If self-glory is a concurrent desire, should we be subjected to it, or subdue it?

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Created in the image and likeness of God, man is meant for love and to do good works.

In today’s fast paced world, people undergo a lot of social pressure (leading to self-expectations), to be successful. Though humans need unconditional love, being the building blocks of life, instead, society seems distracted with acquiring success, which is an illusion of security!  This creates a fertile ground for the root of insecurity, to grow and thrive. Little or no consideration is given to unconditional love and nurturing others with it.

The absence of unconditional love, builds an obsessive pursuit for success and exaltation. Yet it is in that very receiving of unconditional love, one experiences deep acceptance and peace, irrespective of whether he/she will be successful in future. Unconditional love, supersedes glory and glory is secondary. 

Self-glory – What should Christians understand about this and what is the wisest response to it?

Generically, it appears, most people, consciously or unconsciously, seek self-glory (to a large or small extent). While God has given some people a self awareness that the desire exists within them, yet for them too, it is a struggle. Many people are also humble in certain areas of life, yet ironically vain about other areas. There are some in senior roles, who cannot accept and sharply ‘hit back’, if at times approached in a forthright manner. Only very few, have no desire for self-glory or have risen above it!

It is a DIFFICULT area to conquer, especially if we were raised in an unloving/non accepting atmosphere.

It also means that, Christians by virtue of being baptized, are not exempt from this desire and neither are those who work and lead in ministry. Yes, many leaders exert utmost effort in ministerial life, sometimes being persecuted, and while they ought to be recognized, they are even criticized!

Nonetheless self-glory is an area of struggle and at times God’s elect, also unconsciously like to talk about their own talents or success, or how a great mission/ministry was directly or indirectly because of them, or that people where healed due to their intercession. Even though they give testimony to the power of God, yet at times, they gravitate towards bringing glory to themselves.

When speaking of God’s elect, this should especially be an area of deep self awareness and the desire to master it. Firstly, to increase one’s sanctity, secondly, because they are seen as examples and ultimately for God’s glory.

Since almost everyone has this desire, is seeking self-glory wrong?

Romans 2:7,10 – To those who by persistence in doing good SEEK GLORY, HONOURand immortality, he will give eternal life… but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Oddly enough, this verse DECLARES that those who are holy and seek doing good, not only want eternal life, but also glory and honor! So it may come as a surprise to some that God does indeed wish us to seek glory – but from Him alone.*

Why is it not sensible to pursue self-glory?

  1. Exodus 20:1-3 – And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt,…“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Consider certain celebrities, who are famous with a huge number of followers. It is often the case, that many followers (some of whom are weak in faith), tend to idolize them and at times, even follow immoral trends or attitudes of these celebrities. Such desires, equates itself to a form of idolatry and consequently leads us to further sin, by miming wrong practices. In this way, we not only violate the first commandment, but a second one, as well.

With today’s powerful age of the Holy Spirit’s movement and often due to extraordinary gifts and talents, God bestows upon a soul, they can perform great miracles or services for the faithful, which could lead them to rise to fame (as the faithful constantly pursue them). If they do not exercise prudence, fame can be a snare for them and may drag them into attachment towards self-glory (which indeed is a prevalent fact).

The end result will be the Lord saying: Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’  – Mathew 7:22-23

As Christians and leaders, we should mime the apostle’s attitude (who were all too conscious of the lure of self-glory). When Paul and Barnabas healed a lame man in Lystra, the crowds excitedly thought they were Gods, but in response and protest, the apostles, tore their clothes!

  • Very often when people openly or subtly speak, so as to attract self glory, unfortunately for them, the others quickly catch on to this, and this creates an undesired effect. Ironically, the very act the person did to bring honor to themselves, brings disgrace/embarrassment, as it makes one appear boastful and foolish. They sadly become victims of gossip or mockery.

