This week, the Oxford English Dictionary announced its Word of the Year for 2013.  The honor goes to selfie, “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”  According to the language experts at Oxford Dictionaries, usage of the word increased by 17,000% over the last year.  The origin of the term selfie was traced to a chat room comment from someone in Australia “way back” in 2002.  However, the proliferation of smartphones with built-in digital cameras, along with the advent of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have combined to trigger an explosion in the practice of snapping self-portraits and sharing the do-it-yourself mug shots with a potentially global audience.

For those who may be tempted to think that obsession with the image of one’s own face is a somewhat recent, postmodern, narcissistic phenomenon, it is good to be reminded that “selfies” go back at least 600 years.  Portrait of a Man in a Turban by Jan van Eyck in 1433 is widely thought to have been the artist’s own likeness.  Rembrandt seriously ramped up the painting of self-portraits in the 17th century.  Van Gogh produced numerous self-portraits in the late 1800s, including the one featuring his bandaged ear.  Perhaps you are familiar with Norman Rockwell’s clever and intriguing Triple Self-Portrait.  It is not without significance that you can observe images of Rembrandt and van Gogh among the self-portraits that are pinned at the upper right corner of the canvas in Rockwell’s painting.

Mankind has been intensely focused on self and fulfilling one’s own desires ever since Eve saw that the forbidden fruit was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise (Gen. 3:6).  “It’s all about me” has a long, sad history on our planet.

While natural self-love is to provide a template and standard for our love for others (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39) and while our own personal salvation, spiritual growth, and relationship with Jesus are of primary concern, the demanding and convicting call of Christ is for us to move beyond ourselves in love, service, sacrifice, and ministry to others.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others,” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Love your neighbor as your selfie!