I have been a fan of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for many years. I love the art of language and the skill it takes to document the ever changing and living tongue of the anglophonic people.
This week all nerdly eyes were on Oxford as they announced the word of the year. This is an annual event at which a new and influential word is chosen based on how it has come into the language. Sure, it’s not the Superbowl, but some of us get pretty excited about these things.
Did you hear what this year’s word is? Selfie.
What is a selfie you might ask? The OED defines selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”
Why is this so interesting? The selfie is not just a way of putting yourself out there for the tweeters of the world to see. The selfie is a reflection of the corporate fallen heart of mankind.
Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
Notice Jesus’s presupposition? You love yourself. Isn’t the selfie merely a symptom of the problem that Jesus here illustrates? Man loves himself. Woman loves herself. This is foundational. As fallen beings, our focus of love is not first and foremost towards God. It is not towards neighbor secondly, where both Leviticus 19:18 and Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:39) tell us love is to be directed.
Instead we love ourselves. Self-love is a symptom of man’s fallen heart. The selfie illustrates our need for the gospel. We do not know ourselves as we ought. We do not see a fallen heart and guilt before God. We see our selfie as wonderful and exceptional. The philosopher and poet, Shel Silverstein, wrote:
If my face could only twist,
Then I could give my cheek a kiss
And whisper in my lovely ear,
“You’re so beautiful, my dear.”
And look into my eyes and see
Just how much I’m in love with me.
Personally, I am glad that selfie is the word of the year. It allows us to talk about human nature due to Adam’s rebellion so long ago. William Perkins, the father of Puritanism, said, “For you will never be filled with the good things of God till you are emptied of self-love and self-liking. For this cause let us purge and empty ourselves of all our own righteousness that God may fill our hearts with his grace.” (Exposition of the Apostle’s Creed)
Selfie is an ugly word for sure. The word is symptomatic of our ugly fallen hearts which are in need of the grace offered by the one who emptied himselfie to the point of death, even death on a cross.
So let’s be honest- we are selfish selfies. May we find grace to deny ourselfies as we cling to Christ that he might cure our selfish fallen hearts.