Saturday, June 17, 2006

Fear God. Not Men.

Today's Topic: Scriptural Serving

Why excel?

That's the question we've been considering for the last couple weeks (post 1, post 2) as we've examined Colossians 3:22-24:
"Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."
I derived three main points from this passage:
  1. Always pursue excellence because God is always watching.
  2. Never pursue excellence because other people may be watching.
  3. The excellence of your work will impact your inheritance in heaven.
This weekend we'll look more closely at point two.

Never pursue excellence because other people may be watching.

God is always watching us, seeing us, and evaluating us. His command to us is to serve others because he is watching. However, I know that many days go by when I say to myself, "Did I even think about God today?" The question betrays its answer. I probably didn't think about God.

What was I thinking about? I've found it frequently to be true that -- if I'm not thinking about pleasing God -- it's because I'm thinking about others. And I'm not just thinking about them. I'm focusing on them. I'm meditating on what they think of what I'm doing. I'm anticipating what they'll say. I'm hoping to get a good response. I'm afraid maybe I won't get a good response. I'm figuring out how to justify myself if they don't respond the way I want.

I'm fearing man.

Most of the time, if I'm not fearing God, I'm fearing man. Either that, or I'm asleep.

If you're not familiar with the term fear of man, here's my rough definition.

Fear of man is when I value the approval of people more than the approval of God because I want those people to worship me instead of God. Fear of man is a form of pride, a type of self-worship.

I want others to think highly of me because I think so highly of me and I'm always right.

If we look back at the verses from Colossians, we can see how fear of man works itself out practically. What do these instructions show us about the hearers?
  • "Slaves, obey in everything" :|: Evidently, some slaves were not fully obeying their masters as they would fully obey their Father in heaven.
  • "Not by way of eye-service" :|: It seems that certain slaves were exerting their "freedom in Christ" when their earthly masters were not watching. They served less heartily when left on their own.
  • "As people-pleasers" :|: But when their master returned, they wanted his approval or feared his punishment, so they shaped up at that point.
  • "But with sincerity of heart" :|: These believers were insincere in their service. They pretended to serve unto the Lord when under observation, but served themselves whenever possible. They were hypocrites.
  • "Work heartily" :|: They cut corners whenever possible and truly fulfilled their responsibility only when it protected their reputation or brought them credit.
Do you see how this is a form of self-worship? They were more concerned about the assessment of their masters than the assessment of their God because they wanted both the ease that laziness afforded them and the respect of their master.

For them, the result of these misplaced desires was laziness. For you and me, the result may be different, but the desires are often the same.
  • We spend hours on graphics because we want to have young and hip people attend our church.
  • We work to never miss a mic cue because we believe that we are worthy of honor, even if we rarely get it.
  • We want the production to be perfect because that's what we believe we are able to do and we want others to believe it too.
  • We work harder and harder and harder because people think of us as hard workers.
Now, don't get me wrong. We should put forth effort and pursue excellence. The problem lies in doing that as a result of our desire to be worshipped by others. The problem is our craving to be honored and thanked and spoken of highly and patted on the back and revered and feared and respected and idolized. The problem is this: cosmic treason. We want to be God.

And this is when we must repent. We must ask for God's forgiveness for our desire to overthrow him. And then we must turn away from that desire and fear God, serving him, not serving men as people-pleasers.

So, spend hours on the graphic. Aim to never miss a mic cue. Seek to perfect the production. Work harder and harder and harder and harder.

And repent often.

Never pursue excellence because other people may be watching.

More Posts on Scriptural Serving


Anonymous said...

i just want to thank for for this message. i often forget and think my worth is based on how my husband reacts to me from my work or not work thus making him my HIM. My husband is a workaholic, perfectionist, possibly OCD so I am constantly struggling when I forget this verse! I have been out of work for the last couple weeks so I pray to be guided by what the Lord has for me..this morning i was reading pg. 38 in Joel Osteen daily readings of Your Best Life Now and it reminded me of this scripture so in researching this scripture online i found your site. I am going to use this site as my first Christian site on my computer. Thank you for your prayers! Thank Jesus!, Mary.

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic post. I have thought this truth very often myself but only here have I seen it put into words so well and I am grateful for it because I believe it will aid me to live more fully for the Lord alone.

I do, however, feel that not being concerned with the opinions of men and women, especially for a born people pleaser like myself, will be an enormous challenge I'll have to face every day.

I am, though, confident that with God all things are possible and through prayer and the Holy Spirit, his will, which is a single minded service to him, will be possible.

Thank you.