“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and … put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
There are a good many self-help books out there, many of which start with titles such as “How to . . . .”, “Do It Yourself”, “Ten days to . . .” , and my favorite, the “for Dummies” books. On the website that lists all of the “for Dummies” books there are 304 pages with about 10 titles per page. These books are on a large array of topics, and are now written in several languages and some are targeted for specific countries. The self-help industry gone wild!
And I have to wonder if some of the motivations for all this information and improvement are “corrupting” and “deceitful desires.” There is the desire for information and self-improvement that shows a desire to better one’s self, be more healthy, more intelligent, and more savvy that is positive and uplifting. Amongst the “for Dummies” books are books on the Bible and spirituality. While they may not be the best of guides, there is a sense that the writing of these books is meant to contribute to the bettering of a person. But there is also the desire to accumulate knowledge and better one’s self so as to become richer at the cost of one’s scruples and to become smarter so as to boast of one’s self to others. And the self-help industry itself has been a gathering ground for unethical practices that victimize others.
So I have to wonder, how would the self-help industry as a whole measure up against these verses from Ephesians. The sticking point I would imagine would be whether the old self which is being improved was deceitful and corrupted in its desires. Being ignorant of facts and information is not sinful, and in fact it has been said that the ways of God are foolish to “the world.” So the improvement this verse is talking about is not simply to become smarter. New attitudes often come about with new information or expertise. However, new attitudes could manifest themselves in a variety of ways. The new expert could either be one who desires to help others in positive ways, or desires to use the new expertise as a club or crowbar on others.
It is the last portion of this passage, and the verse that is the focus for the Sip of Scripture for today, that holds the salient point. Does all the self-help and self-improvement that the industry point to lead to someone being more like God in righteousness and holiness? Seems to me we need to be very choosy in the self-help books we pick.
May you gentle reader help your self to only the best of advice and information, and may the God who is the author of wisdom guide your learnings and improvement. Selah!