What are you looking for? Most people look for some kind of recognition in some way or another. They want to receive accolades, reward, applause, acclaim or something that highlights their achievements. And they don't want this recognition from just anyone, they seek it from their peers or the people they respect. It's all part of the human condition where we seek approval as part of defining our own self-worth or we want to be seen to be the best at…something. But I'm no shrink, so let's not go too far down those paths. But this section of scripture hints at how this seeking of recognition and approval should work for Christians, and what it's like when it goes wrong.
In the world in general people are looking for recognition and reward. In sports they want to be the best at their game, to win a premiership or a gold medal at the Olympics. In academia it is to achieve high degrees in learning and to hold doctorates, professorships and so on. In the workplace to have a string of academic qualifications and letters after your name looks impressive on your resume. But what does the Lord think about all this stuff?
In this section of scripture he says, “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from God?” (verse 44) If people behave as a mutual admiration society, slapping one another on the back and paying back in kind, what does it benefit them? If they look only at the deeds done by their friends and colleagues, how do they grow?
Paul said it well when he wrote, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)
When people make comparisons with each other and compare themselves to each other Paul says they lack understanding. Have you ever thought you wished you were a Christian more like ——- (fill in the blank). Have you ever wished your temperament, attitude, emotions or even your looks were more like ——- (fill in the blank). Most people have been down that path at some stage, and when we do think like this then we too are without understanding.
Theology and Divinity
I'm sure this next section will upset a few people, but that can't be helped as we can only speak of what the bible teaches us.
There are some who take extensive religious studies to gain degrees in theology and divinity. While some do this because they want to know more about God, you have to wonder whether it really helps or not. It is clear that Jesus did not seek out those who were the highly educated religious people of his time as the prime witnesses to take the gospel to the world. Instead he took fishermen, tax collectors and basically the uneducated common people to take the gospel to the world.
Paul also showed that some people can be overwhelmed by those who hold letters of recommendation, and those who have the degrees can lord it over those who don't. This is an issue when it is those with degrees in religion and theology. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6,
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?
2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.
3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.
5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,
6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
When a person does a degree in a school, they are said to have received their letters. It presumes that they are well versed in a particular subject and thus are either an authority or have the necessary experience to guide others.
But Paul shows in the section above that he did not need letters of recommendation as some did because the proof of his authority to teach and preach the gospel was in the change in the hearts and minds of those he taught. He showed that his competence to preach the word of God did not come from men but was given to him by God. And it is clear that the gift to teach and minister comes from God, not from men, because teaching is one of the gifts of the Spirit and the gifts to the church.
Adulation and Idolatry
One of the issues with those who rise to places of prominence in this world is in adulation. They become idols to their followers and fans. And it is not just in the world of music, film and sport. Their is a “personality movement” in the churches where certain ministers obtain this same idol worship status. People look up to them as being something great. And maybe they are, but the glory must be to God and not the individual. As soon as they take the glory to themselves they have lost the plot and failed in their mission to preach the word of God in truth.
The church is not a place for idolatry and personal recognition. And yet there are some leaders of the church who have made it so and use the church as a means for personal gain. It was recognized in the early church and is even more prevalent now. If you want to check this look at 1 Timothy 6:3-10.
In the end there is only one form of recognition and reward that is of any lasting value and that is the recognition of the Lord Jesus and God the Father. The aim of our walk with Christ is to receive a commendation from the Lord and to enter into eternal life with him. And how are we to do that? By being obedient to His word and following the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ as He taught them.
It is not the words of some man, and it is not the words as taught by some bible schools, colleges or universities. It is the word as taught be God. He gave us the Holy Spirit to be our teacher, counsellor, comforter and guide. So it is the word of the Spirit as given by the Lord that is the real teacher.
Men may be given the gift of teaching to be able to spread the gospel of the Lord to the ends of the earth, but it is the Spirit that gives the understanding of the word. And the Lord knows those who are his and who will listen to the word of truth. The way we should consider ourselves as teachers and preachers is how Paul described himself and Apollos. He said, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)
As for our relationship with other people, what we see is the outward face of these people, not their hearts. Only God truly knows the hearts of every person. Most people have an external facade that they present to the world, but only occasionally let the true person of the heart shine through. Everyone has faults. Everyone has issues in their life they would like to see resolved. None of us has it all. So while you are comparing yourself to someone else wishing you were like them, they may be doing the exact same thing with you.
So pull yourself together and don't worry about where you stand in relation to someone else. Recognize that you are unique and there is no one else in the world like you. And rather than comparing yourself with someone else who may be weak and suffering too, seek the way of the Lord Jesus Christ because His way IS perfect and is the way of life.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Svilen Milev)