Everybody can relate to the words of a little kid playing or doing something in the presence of his parents: “Look, Mommy; look, Daddy!”
We were created to enjoy and find delight in the eyes of our Creator and in the eyes of other human beings. We were designed to be seen, to be known, and to be loved. What a pleasure it is to be celebrated, and what a joy it is to be praised for our achievements. What pride there is in knowing that people around us speak well of us.
But the fall turned a legitimate need into something dark and destructive. Our natural desire for attention became self-centeredness; the need to be appreciated gave birth to envy. We live in a fallen world where we struggle to balance our need for acceptance and our desires to win, to beat others, to be better than the rest, and to be recognized in public for our good deeds.
In the Sermon on the Mount, we find Jesus warning His listeners about practicing our righteousness to be seen by people. He says: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). What a temptation it is to do something good, something that is honorable, and to let others know about it in order to receive praise.
As a church planter, I have been writing many ministry reports to those supporting my work. It has been twenty-three years of sending pictures of people in need being served, people gathering for worship for the first time, facilities being remodeled, and new believers being baptized. All these things are exciting and good, but there is always a hidden feeling of being successful, a feeling of being able and capable. The worst part comes when my heart compares myself to others and I feel that I must be loved because of my accomplishments.
The desire to be adored is the sin that we find in Satan. He was the most beautiful creature ever created, but he wanted to take God’s place. He wanted to be loved and worshiped as God. Instead of being thankful to God, he decided to rebel against his creator and pursue his own glory (Ezek. 28:11–14; Isa. 14:12–14). The Apostle Paul warns Timothy not to appoint elders lightly, especially a man who is not mature in the Christian faith, so that he does not fall into the condemnation of the devil, which is pride (1 Tim. 3:6). These examples, sadly, express what happens when we promote ourselves to be exalted.