Cotton Candy, Dangerous Games We Play, and the Praise of Man

I love Jesus. There are so many reasons to love Him but there’s one, in particular, I’ve really appreciated of late. It’s the fact that He is in such a unique position to help me, and all of mankind, unlike anyone else.

You see, as a man, He is intimately acquainted with all of our longings and struggles as He too experienced them. And yet, as God, He is intimately acquainted with the human design because He is its architect. He created us with inescapable longings and He alone knows what can fully satisfy them.

One of the many tragedies of mankind’s fall from the face-to-face intimacy we had with God in the Garden is that having rejected the light of that intimacy, we destined ourselves to lifetimes of stumbling around the darkness searching for the answers to these longings. You could say our history of war, oppression, disease etc… is the fruit of these futile searches.

Back to Jesus. When He walked the earth thousands of years ago it was His mission to clear the way and point us back to the face-to-face relationship with God. It was to shine His light on our fruitless searching and direct us to the true answers to our longings.

One of the many instances Jesus did this is recorded in Matthew 6:1-18 where He instructed His disciples to do good works in order to be seen by the Father, not others. If you aren’t familiar with this passage, click here to read it.

Being the architect of the human design as well as having become part of it (you’re normal if this idea makes your brain hurt) Jesus knew we were created with a need for validation, praise, honor etc… He knew that stumbling through the darkness in search of its fulfillment would lead people to all kinds of crazy and destructive things. He also knew the true answer to this longing. This is the basis for this passage of Scripture.

Jesus was well aware of how much of the religious community of His day sought to find the fulfillment of this longing. Their acts of righteousness weren’t performed as acts of worship but as a frivolous game of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

The rules were simple:

1. I do something religious.
2. You see it and praise me for it.
3. You do something religious.
4. I see it and praise you for it.
5. Go back to #1.

Jesus instructs His disciples to not get caught up in this game of futility and seek the validation and praise that comes from the Father (v. 1, 4, 6, 18).

One of the dangers of this game is that it creates in its “players” a false sense of fulfillment similar to the false fullness that a child experiences when he eats too much cotton candy. Come dinner time the child doesn’t feel hungry despite the fact that underneath the veneer of “fullness” created by the cotton candy his body is crying out for true nutrition.

We can miss out on the truly satisfying praise that comes straight from the Father’s heart because we settle for the counterfeit satisfaction that comes from the praise of man. In John 5:44 Jesus rebuked those who were content to play the game and not “seek the glory that comes from the only God.”

There is a glory that comes from God and a glory that comes from man and I have tasted them both. Once you taste the approval that comes from God you can’t conceive of ever returning to the game.

As worship leaders, we have a particular challenge before us. Each Sunday our love for Jesus is put on a stage for all to see and admire. Add to this the honor that grows in people’s hearts as they begin to associate us with experiencing God’s presence. When this admiration and honor is expressed to us we have the option of either devouring it in an attempt to satiate our longings for validation and praise or we can graciously thank them for their kind words, turn around and lay each of them before the Father’s throne and receive the truly fulfilling validation and praise that comes from His glowing, Fatherly heart.

If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it to your timeline or with someone you think might enjoy it as well. – LWL

Modified photo courtesy of Vera Reis.