the humility spotlight
our National Anthem is a curious thing. it isn’t curious all on it’s own, but the way we use it is rather strange, i think. why do we always play it before sporting events? why is it hardly played in any other circumstance? and why, oh, why does it always seem like those who sing our Nation’s signature chorale are merely trying to show off? granted, there are those who give the Anthem just reverence and respect, but when each syllable in a song turns into a minute-long belting note, i think that crosses the line from respectful effort to boastful ostentation. i hear the Star-Spangled Banner sung in that manner, and i think, who was that really honoring?
and then i read a blog post showing off my awesome vocabulary and hear it again: who was that really honoring? as painful it is to hear a national anthem turn into a personal serenade, it is infinitely more aching to watch myself (or others) take what is meant to honor God and turn it right back toward ourselves. prayer, worship, devotionals, sermons, blogs. all are God-honoring actions that can so easily become platforms for self-praise. the most damaging actions can be those that are meant to bring Glory to God.
the problem is we like ourselves too much. we like to show off our singing/guitar/whatever skills in musical worship, so we riff and elaborate. we want people to think we have a special connection to God in prayer, so we babble for five minutes. we want people to think we’re smart, so we use fancy words in our sermons and blogs. we want things from people. we are focused on the wrong thing when we only need to remember that, no matter what, God loves us, accepts us, and calls us His Own. Jesus preached that those who are trying to impress others with their giving and praying have “received their reward in full.” in other words, you want to please people? sweet! that’s exactly (and only) what you will do. when we want to impress others, that is the most we will ever do (and we may not even accomplish that!). God does not want our songs, our words, or our knowledge, He just wants us.
the voice of one tone-deaf penitent
heart is infinitely more pleasing to God than
a thousand melodious proud souls