Self-Help or Gospel

At the start of the new year it always makes me cringe to hear everyone talk about their newest resolution. Not that I think resolutions in and of themselves are bad, but in today’s society of personal betterment, most resolutions miss the mark. The U.S. self-improvement market was worth $9.9 billion in 2016. It is forecast to post 5.6% average yearly gains from 2016 to 2022, when the market should be worth $13.2 billion.* Society is on a search to make themselves better, or as the old American sayings goes “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” or maybe in today’s verbiage “girl, wash your face”. Now you are asking yourself why is that so bad? This focus on self and change only through one’s own works leads us to a place of selfishness. Even in the so-called Christian self-help books, I see a startling lack of Christian discipleship. First, there is little to no prayer mentioned. There is normally a lot of pages focused on meditation, but that meditation is completely focused on one’s self. Though it is good to have some introspective moments. There is very little focused on prayer or meditation on scripture. Second, our happiness is completely dependent on our own making. We must be on guard and avoid self-obsession. Our happiness is not the focus of the Bible. God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. For our joy comes from knowing Jesus and our relationship with him. We will find joy as we become more like him.

Most books talk about how we just need to try harder, do better, let go of negativity, all on our own. We start to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are the most important thing in the world, that it is our own power that makes these changes. It assumes we have the power to change ourselves. We can change our habits, our food choices and maybe even our waistline but we cannot change our insides without the Holy Spirit. Luke 18:27 “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
The basis of these style of self-help books skip the gospel and go right back to striving. That is through works we have a better life. I am not saying we shouldn’t work at improving ourselves, but we should not skip Christ’s message. The gospel states that we are broken people with a broken relationship with God. It is only through Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection that we are changed. It is by admitting that we can’t do it on our own that we truly become a better person.
 
Cassi B
Director of Youth Ministries
* “The U.S. Market for Self-Improvement Products & Services” by Marketdata. The study was published in August 2017 as an independent “off-the-shelf” market research report.

 
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