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).