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Jamie Johnson
5 October 2010

Resumés and Rewards

We live in a "look at me" society. I'm afraid that egocentrism does not end with toddlerhood. We follow one another on Twitter and Facebook. And among the tweets and status updates, you see some that are near boasts (if not full boasts) about look at what I did or what I have, etc. I've been guilty of it. Granted, not all of them are rooted in pride and there is some sharing of self that is needed just to have a relationship (though I would say social networking is a poor substitute for the real thing). It seems that in the voids of the shallow and quick-paced "modern" life, there is a high need for stroking and meaning.

Unfortunately, this filters into church life and ministry as well. Some want to share their resumés about how they are serving or be recognized by parishioners for their services rendered. Sometimes, someone's boast may come as attempting to "inspire" you. If one wants to inspire, s/he should simply work quietly whether or not people are watching (and they probably are watching) without tooting his or her own vuvuzela. We want recognition, status, and reward, but that's not where the real reward is.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:1-4 the following: "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Jesus further says in Matthew 5:16 to "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." The passage does not say to talk about your good deeds so they can praise you. The glory belongs to God. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, "What is the chief end of man?" and answers with "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."

The glory of God is what matters most! The rewards of men fade in the face of eternity. Mark 8:36 states, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" Paul goes into a whole list items that would look good on a spiritual resumé in 1 Corinthians 13:

Yet, he concludes that without love, "I gain nothing" (v. 3) and that the list amounts to the following without love:

What a bunch of nothing!

Paul gets a bit more direct in Philippians 3:4b-7:

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

The Greek word for "loss" in the last verse of that passage translates to rubbish or dung (skúbala - σκúβαλα), which means "refuse. Either excrement or what is thrown away from the table; leavings" (source). It reminds me of the word scum.

If the motive of the work is to pump up oneself, to brag, or to seek the rewards of men, then it can be classified as skúbala or nothing. "Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?" (1 Corinthians 5:6). Does anyone want to eat bread that has skúbala -- even a little bit -- in it? For those who serve in order to gain the recognition of men, they have received their reward - skúbala or nothing.

There is no question that we are called to serve and each in a way as God has called us. Let us then serve meekly and humbly. This does not mean that we are not seen or not heard. What it means is that being seen and being heard are not our motives. If no one ever knows how you are serving besides God and the recipient and yourself, then may that be enough.

Serving quietly can be a challenge when facing your fellow man - even believers - who may judge you as not serving or not doing enough or not being on that committee or team or whatever. Don't be slack in service, but don't serve for the purpose of pleasing man. Man's opinion does not matter. It is rubbish, dung, nothing. The Scripture is very clear about not judging non-moral issues in regards to Christian brethren (See Romans 14). What if one is called to serve in a way that may not be as readily seen or heard? Entrust your brother to God.

As others look or comment, do not boast. Let your motive be to glorify the Lord. Resist the temptation to spout off your spiritual resumé and simply just serve the Lord whether or not someone is watching (and they probably are watching). Besides, when it is all said and done, it's all about God, not me, not you, and not anyone else. Though our service will rub shoulders with one another, don't let opinions and impressions be your motives. May love be your motive.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." - 1 Corinthians 13:4.

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