Our daughter Everlynn darted down the hallway shouting, “Hudson says there’s a monster in his closet! Ahhhh!!!” Underneath her playful shrieking hid an impish grin.
“Hudson…” I said wearily. “There’s no monster in your room, buddy.”
“But Papa! You need to come and look! I think I heard something!” Hudson declared.
I strolled into his room to find him cowering in the far corner of his bed. The closet door, of course, was swung wide open. I peeked inside to appear as if I was a TSA officer on monster patrol doing a routine scan.
“Nope. No monsters, Hudson. You can go to sleep now.” I said, matter of fact.
“But buuut, I think it now went in the bathroom shower,” Hudson remarked. Ultimately we scanned and confirmed that Hudson’s general living space was monster-free. And eventually he drifted off to sleep.
Yet many of us adults (and teens, too) have a monster we rather like to coddle and feed on a regular basis. His name? Harry Ego Monster. Or perhaps her name is Penelope Popularity Monster. Parker Pride Monster? Take your pick.
In the age of social media you and I are easily entrapped into feeding this insidious monster. We begin to, perhaps, subconsciously act on this line of thinking:
“If I write something witty or funny or wise, people will like it. People will respond and I’ll get attention. I’ll have a reputation…a position. I might even trend. I can score popularity points through my intellect or by sharing meaningless memes or saying things that spark controversy. Just think of all the friends and ‘likes’ I’ll get.”
So we tap and chew away on our devices like a squirrel clutching a tasty nut in January.
All of this feeds the monster of our own ego, selfish conceit, and a religiously concealed penchant for vainglory.
Now please don’t plug your ears yet. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with writing something witty or funny or wise on Facebook. Posting a happy picture on Instagram or tweeting a phrase that may encourage someone’s heart is perfectly acceptable.
But in all of this we must ask ourselves: what is my motive? If we don’t probe our souls, we are in continual danger of feeding the monster. King Solomon reminds us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23; NASB)
And the monster only grows larger. The more we feed the monster, the more the monster wants more. Soon we live entrapped in a conceited cellar with a ballooning beast nobody really would like to live with except, of course, ourselves.
A steep precipice of consequences lies ahead as we feed the monster. Yet I fear many of us (myself included) are too busy stuffing Harry Ego’s face to see we’re headed off a cliff. The monster’s bad cholesterol will ostracize people who love us, generally annoy many of our friends, and makes us so centered on ourselves that we forget about everyone else (even when they’re sitting two feet away).
However, more than all of this, feeding this monster damages our relationship with God; it’s not in keeping with His character, and it preoccupies our mind with self rather than Christ. The number one danger of social media is that it can become a narcissistic pool in which all of us stare gazing at the supposed beauty of our own reflection, our own insights, and our own popularity, all quantified by how many people like our page or interact with our posts. Such utter nonsense! What damaging sin. What could be further from the character of Christ?
Like a giant rock thrown into that pond (or at the monster), these Spirit-inspired words from the apostle Paul jolt our attention:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 2:3-5; 4:8)
Know this, I personally stand in just as much danger of falling prey to the monster as anyone else. I’ve found myself in this ego entrapment more times than I would like to admit.
As a pastor or public speaker we might be even more prone to the monstrous beast than many people in other professions. We often quantify our innate valuation by numbering how many complements and positive comments we receive after a morning worship service or by how many views we get on our YouTube channel…. or how many people seem to appreciate our fan page.
As our eyeballs stare at the monster to feed it and feed it some more, our heart-focus turns away from the crucified and risen Christ, who died to set us free from this all-consuming, soul-destroying sin.
So how will I slay the monster today? How might you starve the monster this week?
Oh Lord, judge our motives, know the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Reveal to us our sin so that we may readily repent. May every word we say, every action we take, every thought we think be guided by the character of Christ through the power of the Spirit. Tune our souls to sing your praise with a never ceasing adoration of the Son, to the honor of your glorious grace. Amen.