As I sat at my daughter’s Success Day in May, I found myself wondering why school systems chose to change the name and format of that type event from the Awards Days of my childhood. All I could surmise revolved around how an Awards Day celebrates the individual accomplishments of a child who excelled in a certain area of the curriculum. Success Day on the other hand meets the demand from parents for their child to be honored since it celebrates the accomplishment of what is required from promotion.
In this simple example we discover a lurid secret about our inner man. After all which parent among us wants to show up at an Awards Day at which their child would not receive any award but perfect attendance? Who sets out to be the recipient of an honorable mention ribbon at a science fair or field day? Every one of us has a deep inner desire for recognition from those around us. Such a desire may not be sinful initially, but quickly such a desire spirals out of control as we begin to demand recognition, and then forcibly ensure our recognition no matter what the cost. When this occurs, the desire for honor has taken over our lives!
How serious a problem can we say honor seeking actually is? Consider how important awards must be to the parents who expend every effort to make sure their children make the team, the traveling team, or the all-star team. Think about what television shows like “Toddlers in Tiaras” teach as the most important aspect of a your girl’s life. Perhaps consider even the fact that certain luxury items like iPads can debut consistently at over $500 a week’s pay for some people and never have trouble selling. Even when we attend national conventions for our denomination, what does it say when not one of the past five or so presidents of the SBC led a church of any less than 1000 members?
In order to avoid such abuses, some may seek to abolish all honors just as the school districts have done by favoring a Succcess Day instead of an Awards Day. Does this adequately deal with the temptation to pursue honor or does it tempt more to chase after honors that now require less effort to achieve? Perhaps before we look to abolish all honors we should examine what the Scriptures might say about this issue.
The most famous quote Jesus makes concerning honor comes in Matthew 13:57. There he says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his household.” Surely, with a quote like that, we can trust that Jesus knows how to live as a man without honor. Even so, is it that Jesus would have no honor at all, ever? Certainly not! At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Philippians 4:9-11) Jesus rightly handles the absence of worldly recognition because he understands the divine recognition that he can expect.
Look again at the verses in the context of this passage. Jesus comes to his hometown to offer them the same gospel he has taught elsewhere. These people cannot see Jesus’ divinity but instead choose to focus on the way he was adopted as the son of the local carpenter. They look at the mother he abandoned to chase after this ministry. They look at his brothers who have been forced into the family buisness to take up his slack. They look at his sisters who were married off to make sure a few less mouths were at the table. They simply cannot see that Jesus is God’s Son because they still see him as their local son.
Does this bother Jesus? While we do not know the emotions that were in his voice, however we do know He does not shrink from prolaiming God’s message. Further, though he may have loved these men and women more than any others he encountered Jesus refused to work miracles amid those who refused to believe on Him as God’s Son.
Before you say, “Well that was Jesus, I can’t live up to his standard” let me warn you, the context of this passage actually displays two prophets unknown in their hometown. We have seen Jesus, but the next chapter opens with an account of the death of John the Baptist. Most certainly John was a man just like us. Did he shrink from proclaiming God’s message in the face of dishonor and prison? No John boldly told the ruler of his land that he sinned against God with his sexual appetites. Herod desired to kill him but feared loosing the honor of his people. Did John seek the accolades of a Herodian society that honored the birthday of a tyrant with a teenage stepdaughter seductively dancing for her stepfather in a suggestive enough way that he would promise her whatever she asked to “thank” her? No he met death instead of seek such perverse honors.
So how does this apply to those of us who seek after the world’s honor here and now?
- First look at from whom or what you seek honor. If you seek honor from anyone or anything more that from the Lord, know that those are people or things that you have allowed to control your heart and mind instead of the Lord. Repent of allowing this desire to subvert your devotion to the Lord.
- Second look at men like Jesus and John who were so devoted to the Lord that they would proclaim a message and live a life that would please God even in the face of death. Think of what desires might keep you from serving God with that kind of devotion. It may be a love for those in your immediate family. It may be the desire to provide a living. It may be a selfish desire to be recognized as talented. Whatever would keep you from boldly proclaiming God’s message must be submitted to Christ as the Lord of your life. Thus ask yourself the question if I never was honored in _________, wouldn’t being honored by Jesus as one of his servants be enough?
- Third, look to the promise that God offers those who suffer for him. He promises that those who live for him now will live for him eternally. They will be joint heirs with Jesus. They will even rule with him. Begin to repeat and think about these promises until they make the honors of this world look like poor substitutes for hearing “well done, my good and faithful servant” by King Jesus.
Letting the Shepherd Lead,
Steven R. Owensby