I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Several years ago, an American restaurant chain had commercials suggesting the different reasons to go out to eat at their restaurant and celebrate. Maybe you found 50 cents in the pockets of some old jeans, or maybe you hit all the lights green on your way home from work. The lighthearted message of the commercials, was there is always something to celebrate. The makers of the commercials knew they were being a little silly. But I wonder if society today is getting a little carried away with participation trophies, and celebrating first downs in American football, when we used to only celebrate actual touchdowns. Are we praising ourselves for doing everyday things that should just be automatically done as no big deal?
I love our young people, and I support and encourage them. But I wonder if we praise a little too much sometimes?
The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; it is not without a lesson. All the good qualities that men possess are the gift of God; their good deeds are performed by the grace of God through Christ. Since they owe all to God the glory of whatever they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but instruments in His hands. More than this–as all the lessons of Bible history teach–it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust to his own strength, he is sure to fall. Man is contending with foes who are stronger than he. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places.” Ephesians 6:12, margin. It is impossible for us in our own strength to maintain the conflict; and whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow. The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 718
As I work with various churches across the country, I see some churches where a teenager is praised without end for reading a Scripture in church, while in other churches young people participate in the service as though it were just expected as no big deal. Aren’t young people just as much a part of our church as anyone else? Do they require a pat on the back for every little job done right? Shouldn’t these things be expected?
When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10 NLT
A teacher was trying to get her students caught up on their work. Once they started catching up, she started praising them, but as soon as she did, she lamented that they started falling behind again! Are we living in a society that praises and celebrates when in reality there is not that much to praise or celebrate? Shouldn’t students be getting their work done simply because that’s their job?
In 2006 an Amish school was attacked by a gunman. While the teacher ran to get help, realizing help would not arrive in time, a thirteen year old girl asked the gunman to shoot her first in order to buy time for the other children. The crazed gunman obliged. In a newspaper article it was pointed out that at this girl’s funeral she was not praised! The Amish do not praise the dead. Didn’t Jesus tell His followers to pick up their cross everyday and follow Him? Isn’t that what this young girl was doing-her reasonable service? While I see this girl as a remarkable heroine, the Amish see her as a child doing what she was taught to do and supposed to do-put others first.
I pray that we are pointing our young people to the cross, so that they can fall in love with Jesus, and serve Him because they love Him instead of serving for praise. Giving all because Jesus gave all is our reasonable service.
Study the Sabbath School lesson further at ssnet.org