In any walk of life, a state of self-satisfaction shuts down progress, as the musician, athlete, MD, businessman, physicist, etc., can attest. However, nowhere is self-satisfaction more deadly than in the area of spiritual growth, nurturing our relationship with God. It was for this that Jesus saved his toughest rebukes, you might even say, his anger. For example, the entire Chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew consists of a tirade against the scribes and Pharisees. Who were these scribes and Pharisees? They were the esteemed teachers and moral leaders of the Jewish religious institution at that time. How did they become so self-serving and materialistic, even cruel? Surely most of them did not start out that way. But once they became respected scribes and Pharisees, they too often became self-satisfied, spiritual growth became stultified, self-righteousness, self-justification, and self-love settled in.
So why should self-satisfaction be so dangerous? Looking to Jesus’ example, we find that he declared himself unable to do anything of himself, but only as the Father worked in him. What would have happened if he tried to do something on his own? He would have been denying the Father and relinquishing his identity as Christ. There would have been no resurrection!
St Paul explained it very well: “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (Adam represents the man who denies his dependency upon God.) Surely this instruction applies to us. Now, what is self-satisfaction but a denial of dependency upon God, in fact claiming a self apart from Him. To better grasp the enormity of this denial, we will drill down using the seven synonyms for God offered in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy:
God is Principle - the law and enforcement that holds everything together, the light that dispels the darkness of chaos. When self-satisfaction settles in, one’s moral base having lost its Principle, is built on sand. We all know what happens when you build on sand!
God is Love - the motive behind the creation, universal and perfect. When self-satisfaction settles in, one’s love loses its universal nature and becomes personal, limited, and fallible, and often leads to hate.
God is Truth - declares what is true and right. When self-satisfaction settles in, a personal sense of things creeps in. Empirical knowledge usurps God as the premise of reason, again building upon sand.
God is Mind - the Intelligence of man and the universe. When self-satisfaction settles in, pride in one’s own intelligence inevitably leads to a fall, sooner of later.
God is Spirit - the substance of man and the universe. When self-satisfaction settles in, a material sense of things takes over, and fear and limitation govern.
God is Soul - the sense of the Creation, the recognition of Its beauty and perfection. When self-satisfaction settles in, the corporeal senses view a material universe, sometimes beautiful but always erroneous, with the underlying fear of its inevitable loss.
God is Life - indestructible, eternal, always new. When self-satisfaction settles in, the freshness of life dims, the fallibility of life in the body gradually sets in along with an underlying sense of the inevitability of death.
So now that we have established in the most graphic terms that self-satisfaction is death to progress, how can we avoid it? Well, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) provides plenty of guidance. I also the find the following substantial:
Every day makes its demands upon us for higher proofs rather than professions of Christian power. These proofs consist solely in the destruction of sin, sickness, and death by the power of Spirit, as Jesus destroyed them. This is an element of progress, and progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil. (S&H)
By despising profession and continually striving to prove the presence of a good God, self-satisfaction will not have a chance to enter, and we will be building on the rock Christ.