The recent gas shortage caused by the ransomware attack of the Colonial Pipeline affected millions of people across the Southeast and up the East Coast. The Pipeline, which carries up to three million barrels of fuel per day between Texas and New York, was offline for nearly a week, causing a panic at the pump. Fearing the outage, motorists lined up for miles to get the last available drops of fuel, many filling up containers in addition to the vehicle gas tanks. As I am writing this article, where I live in North Carolina is still reporting 35 percent of its gas stations without gas.
Seeing the viral images of people loading up multiple canisters of gas in their trunks reminded me of the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic when there was a run for toilet paper, Lysol, and hand sanitizer. People filled up their shopping carts with enough of those supplies to stock pantries for months to come. It’s also reminiscent of the southern snow scares we get here, as people buy up every loaf of bread and carton of milk in the grocery store. Never mind the fact that most southern snows either never materialize, or if they do, they are completely gone by the next day.
As the gas shortage unfolded, it was evident that it was a completely manufactured crisis – brought to pass by our own collective actions. The Colonial Pipeline was back online in short order and had there been normal gas consumption during that time, we probably would’ve never noticed. As people topped off their tanks and hoarded extra, countless others found themselves with no means to get to and from work. Our individual desires to meet our own needs were too strong to hold back; we weren’t able to look past them to see the common good of the community.
Man, that’s a convicting thought for me! How many times do I say the right things about loving my neighbor but act in a way that shows that I love myself more? From the moment we say “Mine!” as toddlers, many of us can never fully break free from our sin of selfishness. You can say that selfishness is the root of most sins, and dealing with it is critical in our relationship with God. In essence, following Christ means laying down our desires and surrendering to His will.
The Bible has a lot to say about selfishness:
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1)
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16)
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)
If you think about it, so much of our lives boil down to how we deal with this idea. When we are faced with a choice, will we choose selfishness or selflessness? Is our top priority our own comfort, or do we look first to the needs of others?
We know that our perfect example is Jesus Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
The older I get and the deeper my relationship with God, the more I realize that my comfort isn’t His chief priority. He wants my commitment. He cares less about my happiness and more about my journey to holiness. It’s not about my own satisfaction; it’s about my sanctification.
So, where does that leave us? It sure is easy to write words like this, or even read and understand them. It’s a lot harder to live a life that always counts others as more significant than myself. It’s difficult to consistently seek after the interests of others, to abandon selfish ambition, love your neighbor as yourself, or lay down your life (metaphorically or physically) for your friends.
My daughter has a habit of interjecting in the middle of dinner conversations to tell us something about her day that is completely unrelated. She’s just so eager to say it she can’t wait. While we encourage her to share about things that have happened, we use it as an opportunity to teach her that she needs to listen more and not make everything about her. In doing that, I fully recognize that I’m guilty of the same – making things about me. When the gas crisis hit, just like everyone else, I began thinking through the logistics. I knew my wife needed gas (as it seems she always drives around with the gauge on E). What will we both do about getting to work, driving the kids to school, soccer practice, and swim lessons if we don’t find gas? I began the search to make sure I could get a full tank and that she could as well.
It’s completely natural to think this way, making sure ourselves and our immediate families are taken care of. But, I’d propose that what God is after is unnatural – to think the opposite of how the world thinks. He wants us to break free from our old nature and become the “new creation” He has called us to be (2 Corinthians 5:17). He urges us not to be “conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds” (Romans 12:2).
In every circumstance, we should ask: “how can I glorify God and be of service to others?” It’s an easy question to ask but a harder one to live out. I guarantee you, it’s worth the effort to try.
Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Boonyachoat
Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @brentrinehart