There’s something about the importance, the immense significance of the work of the Kingdom, and our participation in it, that drives us to think in some of the most shallow and vain ways imaginable. Even the disciples couldn’t wait for Jesus to die before debating who was going to have the seat of honor next to Him in Heaven.
As Christians we compare ourselves to see who has the right clothes, who knows the most Bible, who has the bigger church, and ultimately who can project the best mask of holiness to the world. We all know that this is wrong and unhealthy, but instead of fighting it, let’s let it run loose awhile, let’s see where this competitive thinking will take us…
— People will envy you. Congratulations, you kept on working on your image, and your external self, and now people envy you. Here’s the thing about that: love and envy cannot occupy the same space. People may want to be you, but that doesn’t mean they want to be with you. Eventually, they’ll resent you for reminding them of what they should be, and that resentment can turn ugly.
— You will feel the pressure. Of course, once people envy you, they’ll want to pull you down off of that pedestal that they put you up on. They’re going to watch your every move so that they can point to something that makes you human like the rest of us. Of course that wouldn’t be a problem, except the image you project to the world actually is fake. It’s not a reflection of the internal changes that God is bringing about within you, it’s a mask.
— You will fall. Well, for one thing you’re human, for another, you were acting more sanctified than you really were, and eventually, you feel the weight of that hypocrisy. The enemy whispers in your ear, again and again, “if they only knew the real you…” From there, the downfall is inevitable, and suddenly you realize that in this whole process, you gained nothing, and ironically, you even lost the good image which you set out to have.
So, by contrast, what’s the right path in all this?
— Be a servant. Jesus said, “the greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:10-11). That kinda fits perfectly with what we were just looking at, right?
— Recognize: it’s not a show. Jesus said, “when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing…on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5a-6). Sure, there’s nothing wrong with expressing your faith, but that’s not the same thing as putting it on display.
— There’s a peace in humility. If you don’t put yourself on a pedestal, and you don’t let anyone else put you on a pedestal, then there’s no pressure. You can just be the real you. Once you humble yourself, you can truly admire positive qualities in others, and seek to have those qualities, not for the sake of attention, or admiration, but because you can see how those qualities would make you a better servant to those around you.
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