In fact, Jesus gave us a nugget of wisdom about this in Luke 14:8. He advised not to take places of honor at any wedding feast, but to avoid embarrassment, it is better to take the lowest place, incase the host happened to ask you to give up your seat for a more honored guest. Yet if one were to take the lowest place from the very start, the host himself would be most likely to honor you, in front of all, by asking you to move up to a higher place.

When others lift you up (especially because of God’s grace, in your very attitude), they are unlikely to mock or gossip about the glory attributed to you, because they have declared this from their own heart and thinking.

  • Another important reason Jesus dissuades us from self-glory.

Matthew 6:3-4 – But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in SECRET, WILL REWARD you.

The reason Jesus counsels us not to indulge in self-glory, but keep our works secret, is SO THAT the Heavenly Father CAN REWARD US for our good works!

Jesus wants us to be the ultimate gainer of maximum rewards and thus cautions us not to lose out on this (and later wallow in deep regret), hence He speaks about refraining from self-glory.

*As we are created in the likeness of God, in general, we try to pursue doing good, just like our Creator, even though it is hard. Obviously therefore, we should seek glory from that same God, whose great deeds, we imitate, and not from people around us. Why?

We need to realize that not only does the greatest reward come from the greatest person – God, but if we truly work for His glory, no one but He, will reward us in the best way!

Putting it in another way, wanting self-glory is like doing extraordinary work for the boss, but looking for an inferior reward (just because such rewards are quick), by deliberately attracting recognition from colleagues, instead of earning greater respect and a raise from the boss.

So what was Jesus’ disposition about glory?

Matthew 11:29 – “…learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

  1. His general declaration about His identity:

We know that Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God and the one through whom all things were created! This is only His identity – it is a fact and there is nothing boastful in declaring this truth.

Yet for most part, Jesus called himself the Son of Man (which speaks more about His humanity, than His divinity), the cornerstone, the Good Shepherd, the Way the Truth and the Life, a prophet, etc. In fact, even when a certain ruler referred to Jesus as the good master, Jesus who is God, asked the ruler, why he referred to Him as good, because only God is good (Luke 18:18). What an example of humility from God Himself!

Regarding the Messiah, the scholars and Jews of those times, who studied scripture and awaited the Messiah, could never fathom nor accept that the Messiah could be God and the Son of God.

This is the belief they hold till today, that the Messiah is a holy man, sent to fight political and spiritual battles – and that is as far as it can ever go.

So though Jesus welcomed this (great) declaration from some Jews, that He is the Messiah, He knew that even they, never understood or took Him to be God, though they declared He was the Messiah.

Only very few times, did Jesus need to make known His real identity i.e. the Son of God or He and the Father are one. He needed to declare this indirectly and directly, when:

  • He healed people – it often happened by first needing to proclaim forgiveness upon them (which only God had the power to do). This raised eyebrows, as the Jews felt the He was obviously “assuming” Himself to be God! We recall that there were occasions when demons themselves declared this, after being cast out of a person.
  • It was only a few times when the nosey teachers of the law, came hounding to attack Him, that He stood up for Himself, making His identity more obvious to them.
  • And most importantly, when He wanted some people to believe He is the Savior, and the purpose for this was not for self-glory. Many people saw Him as a holy man, who could heal them. However, He primarily came to heal everyone’s soul and for that, He needed to be more than just a powerful holy man. They had to understand, that He was truly God Almighty, because only God has the power to redeem man, by forgiving his sins. By accepting this truth, some of them instantly became His followers, the first ones to be truly saved and future Christians.

One such example, is when He affirmed to the sinful lady at the well, that He was the Messiah – so that she would be convicted of her sins and return to God.

Looking at the four gospels, we see the same thing. Though He is truly God, but at the start of both Mathew and Mark’s Gospel, He begins by preaching, calling people to repentance and healing, but not by revealing His identity. In Luke, while He starts by preaching and casting out demons and though the demons tried to shout out who He was, He silenced them. Finally in John’s gospel, at the beginning, during the miracle at Canna, not even the head steward came to know that Jesus changed water to wine, since he embarrassed the groom about hiding the good wine for later.

