What makes a "great" man or woman? Is it wealth, political power, career success, social position, intelligence, education or physical prowess?
In the eyes of the world, all of these attributes may make a person "great," but in God's economy greatness is defined quite differently.
In fact, to become "great" in the kingdom of heaven one must sacrifice the pursuit of becoming great in the eyes of man. This does not mean that one cannot be a Christian and succeed in these facets of life, but it's the seeking of doing so for one's own glory and to impress others that doesn't jibe with the Christian walk. Indeed, the true Believer must get to the point where he no longer even cares what the world thinks. What He does in life, He does to please God, not because others will think highly of him.
Even Jesus, who is worthy of all our praise, did not approach His duties on earth as a time in which He tried to make Himself seem great to others. It was said by His detractors (the Pharisees) that, "...we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth..." (Mark 12:14).
Though the Pharisees were trying to disarm Jesus with flattery (if they really thought he taught the truth they would have received it), what they said was still true in that Jesus words and actions were not influenced by what others thought of Him.
This idea is reinforced in the Book of John where we are told that Jesus "...did not commit himself unto them (men), because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man (John 2:24-25).
The implication in this scripture was that Jesus knew that men indeed had the potential for evil (see Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?") and thus He did not place His trust in what men said and thought of Him. He was far more concerned with truth and pleasing the Father than with being perceived as great through impressing others.
So while Jesus loved people more than anyone could love, He basically didn't care what they thought when those thoughts contradicted God's word, God's will, or the plan that was set before Him.
But it seems like it's human nature to want to be great in the eyes of others, to want an impressive life. We think in this way people will love us, want our company, and want to give something of themselves into our lives. But the desire to impress man is wrong thinking Biblically speaking because we are supposed to be seeking glory for God, not ourselves.
Jesus tells us, "He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him" (John 7:18). It's no surprise that the people who want to impress others spend a lot of time thinking and talking about themselves. They often feel "self-made" and terribly empowered in and of themselves to accomplish just about anything. And, they actually feel “great” for this reason.
But there are no self-made Christians. Remember Jesus' famous words, "...without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5)?
What an incredibly true statement, but so many of us spend so much time seeking to be seen as “great,” as “approved.” This line of behavior soon crosses into seeking WORSHIP from others: a worship that fails to recognize the aforementioned idea that without Jesus nothing can be accomplished anyway.
It was written of the chief rulers and Pharisees that they sought the praises of men, rather than God (John 12:43). When we seek to please or impress men, we are diverting their gaze from God to ourselves. But God tells us that, "...I will not give my glory to another" (Isaiah 48:11). Our aim in life should be to seek to glorify God, so we put our eyes on Him and help others to do so as well.
Yet sometimes after God partners with us and we succeed, we want to take credit. Many times we will even praise the Lord with our lips but in our hearts we are not truly doing so; instead, we are glorifying self and patting our own backs.
On the other hand, we must also note that a person who partners with God did make the decision to do so and also made the necessary sacrifices to follow through with God's leading: for that there is a reward. What is that reward? Praise from God. Yes, God praises you for the good things you do. Job is a perfect example of this. Remember when God asked Satan, "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil" (Job 1:8)? God was praising Job for the goodness he had cultivated in his life.
Consider also with me Daniel who was called "greatly beloved" (Daniel 9:23, 10:11), or what the Lord Jesus said of the Church at Philadelphia, "I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name"(Revelation 3:8). Jesus was recognizing their efforts for Him.
So we see recognition from God for Job’s, Daniel’s and the Church at Philadelphia’s good works. Nothing any of us do on God's behalf goes unnoticed by Him, especially if we do those works with the proper motive: that is, if we seek to glorify Him while NOT seeking glory for ourselves.
Jesus totally espoused this viewpoint when He taught us to do things secretly so that we could be rewarded by God openly. For example, He said pay "...thine alms…in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:4). Here He’s telling us to give our money to God's works secretly, not doing so to receive praise from others so that then God may reward us openly
Jesus tells us to have the same attitude when we pray, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:6 ).
Once again He tells us to approach fasting in the same manner, saying, "...appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:18).
Why does God want us to do so much in secret if He is also all about rewarding us, bragging on us, and giving us glory from Himself? Because He doesn't want us to seek glory from other men or for us to glorify other men. When it comes to glory, our relationship with God is VERY INTIMATE and He is very jealous over this sharing of glory between us and Him. If we glorify other people, we are taking away glory that was meant for Him. If we glorify ourselves, we also TAKE AWAY His glory and His opportunity to brag on and to reward us.
You see, God truly wants to congratulate and brag on us, but we must recognize that He is the One who made us to be who we are, who built into us our talents and abilities. As Creator, He deserves praise and glory for the good things which He has made, namely, us. Without Him creating us, we would literally not exist, how much less would we be able to succeed in life without Him? Why then do we insist on seeking glory for ourselves?
This leads me back to what it means to be great. Many of us see our earthly occupations as a means of propping ourselves up, as defining who we are, as our glory. But let me tell you, this is only how the world looks at it, not heaven!
As mentioned in the first paragraph, the world glorifies people for, among other things, their physical abilities, academic and professional achievements, and most of all, for making and having money. The trap many of us Christians fall into is when we glorify people for these worldly attributes and most of all when we MEASURE OURSELVES BY THEM. We are in real trouble when we start to think that if we don't achieve worldly success as they have that something might be wrong with us or that God has abandoned us. But, again, please remember that God is in no way measuring us by the world. He is our Provider and WE DO NOT NEED TO BE RICH to know that He is providing for us.
In the Lord's Prayer Jesus reminds us to say, "Give us this day our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11). God does provide our daily bread and we need not have an abundance of riches to know that as long as we are alive and serving Him that He is providing for us. We do not need to measure ourselves by anyone or anything else but by how well we are walking in the Word of God.
The conclusion of the matter is that our success in the world does not have anything to do with our success in heaven. Yes, God blesses us and enables His children to succeed in earthly matters, but He is far more concerned about our heavenly accomplishments - the things He can praise us for rather than men, namely, our loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strengths and loving our neighbours as ourselves (Luke 10:27).
How God makes a way for us to provide for ourselves is of little consequence if we are NOT meeting our heavenly responsibilities. If you fail to do that but are a successful doctor, lawyer, nurse, pro athlete, entertainer, or business man, all of your success amounts to a pile of waste in the end at your judgment. As Jesus reminds, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul" (Matthew 16:26)?
Let us strive to remember that we need not be great or important in the eyes of man to be both of those things in God's heavenly kingdom. Let us also do things for God without seeking the attention of man, but let's do them because we love and want to please Him. Let's take our eyes off of impressing others through self-importance and seek to impress God by keeping His Word. May all who read this article make a firm decision to do so. God bless all who do.