Flattery or Freedom

Jesus said something insightful and powerful to the religious leaders. He told them that he didn’t seek the glory of man (John 5:41). At first that statement doesn’t seem all that powerful, until we reflect that if we do not seek the praise of other men, then we are completely free from their control. The giving of praise can be a subtle way of controlling another person. On the other hand, seeking it can cause us to be controlled by the opinions of others. Negatively, we call it flattery; Jesus was completely immune from flattery. He only cared about what God, his Father, did and thought. The religious leaders to whom he spoke these words were quite different. While they pretended to care about God, they really sought to receive praise from one another. Their desire for each other’s praise rendered them blind to what had been written in the Scriptures. They claimed to be followers of Moses, but they were blind to what Moses had written about the Messiah (John 5:45-47).

This brings us to the question, why do we praise to others? As we give praise how much desire is there for us to receive something back from that person? To the extent that we really want something from that person, even for that person to like us, we are treading very closely to flattery. Normally we don’t think twice about praising someone, but how often do we run our desire to praise someone else by the Holy Spirit to examine our own motives and ask if our praise will really be beneficial to the person we are praising? Our desire to give and receive praise could lead us to the same blindness that the religious leaders had. Rather Jesus found that by keeping his focus on God, his Father, protected him, even though at times he offended other men.

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