Please, don’t misunderstand. I have nothing against bestowing praise on our fellow man for a job well done. But this post is aimed at our spiritual eyesight where we may not be so inclined to look. As Paul quoted Jeremiah, “Whoever wants to boast must boast of what the Lord has done.” 1 Corinthians 1:31, GNT
What do you think he was talking about? I believe the best way to achieve personal understanding is to read what Paul says in 1 Corinthians and compare it with a variety of other texts, allowing scripture to speak for itself. In this post may I share a personal story in an attempt to illustrate Paul’s point?
If you are a woman, you understand the need for a cover-up, as in a face cover-up, as in makeup. There are days when one wanders slowly through the makeup aisles, hoping for a new idea rather than moving at a business pace which should read to employees: “Do not slow me down”. This day was a wandering day. I was ready to be approached and challenged with a new idea, actually a new cover-up. Mine needed sprucing up. Could they help?
The sweet young thing behind the counter was energetic and delightful, the perfect sales person. She pointed to a chair and I sat down, ready and willing to be made over into youthful. Tall order, I know. But why not aim high? Apparently that was her thinking exactly for I was floored when a few minutes later, she handed me the mirror and with a flourish asked, “How do you like it?”
I was speechless . . . flabbergasted actually. I needed sunglasses to shield me from the glare as I looked at the face staring back at me from the mirror. I pondered which words could safely be said in this eager young thing’s presence. She waited . . . and waited. What could I say? I looked like I was headed to Mardi Gras! I had bright blue shimmer raccoon eye shades that covered me from side to side. Yes, I exaggerate for affect, but it was blue, no doubt about that. And I wasn’t headed to New Orleans, but to a wedding. Tamer, elegant, understated, was the look I was aiming for. No doubt I had failed to communicate my desires to the sweet young thing behind the counter!
I had stalled long enough. “No, I don’t like it” I answered softly. It seemed the only thing I could truthfully say. She was crestfallen. She pouted, “You mean you don’t like it?” She was obviously taking it personally. I tried again to explain the look that I was going for. She was not listening. Her countenance stated a determined, “sell it, sista” attitude as she looked about for a guinea pig. She found one. Her eyes lit on a young man entering the area, obviously in business mode. She stopped him in his tracks and asked him what he thought. I wanted to bolt, but they blocked the exit. I wanted to slide out of the chair, but that seemed too ridiculous a notion for someone with gray in her hair, so I waited. He stared. He walked around me, chin in hand, apparently looking for a better angle. Oh, dear. This was entirely more than I bargained for.
Finally he spoke, drawing back as if great distance would give him better perspective, “I think it looks . . . great!” He had taken too long. Like me, he didn’t want to hurt the sweet young thing’s feelings. But the makeup artist was on a roll and picking up speed. She was determined to find someone ~ any body ~ who would give her glowing makeup job glowing praise. Okay. Sigh. This quickie was quickly becoming unforgettable.
Then I heard her “yell”, “Hey, could you come here a minute?” No. She didn’t. Oh, but she did. She waved someone down who was innocently walking by in business mode and obviously not shopping for makeup. I turned around to see who she had captured. I was looking into the face of a bewildered senior not unlike myself. I can’t find the right word for the expression she wore, only to say that the sweet young thing was not going to get the A+ she desired. The lady hemmed and hawed and delayed to the point of further humiliation for me and exasperation for the clerk. “You mean you don’t like it?” Her words seemed to echo across the entire store.
“Well,” the gentle lady spoke finally, “it isn’t quite my taste.” Quickly she escaped. There was a lull. Now it was my turn to put space between me and the sweet young thing. Yes, there were stares as I hurried to the door. But yes, I became quite content with my own face. I could leave the makeup shopping to other customers.
Perhaps this story does not illustrate Paul’s point or maybe it does. The sales clerk was more interested in seeking praise for herself than she was seeking to please the customer.
Remember what the King of Kings did for his disciples? He lowered himself to a kneeling position and washed their dusty feet. He took on the role of a servant and washed the disciples dirty, grimy feet; the lowest part of the body and the part most easily contaminated with the dirt of life. But he took advantage of the opportunity to teach his disciples by example how to experience and share humility.
We are not given to humility. We are born naturally with a spirit of pride. We seek the praise of others. We glory in ourselves. It is fine to take pride in a job well done and we lavish praise our children with the intent of stimulating them to work hard to do their best. I am not suggesting that we change these habits. But I am suggesting that we all look deeper into what God would want us to do. And then follow His example.
Glorify your name, not ours, O Lord! Cause everyone to praise your loving-kindness and your truth. Psalm 115:1, TLB