The following is a transcript of the audio.
A podcast listener named Dan writes in to ask: “Pastor John, how do I conquer the love of human praise? My heart is so prideful!”
Well, let me say that Dan has already made two key discoveries that I hear in the question. One is that there are two kinds of pride. There is the pride of the strong that praises itself, praises himself. And there is the pride of the weak that craves other people to praise me. And the other discovery that Dan has made is that he is more guilty of the second than the first. And I say more guilty, because all of us are guilty of both. Everybody draws attention to himself at some time and brags. And everybody wants other people to notice when we do something. It tastes good to be affirmed and praised. So this is a universal question. He is not unique. And it is amazing to me how directly Jesus addresses this issue in the Sermon on the Mount.
Listen to this. Matthew 6:2. When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogue and in the streets that they may be praised by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. Then verse five. When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you they have received their reward. Verse 16. When you fast do not look gloomy like the hypocrites for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward.
So Jesus is amazingly aware of this issue and he has got much to say about it. In those three statements, verse two, verse five, verse 16 in Matthew six in the Sermon on the Mount there are three incentives to help us hate this disease of praise seeking.
Number one: Jesus calls us hypocrites when we seek the praise of men. When you do something praise worthy to get the praise of man, you are not doing the praise worthy thing. You are doing the praise craving thing. You are a hypocrite. You pretend to do the good, but that is incidental to what you really want, applause. So we fight this craving first by hating hypocrisy. Everybody hates hypocrisy. Well, we are one. Well, you don’t want to be one. So don’t do that.
Second: Jesus says in all three cases of praise craving: They have received their reward. Well, what is the point of saying that? Well, I think the are two points of saying that. One you lose something great and you gain something pitiful. What do you gain? You gain the praise of man. You want it? You get it. That is it. And the connotation is that what you gain is pitiful. It is like a drug. It gives a buzz and then it is gone. You have got to have another fix. You are always insecure. You are always needy of other people’s praise in order for you to be happy or to feel secure. You are never satisfied. And so when he says; You have your reward, he means it is a lousy reward. You are settling for such a little reward.
But the other point is the third incentive is what you are losing, the reward of God. So here is Matthew 6:1. Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them. For then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. You gain this lousy, pitiful, drug like reward and you lose an infinite reward. And it doesn’t say what the reward is, but back in chapter five verse 12 it says: Great is your reward in heaven. It is from God and it is very, very great.
So three incentives with which to kill this craving for human praise. One, it makes you a hypocrite. We don’t like hypocrites and so let’s not be one. Two, it delivers a pitiful reward. Three, it robs you of a great reward. And Paul, we go beyond Jesus now to Paul, he fleshes out this third incentive. He says in Romans 2:29 that Christians are people whose praise is not from man, but from God. And 2 Corinthians 10:18 says it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends or praises.
So do you want to be praised? Let it come from God. His master said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant. C.S. Lewis called that the weight of glory. How can it be that the infinite, perfect God would look upon my imperfect obedience and say: Well done, good and faithful servant? How could anything in me be praise worthy? And, of course, the answer is: 1 Corinthians 4:7. What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? Everything I have is a gift. If God praises anything in me he is praising his grace in me. So these are some of the truths. And there are a lot more that we need to preach to ourselves in order to slay this dragon of craving for the praise of man.
That’s so good. Thank you Pastor John. Thank you for the question Dan. Tomorrow Pastor John will answer questions from two podcast listeners both asking about what to do or say when an unmarried couple, who is living together, travels and stays in your home. Should you give them one bed or two beds? Or should you even host them together at all? I’m your host Tony Reinke, we’ll see you tomorrow.