One of the greatest proofs by others, that Jesus did not prefer to be obvious about His identity, came from the very mouth of His slayers, the Pharisees, in John 10:24:

“So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Precisely because Jesus did not openly declare His identity (for the most part), that halfway through the ministerial life of Jesus, i.e. the 10th chapter in John’s gospel (and there are only 21 chapters), the Jews have no proper idea who He is and urge Him to be explicit.

At the “final and best” opportunity, He could have declared the truth about Himself, but He did not:

The crucifixion of Jesus, was in Jerusalem, immediately before the Passover. It was mandatory for Jews all over the country to travel and gather in Jerusalem, to celebrate the Passover.  

Scores of Jews (in thousands), some Romans and foreigners were present for His Passion and death. They pressured Pilate to crucify Him, while they cheered and mocked, watching Him being disfigured, stripped of His dignity (clothes) and receiving bloody tortures. He (one person), accepted the entire nation humiliating Him and being made a public spectacle.

Ironically, on the third day, at the resurrection and until He ascended, the Bible states that approximately ONLY 500 people  saw Him – or were permitted to see His glory!

Furthermore, fewer still (only a handful), witnessed His glorious ascension into heaven.

The teachers of the law, who had their way in killing Jesus, were still so terrified, even after His death and burial, that they requested for guards to be assigned at the tomb’s entrance.

Yet, even when He rose from the dead, though He had every right to disprove them publically, just as they humiliated Him publically, He was amazingly and strangely silent!

  • Purpose of Jesus’ ambiguity regarding His identity?

Jesus’ primary ambition was to write the Law into our hearts. He preferred people recognizing Him, through works of love by His teachings, healings and the perfect expression of love in His character. Exposing people to His perfect loving nature, which was a sharp contrast to the fallen human nature, was the way He wanted them converted – through their hearts.

If He were to openly echo the fact that He was the Son of God, those who believed in Him, may have done so firstly out of fear, rather than conversion of heart.

  • For God, Glory is a two-way street – When you glorify God with your heart and strength, God will confer great glory upon you:

“..Those who honor me I will honor” – 1 Samuel 2:30.

On a certain occasion, when Jesus required that His identity be declared, His Father arranged for it, in an indirect way.

Mathew 16:13-18: “When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who are the people saying I am?”

“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; some, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “Who do you think I am?” Simon Peter answered, “The Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

“God has blessed you, Simon, son of Jonah,” Jesus said, “for my Father in heaven has personally revealed this to you—this is not from any human source. You are Peter, a stone; and upon this rock I will build my church; and all the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.

We note this takes place more than half way through His ministry, as this appears in the 16th chapter of Mathew (which has only 28 chapters). The Apostles casually narrate what they hear people declare about Him, yet this was no casual conversation – but a very important juncture and moment for the glory of the future church! When He asked them who they thought He was, all were silent, except Simon, who had the greatest conviction/belief about Him.

At this important point, God arranged for His identity to be revealed through Simon, a convicted believer, through the Father’s grace – and this too, was for a prime purpose.

Note that, in an instant after Simon reveals Jesus’ glorious identity, Jesus wastes no time in also revealing Simon’s own glorious identity (which even came as a surprise to Simon)! In fact the reason He quizzed the apostles about His identity, was because it was already time for them to know for sure, who Jesus was. As it was through this knowledge, that they would understand the need for Him to identify a main leader and declare each of them as future bishops.

God’s ways are so beautiful and perfect, that He officiated this by changing his name to Peter – the great Rock, the leader with the keys of the kingdom of heaven. This is similar to an employer officially declaring an employee’s promotion, with a title change!

Yes, Simon Peter had no idea, that his primary role was not that of a fisherman, but he was the first Pope of a line of future popes, which would continue till the end of time. This was the true role that God had kept for him, from the foundation of the world.

