Updated: Oct 29, 2020
Recently I read Giving Up by The Rev. Canon David Roseberry, the retired Rector of the largest Anglican Church in the United States, Christ Church, Plano, Texas. Giving Up is not about defeat and depression. It’s not about lying in the dust weeping. It’s not about getting steamrolled by someone or something, never to rise again. No!
Giving Up is about finding the joy of giving up to God. Rose-berry defines Giving Up like this: “It is about ‘giving up’ to God, about becoming a church filled with people who are teeming with generosity and ea-ger to put their lives and faith forward for the sake of the gospel.” In other words it’s not all about me. Imagine that!
The opposite of “giving up” is what Roseberry de-scribes as “selfie theology,” a theology that has tragi-cally infected many American churches and their members. In 2013 the Oxford English Dictionary chose “selfie” as their word of the year. People love to take selfies to express their feelings, promote their likes and dislikes, and to seek affirmation. When we don’t monitor our motives, selfies can become all about me. The same is true if we don’t monitor our theology, it can become all about me, the opposite of what the-ology (God study) is all about. Roseberry updated Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Col-lector to reflect this age of “selfie theology”:
A Pharisee went to pray in the temple. He knelt down, took out his phone, and adjusted his robes so he looked perfectly prayerful. He was about to tweet a pic of his pious self, but then he saw another guy—a tax collector!—bending low to the ground across a sparsely crowded room. The Pharisee sneaked a quick pic of himself with the now prostrate tax col-lector in the background. Tap, tap, tap on the brightly lit screen, and off to the cloud it went. His tweet hit the few hundred followers mo-ments later: “#Praying here next to a tax col-lector! #Good luck! #NoChance #Loser. Thanking God I’m not him! #Blessed #PhariseePride.”
Selfie-theology is religious practice and belief that is all about me. Roseberry said, “The tempting whisper is in every pastor’s ear almost every day: if you want to reach them, make the gospel all about them.” But of course, that’s not the gospel.
Giving Up is about loving and serving God and lov-ing and serving others, creating a culture of generos-ity. In his letters, the Apostle Paul consistently em-phasized generosity. Only twice does he quote Jesus directly, firstly about the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11) and secondly about generosity: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).
Speaking of the first century believers Roseberry said, “It wasn’t their strategy to stand out, yet I believe it was the radical way they cared for one another, even to the point of giving away their own possessions, that made these new believers different from the society that sur-rounded them.” The same is true today. As you and I give up to God, we embrace a culture of generosity, which is radically different from the selfie culture in which we live. It is time to give up! Give up!