Updated: Aug 27
“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” -Luke 14:8-11
How often do you take a selfie? Every day? At least once a week?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a selfie as…
A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.
Recently as I was talking to a pastor of a small church in a small town in Minnesota he told me about his mission trip to Nepal. While he was there he was asked to take some pictures for a mission magazine and was given the instruction to take pictures of what others are doing and “no selfies.” This struck me as very interesting.
How often have you seen someone go on a mission or service trip somewhere and their Facebook or Instagram feeds quickly fill up with “selfies” of them standing in front of a building, or vehicle, or group of people? How often do you see a group of smiling African children with a westerner in their midst? Or a picture of a volunteer with a “local leader” whom they admire. The comments usually then go on to praise that westerner about all the great things they are doing or how lucky they are to meet that person.
The purpose of a selfie is to show yourself. The picture is all about you. When you take a selfie, you are effectively putting yourself in front of everything else. Our modern culture seems to exalt the self. Everything in our world is all about glorifying ourselves and drawing attention to our individuality. From the way we dress to the way we take selfies. And when we take selfies while we’re supposed to be serving the story usually becomes about you and what you’re doing instead of what God is doing. Even if He’s doing something through you, the picture is still usually about you.
I know I’m guilty of having taken selfies occasionally. Usually before a trip to the US I snap a quick photo of myself with all the children we serve and lament how “I” am leaving them for however long a period of time. Any time I post a picture of myself while engaged in ministry a slew of compliments usually follows praising me for following God’s calling. I must confess it feels pretty good sometimes to be the focus of that praise.
But what if we stopped taking selfies? What if when we ask people to take pictures of ourselves it was just for our own memories instead of sharing it with the world? What if we simply chose to stay behind the cameras most of the time and tell other people’s stories?
Like that of Chhovin, one of Crossing Cambodia’s newest staff who has a unique love for the children we serve and who without prompting at meal time goes to sit among the children who love her in return.
Or perhaps the story of the girl who has lost her parents and dropped out of school. How in spite of everything she’s dealt with in the last year still comes to the center where she finds God’s love in her life and where she is committed to trying again to go to school and not be beaten down by the status society tries to force on her?
Or maybe of the little girl who lives in foster care as her parents are not around to care for her. That even though her own mother and father are not there she acts like a total goofball and has an infectious smile because of the love that God has for her and the people He has put into her life to be her surrogate family.
Sometimes our own stories really are interesting, but how many more stories could we be telling if we stopped turning the cameras on ourselves? How many stories are there that are probably more important than our own stories? And if your story really is important, how much more impactful will it be when someone else chooses to tell it?
The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it. ~Ansel Adams
When you take a selfie, no one is behind the camera, there is no mind behind it, no one is telling the important story of God’s work being done. Just our own stories which may or may not be all that important. So next time you’re at a church event, on a mission trip, or watching someone do something amazing, I challenge you to stay behind the camera and tell God’s story with your pictures. I challenge you to try and see how long you can go without taking, or at least without sharing, a selfie.