Here’s why I’m going to try anyway
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22–24 (ESV)
I’ve always been the kind of person who didn’t care much what other people think. I rarely do something just because other people are doing it, and tend to make fun of such things, calling them “bandwagons”. Something in me just couldn’t take it seriously. Sometimes I’d think: If you want to change something, just do it. You don’t need the beginning of a year to do it. And I certainly don’t need to hear about it.
This year I’ve been doing a little thinking, a little more studying, and-just maybe-a little more listening to God.
The above scripture teaches members of the Church in Ephesus that they should be letting go of old, bad habits and improving themselves, taking on new habits and new ways of thinking. Paul was not talking to unbelievers. He was addressing people who assumedly had already put off quite a lot of bad habits and behavior in their conversions to Christianity. But Paul knew we always have room to grow. Self-improvement is important.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)
When thinking about the concept of a “New Year’s resolution”, I am beginning to realize it’s not Biblical to resist the idea of improving myself. Even as a Christian, I’m supposed to be continually “renewing” my mind. I should be improving my thinking, what I care about, what I choose to do with my time.
No, God doesn’t actually say this self-improvement must be done at the beginning of a year. But He does say to improve. So if you have something in your life you’d like to improve or change, don’t hesitate to do it!
But what about announcing your New Year’s (or other) resolutions?
Well, I’d advise caution…
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Matthew 6:1–4 (ESV)
Here Jesus gives the specific example of making a show about giving to the poor, but the larger principle is that we shouldn’t be doing good (which would include our own self-improvement) to get attention from other people.
I’m not saying anyone who mentions a New Year’s resolution (particularly on social media) is doing it for the attention. Sometimes those things are done for encouragement and accountability. But it’s definitely worth considering our motives. Am I letting others know about my self-improvement efforts to help me achieve them, or simply for more immediate (and far less valuable) gratification?
This New Year’s Day, I want to encourage you all to find something in your life needing improvement and work on it. With God’s help, make yourself a better person, a better friend, a better parent, sibling, employee.
Make yourself a better follower of Christ.
Don’t do it for accolades, do it between yourself and God, for His glory.
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