In my last blog post I confessed that there have been times in my life, okay more than a few times, where I have wanted positive feedback for something I’ve done say like preach a sermon. “Hey great sermon!” Oh no, no, no, I give all the glory to God but yes, yes, yes, tell me more.
The dumb question here is who doesn’t? All of us desire recognition, from a small pat on the back for a job well done all the way to the full blown awards ceremony for a great feat. You woke up early, trained, competed hard, and now you’re being presented with a medal…it was all worth it. The applause you hear now on that platform you heard in your imagination long before you hit the finish line. In fact it gave you the gumption to keep going.
In the next couple of blog posts I want to look at what it looks like to honor one another, how to cultivate a “culture of honor” in our communities. But before we can offer honor to others we have to deal with our own hearts first. What do we do with our deep-seated desire for honor that makes us feel sometimes like a mixed bag of motives? Serving God and others with one eye on the mirror…how am I coming across here? Am I being recognized for my contribution?
All of us want to feel valuable, that what we bring to the table matters, that we are impacting the world somehow. There’s nothing wrong with that…is there? I put this question, “Is my desire to be honored carnal or legit?” to our alert blog readers and here are some responses:
“I guess the easiest way to answer that question is with another. Were you seeking to hear it for your own glory or were you looking to find joy in knowing that God was glorified through you?” – Tim Stewart
“We are bondservants that are supposed to honor the Father and the Son (John 5:23 and John 12:25-26). We are to totally surrender (die) ourselves and serve Him wholeheartedly and then if He chooses, the Father will honor us. Why seek the applause of just people when our Creator, Loving, Almighty God wants to honor us. Why eat white rice when New Zealand Steak and Sate is an option?” – Anonymous (but I bet it was someone from New Zealand)
“We all want and need affirmation at some level. From God, but also from people we know. The problem is when this becomes driving motivation in what we do.” – Blake McDaniel
“…If EGO is Edging God Out you do have a problem…” – Vernon Lock.
Well put. Well said. Jesus seemed to have harsh words for the religious higher-ups who loved the “place of honor”:
“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.'”[i]
Let’s dig into this a little deeper. The key statement here is that their sole motivation for service was for “men to see.” Jesus is definitely blasting away at their corrupt motivation, but I don’t think He is going as far as to indict the base desire we all have to receive honor. That need in your heart to feel honored is not going away anytime soon. The question is what do we do with that valid desire? If we angle ourselves to get into the seat of honor, Jesus said watch out:
“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.”[ii]
The way you go about meeting that valid need for honor is by humbling yourself. The desire for honor is kind of like the desire for intimacy. A desire to have a deep connection with another human being is not wrong; it’s what you do with it that counts. If you cross a boundary in the pursuit of intimacy then you will face humiliation instead of honor. In the same way, If you cross a boundary to claw your way to the place of honor, you will be humiliated.
Jesus once told His knuckle-headed disciples to stop arguing about which of them was the greatest (ya gotta love ‘em…so honest and transparent). He basically said, oh you want to be great? Here’s how to be great…learn to be a servant. He didn’t squash their desire for greatness; he lifted them up to a higher value:
When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”
(When an omniscient God asks you a question, they say, it’s not because He’s seeking information…)
But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
(Little thought bubbles over their heads, “Uh oh, this is going to be embarrassing…”)
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
(Then Jesus hammers home the point with a cute little kid):
He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” [iii]
Jesus shows us here the true pathway toward honor…it’s in honoring Him and others above ourselves. We don’t have to sweat it if we feel slighted because God sees our contribution. He is the one who does the ultimate honoring.
Orient your soul to heaven. Lord, You see me. It’s okay whether I’m famous or obscure. Not only do You see me, but Your smile is on me, and one day You will reward me for how I’m living my life. That’s enough for me.
I’ve written about the “Judgment Seat of Christ” in some previous posts, and I don’t have the room here to unpack it but here are some previous articles to highlight this long-neglected source of high-powered motivation: The Final Smile, Magnum Opus, Undercover Boss
How do we find freedom from our mixed bag of motives? Live your life for an audience of one. A pat on the back is nice here and there, but it ain’t nothing compared to the applause of heaven.
Next post….If God is generous in honoring me, than I can be generous in honoring others…stay tuned…