental and maundering ways raising the cost of some motion pictures many millions of dollars.
A particularly gross form of love of self is the love of one’s body, termed narcissism. It is named after Narcissus, “a beautiful youth of Greco-Roman mythology who fell in love with his own image, died of unrequited love and was turned into the flower narcissus.” (Webster) It appears to be a trend in modern motion pictures, along with other unwholesome themes. Thus a certain actor is shown kissing his likeness in a mirror; another is depicted gazing in a mirror as he sings the song, “I Believe in You”; and an actress is seen admiring her reflections in three mirrors as she sings, “I Feel Pretty.” Vanity regarding one’s physical charms is a manifestation of this love of self. Most likely Absalom’s conspiracy to wrest the kingship of Israel away from his father King David was due to his becoming enamored with his great physical beauty, this turning his head and heart.—2 Sam. 14:25; 15:4.
Not long ago a young husband said that he simply could not feel any affection for his beautiful and devoted young wife and that he felt like a hypocrite when he tried to express affection for her. Apparently he was so much in love with himself that he could feel no natural affection for another regardless of her qualities, her needs or even God’s command that he do so!—Eph. 5:25.
Not that this excessive love of self is limited to extreme cases. All have to combat this tendency. It manifests itself in a husband’s blindness to opportunities to be helpful around the house, in a wife’s constantly letting her husband wait on her, in just plain laziness, in refusing to put up with discomfort or annoyances, in manifesting sharp impatience at delays. Without doubt it is the chief cause of marital discord as well as broken marriages. Undue preoccupation with one’s health, with one’s diet, and so forth, are other manifestations of it.
This love of self can even creep into one’s worship of God. A dedicated Christian may become so concerned with meeting his own ministerial requirements and goals that he is blind to his obligation to aid his family and those who are weak. And, unless careful, a full-time minister can become self-centered and demanding because of his added privileges, as though these gave him a spiritual status.
It is worthy of note that when Jesus was asked, “Which commandment is first of all?” he did not let the matter rest with answering, ‘You must love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength.’ No, but he felt called upon to observe that there was a second commandment that also was important: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” Let both of these great commandments serve to protect you against the perils of these days, when men are “lovers of themselves.”—Mark 12:28-31.