Glory--Goal or Garnish?
Pride is a tricky thing. It is one of the “seven deadly sins,” yet we are to take a certain amount of pride in our work, be pleased with a job well done, be proud of our family, friends, church and even country. Obviously, there are shades of meaning, differences of degree, and so on.
Similarly, in Luke 6:26, Christ warns “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” Yet, in describing the qualification for elders, Paul says in I Timothy 3:7, “He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”
Situations like these remind me of my dependence on God’s grace. It seems that rarely do our behaviour and situations we face fall cleanly into black and white. Furthermore, what is crossing the line for one person often is quite acceptable for another—not in terms of their opinion on the topic, but in terms of what is truly acceptable or sinful. For some, drinking really is a sin because they have a weakness in that area and it masters them immediately. For others, it is merely a pastime or one among many beverages from which to choose. What might be sinful pride in one person may be a much needed change in perspective in one who has been downtrodden. Christ’s redemption brought us into indwelling communion with Him through the Holy Spirit, and we have a relationship guiding our lives, not a rulebook.
I think that in both cases (pride and others’ opinions of us), God looks primarily to our heart and before whom our heart is bowing. Is it to ourselves, our work, talents, family, etc, or is it to Him, as we joyfully lift up the object of our pride to Him as an offering of the best of ourselves? Do others lift us up because we justify and enable worldly values or because the excellence of Christ is visible through us, our work, etc?
When we say we ‘want to do great things for God,’ for whom do we really want to do them, Him or us? Often, usually, it is a mixture of both. Again, thank God for the grace He lavishes upon us and that at the end, when we stand before Him, He will take all we have offered and burn away the baser motives to reveal what is pure. It is a cause both for thanksgiving and holy fear, that our good deeds would be found to be primarily for our glory not His, and we will have small rewards in heaven.
What’s the point? As academicians, we face this struggle intently. Going for tenure, or even our annual reviews, we must list our accomplishments—how many papers have we written, how much in grant money have we attained, how many conference/seminar invites have we been extended, how good are our student evals, how many and how important are the committees on which we’ve served, how unique is our work, and so on. Do we count them as rubbish, as Paul counted his accolades?
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” --Philippians 3:7-9
Our accolades are not rubbish—they are temporal rewards for our efforts and/or gifts in this life by the Many-Gifted Giver of all blessings. However, they are but a wet match compared to the searchlight of riches and reward of devoting our life to Christ and seeking His glory above all else. Are academic accolades the goal or the garnish of our lives?
Do we take pride in, and people speak well of in us the right things for the right reasons to the right degree, so that at the end of all that we know, God Himself speaks well of us as a proud Father?