Open to the public in Glendale, California for the ticket price of $25 per person is the Museum of Selfies. According to the website for the museum, “The Museum of Selfies is an interactive museum that explores the history and cultural phenomenon of the selfie – an image of oneself taken by oneself – with roots dating back 40,000 years.” According to the dictionary, a selfie is “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.” While the term is relatively new, according to the Museum of Selfies, the first self-photograph was taken hundreds of years ago by Robert Cornelius in 1839. Like it or not, the selfie is here to stay, but what does it say about our culture?
Extreme Narcissism and the Rejection of God
One thing that social media has unveiled to the public eye is the sin of narcissism. When you place a smartphone in the hands of sinners, often the love of self-shows up rather quickly. In fact, over 93 million selfies are uploaded via social media every single day. As phones increase, so will the number of selfies. It should be noted that the sin of self-worship or self-adoration is not caused by smartphone technology. The technology merely unveils what has always been present. According to Jeremiah 17:9, the heart is deceitful above all things—beyond a full understanding. John Calvin described the human heart as an idol factory. If left untamed, it will produce wicked and insidious sins such as narcissism.
Our culture is swimming in narcissism. The danger with this sort of behavior is that the image of self is not intended to be the object of our worship. We are created as image bearers—and we are to be directing our worship upward—toward God. Paul warned Timothy of these last days—claiming that people would be lovers of self. Paul instructed Timothy to avoid such people (2 Tim. 3:1-5). We have been living in this period known as the last days since the arrival of the Messiah. People have been loving self for hundreds of years, so this whole selfie phenomenon is not a new sinful practice, but merely a new way of celebrating an ancient sin—one that worships the creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25).
Ephesus Had Artemis
Ephesus was located on the coastal region of modern-day Turkey. It had four main roads that came from different directions and due to its location – it became known as the “gateway to Asia.” The city was the de facto capital of the Roman province of Asia because the governor resided there. It was an important city because of the trade routes that intersected there, athletic competitions in their great theatre capable of holding upwards of twenty-five thousand people, and their worship that focused on the great temple of Artemis—a multi-breasted goddess of fertility.
While the entire city was focused on Artemis and the trade of the city was fueled by her worship—today’s modern cities are engaged in idol worship through smartphones and social media. People are taking pictures of oneself in front of mirrors, historic landmarks, and in the comfort of their own homes. Self-adoration and the pursuit of praise and comments from others on hairstyles, new clothing choices, and new eyeglasses often fuel this rage. Ephesus had Artemis, but we have smartphones. We love to love ourselves.
Apart from the gospel, the love of self is not real love at all. It’s idolatry, to put it bluntly. As Christians, we want to aim to avoid two dangerous ditches—the love of self and the hatred of self. Romans 13:9-10 speaks of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. We don’t want to hate our neighbor or hate ourselves, nor do we want to idolize our neighbor or idolize ourselves. Self-hatred turns to self-murder, and this is not only contrary to God’s design—it’s a slap in the face of the Creator himself. Self-love is the elevation of the image of self above the image of God which should direct our attention, affection, and worship vertically—to God. Be careful that the imago Dei doesn’t get lost in the adoration of the image of self.
To be clear, anyone who engages in taking selfies is not necessarily committing a sin, but it’s certainly a practice that if not kept in check can lead to sin. When you look into your beautiful face—be amazed at the beauty of God and his creative genius. There is nobody else just like you in the whole world, but more importantly, there is nobody and no deity like God. The next time you are tempted to be impressed with your face, remember the scene when John the apostle fell down on his face before the angel, and the angel said, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Rev. 19:10). John Piper has rightly stated, “In our proud love affair with ourselves we pour contempt, whether we know it or not, on the worth of God’s glory. As our pride pours contempt upon God’s glory, His righteousness obliges Him to pour wrath upon our pride.” 
Matthew 23:12 – Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
This article first appeared at Josh’s website and is posted here with his permission.
- John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 28.