‘…Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as My prophet to the nations.’ – Jeremiah 1:5

  • Why God confers Glory upon us?

It was because Peter had the greatest belief that Jesus was none other than the Son of God, he not only greatly glorified Jesus but obviously, none of the other apostles were as convinced. If Peter was so convinced about Jesus, in that same way, he would be the best amongst the others, in convincing the future flock of new disciples (Christians), about the Christ!

At this juncture, Jesus also wanted to make this revelation official, so that the rest of the apostles could understand that there was no aimless purpose, in leaving everything and following Jesus, for so many months. They themselves would be the foundation stones and starting point of the global, worldwide Catholic Church, which would never end. They too would receive glorious titles and would always be revered down the centuries, for their work.

  • Ultimately Jesus only cares to receive glory from His Father (directly or indirectly) because it should come from a heart of love and sacrifice (resembling that of the Father’s) and not mere words.

Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  

Secondly, Jesus welcomed this acknowledgement from Peter, as He realized it was from His Father, when He said, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

John 17:5 “… Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

The reason Jesus only sought glory from His Father or His Father’s chosen ones, was because direct glory from a creature, could never equal to that given by the Father. This is something we need to learn from Jesus, for our own gain.

  • Jesus did not care for glory from false sources:

John 10:25-27 – Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

In declaring the above, Jesus openly lacked the desire to receive recognition from those never meant to be part of His flock because their hearts would never be touched. He does not desire recognition from falsity.

So too, we see the same, that when expelled demons declared who He was, He silenced them.

  • What is the ultimate duty for the one who is glorified by God?

Jesus did not choose all, but only His elect i.e. the apostles, and down the line, Christians and even (unbaptized) believers, to recognize His identity. For when we really recognize who God is, our way of glorifying Him for all that He has lovingly done, will change. It will not only be with lips full of prayers, but through our physical and spiritual efforts i.e. through our works. We will firstly imitate His character, for our edification and then witness to a hurting world.

Jesus is not only interested in us realizing He is God, that we need to praise Him and that is the end of the story! We need to follow Him by being doers of the Word.

The reason, is, as highlighted in the prayers of the Liturgy (at the raising of the Eucharist): “Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”

Jesus wants us to be integrated with Him, become a part of Christ’s body, so that we ultimately ADD to Him, in glorifying the Father!

This is our true identity; this is why we say, “I am a Christian,” it means that I am living like Christ. We may have a first and last name, come from our respective country, etc and all this helps us bear our own personal identity, yet this identity is secondary.  

True praise to the Father, is by declaring that the nature of His Son is the best; better than our own and that we want to work towards giving up our own nature to be that, like His Son. This in turn, causes Him to glorify us.

What about the glory of saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary?

If we look at the lives of saints, whether some of them were cloistered or had a public ministry, for all the work they did; toil, suffering, persecutions and for some, even martyrdom – could anyone declare that they received equal glory on Earth, for their works? In fact, the day they were publicly glorified as saints, was long past their demise, when of course they were no longer there to witness this!

The greatest example was in Mary’s own life. Being a Queen, would seem a ridiculous joke to the (non believers) during her time. She lived such an ordinary life marked with suffering and sacrifice – which is how they saw her. There was no hint of glory/queenship, yet she was really the Queen Mother.

Beforehand Jesus declared in Mathew 19:28 – “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel”

Glory in heaven is not only for the apostles, but all true followers.  As every man, woman, children are the king, queen, prince and princess of their own home, so it will be in our real and permanent home. There we will enjoy our glorious royal titles as prince and princess, in the Royal Kingdom.

Resisting the urge to move away from self-glory is far from easy, but short daily supplications to graft our hearts into Jesus’ humble heart, along with deliberate mild spiritual exercises, is doable and fruitful.

Prayer to invoke the gift of humility: https://www.xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/prayer-index/humility

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