Honors, Stats, and Other Trifles

Like many bloggers, I track my stats and such. Not only that, but I labor to improve them. Computers make this kind of knowledge easy, and in some cases you might find out your Klout ranking whether you want to know it or not. So how should we respond when we get recognition for our labors?

We should begin by acknowledging that there is a kind of hunger for honors that is death for a Christian leader.

“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9).

“But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:12-13).

“And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:33-35).

Ecclesiastical showboating has been a problem from the very beginning, and the temptations have not disappeared just because we are now talking about conference speaker slots, Twitter followers, top Christian blogs, and so on. The reaction to this — if we get scared enough — might be to run off, take the one talent we were given, and bury it in the ground (Luke 19:20). But the end result of that strategy is getting yourself called a wicked servant. Safety first is apparently a very dangerous approach.
I was recently talking with Nate about the problem of money in ministry (having, as we do, a fascination with hypotheticals), and he put the prospect of having greater resources succinctly. He said, “Money is bullets.” The same thing is true of blog traffic, influence, book sales, page ranks, and so on. What we have in our hands we are supposed to use for the advancement of the kingdom. If God gives us more, we are to do the same thing. If we are faithful in little, we will be faithful in much (Luke 16:10). If we are successful in this, we will then be given more responsibility — and additional temptations right along with it. But that is the direction we are instructed to go. Ambition has its clear dangers, but it is a dangerous journey that faithfulness is required to take.

The balance is this. We are entrusted with certain resources, opportunities, gifts, and so forth. We are to invest them in the work of the kingdom, as the parable of the talents plainly shows. At the same time, these are talents we are risking when we invest, and so we must be willing for the risk to not pay off. It wouldn’t be risk otherwise. Sometimes faith stops the mouths of lions and other times it gets sawn in two (Heb. 11:33,37). Paul knew contentment when he was well-fed, and also when he was hungry (Phil. 4:12). Whitefield put it wonderfully when he said, “Let the name of Whitefield perish, but Christ be glorified.” But here’s the thing. Christ was glorified, and the name of Whitefield didn’t perish. Now what?

One of the things I have been pondering lately is the impact  the teaching of the Lord Jesus has had on our general outlook, even including the broader and unbelieving culture. If you are not postmill, you may want to argue that it is a residual impact, or a fading impact, but in this regard, it is still functioning and very much present.

Why is it that, at awards ceremonies, the statements “I am deeply honored” and “I am deeply humbled” are synonymous? They can be used interchangeably. In the ancient pagan world, if you were humbled you were humbled, and if you were honored you were honored. But now — because of Jesus — if you are honored, then you are humbled. Now, to be sure, there are plenty of people, including Christian leaders, who are still ancient pagans in their hearts on this matter, and they want to be honored so that they can be honored and entertain themselves by gloating about it at home. But whether they feel that way or not, they can’t talk that way openly — because honors are supposed to humble you. Everybody knows that.

But why? It has everything to do with the authority of the gospel. Jesus taught us this way of thinking, and He rose from the dead.

So you are a blogger, and you really want to juice your traffic. And you feel vaguely guilty for wanting that, but it seems really stupid to try to go in the other direction. This is an ancient and reasonable question, actually, and so here are a handful of diagnostic questions to run your heart through.

1. You know that it is humbling to be honored. Are you willing for the lesson to run in the other direction, and learn that it is also an honor — and for the same reasons — to be humbled?

2. Are you willing to be entirely and completely forgotten by future historians? Because, odds are . . .

3. Do you automatically assume that anybody who is higher than you are on the list of whatever ranking is in question is therefore spiritually compromised?

4. When someone other than you gets the Pulitzer for blogging, do you automatically suspect foul play? Dirty deeds in back rooms? Or do you feel like it is “answered-prayer-cheating” when you’ve been blessed, or that there must have been “some mistake” when you get the honor?

5. Do you focus on how much you are honoring God, or on how much God is honoring you for honoring Him? And do you attach the verse (1 Sam. 2:30) to the wrong phrase?

So there it is. Strive for every appropriate honor, for Jesus’ sake. And do it by assuming the role of a servant (Matt. 23:11).

Theology That Bites Back



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  • https://twitter.com/Frank_Turk Frank Turk

    I’ll bet this post doesn’t get a lot of links.

