As soon as I finished my quiet time this afternoon, I knew that I was going to need to blog about it to solidify what I just read… but I really, really don’t want to. This is just one of those lessons that I would rather not learn, and it requires digging a little deeper than I want to into the motivations of my heart. But here we go anyway, since I know I need it.
The past few weeks, I’ve been going through a Beth Moore study on the book of Esther, which is one of those princess stories that we tend to graze over pretty quickly. However, I have adored the journey of exploring God’s influence woven quietly through the story of this young heroine. His name might not be written in the book, but ladies and gentlemen, it is ALL over it, and it is awesome. Now, sometimes the applications that Beth imposes on the verse-by-verse exploration is a little less theological and a little more self-help than I want it to be, but this week’s has hit me straight between the eyes.
If you’d like to be fully caught up to where I’m at in the story, you can read the book of Esther up to chapter six, which is where my reading landed today. The irony of this entire chapter is enough to make us laugh. Haman, who was on his way to ask the king to publicly execute Mordecai, ends up leading the parade for his mortal enemy around the city! It’s just too good. Today, my focus was on Haman’s deadly words in verse 6. He thinks to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” During his conversation with the king, he thinks he’s the one the king so greatly desires to honor, because he’s just oh-so entitled to all the glory.
Now, I would still be laughing at this poor sucker with entitlement issues, but then Beth sideswiped me with a harsh reality – sometimes we might see a bit more of Haman in ourselves than we want to.
How many times have I told myself how much I deserve to be Employee of the Month? How often do I seek recognition and “go the extra mile” simply for the sake of being noticed? How much do I bask in the glory of a few words of encouragement, fully agreeing without an ounce of humility that I truly am as awesome as people say I am? To borrow Haman’s words, who is there that my boss would rather honor than me?
Okay, so I might identify with the villain of the story a little bit. Let’s be real, everyone. Some people obsess over themselves because they think they’re not good enough. Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not worthy enough. And trust me, I’ve walked through those valleys too. But then there’s the point when we obsess over ourselves because we know we’re amazing and we are proud of it because we’ve earned the right to be proud of ourselves.
This is where the black and white difference between the mindset of the world and the mindset of Christ presents itself clearly. Whereas the world calls us to be proud of ourselves, to improve ourselves and change ourselves to its standards so that we can receive its honor and glory (or in other words, have the attitude of Haman), Jesus calls us to humble ourselves and point all of the honor and glory to Himself. I can’t imagine a more stunning contrast, and it’s all over the Bible. Romans 12:10 calls us to honor one another above ourselves. Philippians 2:3-4 also reminds us to consider others better than ourselves out of humility, and to look to the interests of others, in keeping with the “hegeomai” (others-first) attitude of Christ Himself.
This is something I’ve known in my head for a long time, but telling my heart to change its attitude has been a different journey altogether. It’s not easy to stop viewing coworkers as competitors and to applaud them with a joyful heart when they do something well, even if it means them receiving the Employee of the Month title instead of yourself. It’s not easy to redirect the glory we love to bask in to Jesus when we do something well at work or school, and to acknowledge that without His generous gifts and talents and His attitude that He has given us, we would be worthless. However, in John 7:18, Jesus says, “He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the One who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”
Well, beloved reader, I’ve been challenged today. I have been reminded to stop working for my own glory, and to give credit for my own victories to the God whose Spirit works through me. Is it possible that you need the same attitude check on your heart? I don’t mean to condemn you — only to challenge you in the same way I have been challenged. Soli deo gloria!