“You will not receive praise in heaven; no one will glorify your name. No one will say to you, ‘This person is here because of you.’ The praise will all belong to him because he has accomplished it all,” Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross
You know the song, that tear-jerker everyone sang for special music in church in the 80’s and early 90’s, Thank You For Giving to the Lord by Ray Boltz? I used to love that song.
Now I think it is a bunch of baloney.
Okay, maybe not entirely baloney. But mostly.
Because guess what? Nothing is about you. Or me. Not even the people who will be in heaven.
I know. Shocker.
I once sat at the beach with a young woman who had lived in Ethiopia for six months. After hearing her speak for five minutes I had to leave the conversation. I climbed the nearby hill, past the French Danger of Death sign, and ranted at God.
My husband saw me leave and knew exactly why because he knows my tendency to keep score, to compare, to either wallow in self-pity or bloat with pride. He started praying, down below.
“Who does she think she is?” I said. “She has been here barely six months. She doesn’t speak the language or understand the culture or have actual relationships. She talks about her project at the clinic as though it were changing lives. Can her stories even be true? Maybe she is a compulsive liar. Probably that’s it. Or at least she has a pride issue and need to address her boastful attitude.”
But maybe people are actually being healed. Maybe she is communicating miraculously.
Where does that leave me after all these years?
And so on…
This internal dialogue was all about me, what I had accomplished so far, and what I felt I deserved, had earned. I was jealous to the point of furious tears at the idea that this clueless newbie was earning a better reward, would encounter more changed lives on earth and in paradise. That she was, was apparently, more pleasing to God.
Me, not her. After I paced on the hill for a while, after I confessed my sin, I descended and later apologized to the young woman for my cold attitude.
Clearly I had a sin issue that needed to be addressed but I also think there is a larger lesson here.
Focusing on my good deeds and on my reward runs the risk of stealing the freedom to rejoice with those who rejoice. Instead, if I focus on what God accomplishes and on the glory Jesus will receive, all I can do is delight in the joys and good works of others because that delight isn’t about them, it is about God.
Yes, we are promised a reward in heaven and yes, there is the real hope of hearing, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’
But our response will not be, “Thanks. Now show me all the people here because of my sacrifices. Show me all the things my good works have earned.”
Our response will be, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us be the glory. We have only done our duty. Now show me all the people here because of your sacrifice, because of the cross.”
We perform our duty while clothed in the righteousness given by grace not earned by works, a duty that brings deep joy and abiding peace. A duty that is assigned to each, to accomplish the good works God has prepared in advance for us to do and which cannot be compared. A duty that does not earn one iota of saving grace or eternal glory.
“I am the Lord, that is my name. My glory I give to no other,” Isaiah 42:8
A question for private pondering: Are you ever inclined to steal a piece of God’s glory?
And a question for public discussion: What helps you battle the monster of envy or pride?
-Rachel Pieh Jones, development worker, Djibouti
*image via Flickr