  • http://www.mattrob.com Matt Robison

    You really missed out on some choice titles to make this better linkbait. “You won’t believe what it takes to be the greatest Christian blogger” or “5 Tips Toward Gaining Awe-inspiring Humility”

  • http://tkylebryant.com Kyle B

    I thought you were actually going to post your blog stats. I would have been interested to see that. Not that I’m not interested in what this post was about, especially regarding our usage of the phrase “I’m humbled” and “I’m honored” interchangeably. I’d never thought of that as a lexicographical remnant of Christendom.

  • Jon

    Interesting.  In the anceint Greco-Roman world, aiming too high was considered foolish and deadly, but pride was otherwise a healthy attribute.  Humility would have been thought of as unbecoming.  Christianity revolutionized so much throughout the Western world through the centuries.

  • Jon

    It is interesting that in Greco-Roman culture, aiming too high was foolish and deadly, but pride was otherwise lauded.  Humility would have been thought of as unbecoming.  Christianity has revolutionized the Western world in so many ways through the centuries.

  • Jon

    So sorry….didn’t realize my comments got posted the first time!

  • http://circuschaser.com rob howard

    I’ve actually been thinking about that phrase for the last couple of days, and I’m pretty convinced that most people who use “I’m so humbled…” are saying it simply because they feel sort of like they should.
    Nor am I wholly on board with the idea that the two phrases are actually synonymous, though they do seem to be used interchangeably. I suspect that to be literally humbled by recognition or honor requires a very specific kind of introspection that involves a careful consideration of the contrast between who They think you are and who you know yourself to be, and I’m just not sure that most folks using the phrase have done that particular homework.

  • http://circuschaser.com rob howard

    I really thought the paragraph breaks would work that time.
    what’s the secret?

  • http://circuschaser.com rob howard

    shorter comments?

  • Matthew N. Petersen

    I was a little skeptical before the break, but this is actually good.

  • Eric Stampher

    I like how those Navy Seals put it — “I’m just doing my job — what I trained for.”  That approach would make you focus back on your blog product and keep improving it.  So take another look at that product:  Your posted concepts & words are exactly what you’ve trained for and are give you the “being yourself” durability over the long haul.   That you mix politics and current events with a thinker & pastor’s mind is what sets you apart.  The comments you allow from the peanut gallery here also keeps folks attentive and helps keeping many coming back.   They’ll go too long sometimes — but in that case we’ll just quit reading the comments — so that aspect doesn’t detract from the base product.  Your infrequent replies in the comment section are usually a great addition to the mix.  The format displaying all this can be improved — especially the formatting options for us in the gallery.  Keep up the good work, please.  My family has been so thankful for this gift.

  • http://www.fanfiction.net/~rls83843 rls

    As a fan fiction writer, I must admit that seeing the stats fills me with a sense of satisfaction, a sense that someone is appreciating my effort.

  • J

    Eric- “Now, to be sure, there are plenty of people, including Christian leaders, who are still ancient pagans in their hearts on this matter, and they want to be honored so that they can be honored and entertain themselves by gloating about it at home.” Navy SEALs exemplify this kind of false humility on a more frequent basis than most communities out there. Just FYI

  • http://notaboutme.typepad.com DCHammer

    One of the better books I’ve ever read, a life-changing book,  is “Joy At The End Of  The Tether,” the author being our host. “Joy…”  gives the best guidance in dealing with honors and stats that I can think of.  Those honors are at best vanity and at worst a snare, but in the perspective of being both a service to and gift from God, they can be enjoyed in the Lord.     I am a physician and a blogger. When a patient compliments me on a job well done, I can puff up or thank God for that opportunity, as well as be grateful that I didn’t goof it up. When I get a post with a lot of hits and compliments and I can think, “Aren’t I the writer,” or be happy in the Lord that I’ve had the opportunity to speak something positive into someone’s life. I of course do both.

  • Daniel Blowes

    Pride says “I’m a very humble man.”
    Humility says “I’m a very proud man.”

  • Jon

    C. S. Lewis seemed to think pride was the most troublesome sin and the hardest to eradicate.  I guess all other sin emenates from it.  Lewis said that just when we think we’re humble, we’re really proud for thinking so.