“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matt 21:12-13).
This verse came to me today in Church, as the Spirit was ministering to me about humility, service and glory. As He ministered, I imagined myself in a congregation of believers, in a corner, seeking attention. But what struck was that it wasn’t just me… It seemed to be the status quo. And many people had people gathered around them, and others desired for followers to gather around them, when the people actually came to worship God.
They were each seeking glory and a following, competing with each other, seeking to be seen and elevated, and to take centre-stage, all in the name of being ministers of God. And then the verse came to mind, and the title for this post. And I wondered, are we competing with God for glory that belongs to Him alone? Are we glory hogging or thieving? Has our Christianity become a marketplace of personalities?
Do we truly desire for people to know God for themselves, or only through us? Are we happy to see our other brothers and sisters who are growing in the Lord and doing great things for Him, without thinking that we might have done it better? Or feeling like we are losing out ourselves? Is it still all about Jesus and all for Him, or are we hoping to share limelight and credit with God?
As I pondered some more, I remembered what Jesus said about the Scribes and Pharisees.
1. Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
2. Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
3. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
4. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
5. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6. And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7. And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
8. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
11. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
How do you understand this portion of Scripture? Particularly the verses I highlighted in bold? It seems to me that for most Christians today, it is as though those words are not in the Bible. So many Christian leaders and ministers are hung up on titles, and there are so many people who are so culturally programmed to call their leaders by titles, that it is even offensive to suggest that they do not. But even at this level, we must learn to humble ourselves…even against culture it seems.
In the world, people like to exalt personalities and pander to personalities. If you are ‘nobody’, it seems nobody cares what you have to say. People don’t seem to appreciate being treated as equals… They are looking for people to exalt and look up to, and when they do, it is hard for these kings, queens, princes and princesses to come down from their thrones. But as ministers for and pointers to Jesus, we must. We have to be careful that even the smallest praise doesn’t get to our heads.
So what are you to do when the world exalts you beyond measure? I am reminded of what Paul and Barnabas did in Lystra, when the people tried to worship them. They actually tore their clothes and humbled themselves, crying out to the people to stop (Acts 14:14-15).
Maybe you think that was a bit of a drastic measure, or a exaggerated example. Perhaps it is an unrealistic example of exaltation in this day and age, but the measure they took was appropriate for such idolatry. There was a king, Herod, who unfortunately did not think anything of sharing God’s glory, and he was struck that very minute with a plague of maggots (Act 12:23). We can’t underestimate God’s jealousy for His own. Especially if and when we seek to come between Him and the people He died for!
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).
Are you guilty of being a Glory Thief? Take this as your call to repentance. You may be wondering at this point…how does this correlate with us letting our light shine (Matt 5:14-16)? How can we shine, reach the world as witnesses for God without getting in the way of God’s glory? Without getting proud, competitive, envious or discouraged?
It can be hard to know when you have or are crossing the line between exalting Jesus and exalting self, but that’s why we have the Holy Spirit. To help us keep balance, as we walk the narrow path, that thin line between greed and pride. We must remember and profess that He must become greater, and we must become less (John 3:30). We must actively die daily to self…deny ourselves, forsake all and take up our crosses every single day (Luke 9:23, Luke 14:33)!
Dying daily feels much, but that’s what’s needed. I feel like I have been dying biannually… And my process of dying doesn’t usually happen in minutes but in days… It is so hard to let go sometimes. It is also so hard to even see that you need to let go. Especially, when you are so sure of yourself. Thank God for His grace that helps us, even with this!
The Lord has been ministering to me about these things because I have been offended. I have been offended that people are not taking notice of me in my little corner, rather than simply being content to serve God, and let Him take all the glory. Even if no one ever acknowledges me. Even if He chooses to use others for glorious tasks, or promote others, and keeps me working in a less glorious place. But He says that when I have done all He has given me and asked of me, this is all that is needful to say:
“I am but an unprofitable servant. I have only done that which was my duty to do” (Luke 17:10).
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