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Remedies against Vain-glory (October 13)

[…] Consider 2dly, how truly vain, empty, short, and inconstant is all human glory. The praise and esteem of men is like a puff of wind, that passes in a moment, and makes us not intrinsically one jot the better; it adds nothing to our worth in the sight of God, […] The sentiments of men are often wrong in their judgments—what is a man the better, for being reputed greater by man?

Richard Challoner, Meditations, Entry for October 13

Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Time for another #shorts post.

In Matthew 6 Jesus gives a famous warning against being motivated by human praise. If our “good” deeds are actually motivated by the praise people give, these deeds are ignored by God. The desire for human praise can ruin acts that would otherwise be Virtuous. To complement the words of Jesus, today I also share a passage from Richard Challoner’s Meditations. Full title: Considerations Upon Christian Truths and Christian Duties: Digested Into Meditations for Every Day in the Year.

It’s a daily reader book I feature from time to time here. YOU CAN READ A FREE PDF OF THE WHOLE BOOK HERE.

So let’s get right into it. Let’s talk about what’s wrong with human praise, and why it must never be our goal.

A Puff of Wind, that Passes in a Moment

We’re all familiar with Matthew 6, and Jesus’ warning about being motivated by praise. He warns us not to practice religion to draw attention, not to give Charity to win praise from people, and not to fast and pray to get people’s attention. Basically our motivations for anything we do—including the Pious things we do—must never be about getting praise. Because our Father in Heaven doesn’t reward these acts if we do them for people’s praise. The praise of humans is our only reward.

If our good deeds are motivated by winning people’s praise, we are actually motivated by the vice of vanity rather than the Virtues of Piety or Charity.

Everyone knows this passage in Matthew 6, I’m sure. Even many non-Christians are familiar with it or have heard it at least.

(1) “Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

(2) “Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. (3) But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (4) so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.

(5) “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. (6) But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:1-6 (CEB)

As I’ve continued to read through Challoner’s Meditations, I came to the entry for October 13. The October 13 entry is about how to fight the vice of vanity (he calls it vain-glory). Most of the entry refers to Matthew 6. But in his second argument, Challoner makes a great point about human praise—it doesn’t last. Let’s hear from Challoner:

Remedies against Vain-glory (October 13)

[…] Consider 2dly, how truly vain, empty, short, and inconstant is all human glory. The praise and esteem of men is like a puff of wind, that passes in a moment, and makes us not intrinsically one jot the better; it adds nothing to our worth in the sight of God, […] The sentiments of men are often wrong in their judgments—what is a man the better, for being reputed greater by man?

Richard Challoner, Meditations, Entry for October 13

Human praise is nothing but a puff of air leaving the lungs. Short words spoken for a moment, and then they’re gone. That’s all human praise is. On top of that, human praise comes from imperfect human opinions and judgment. The praise people have for us means nothing to God and doesn’t add to His opinion of us.

What a terrible thing to make our motivation in life, right??

Praise Addiction

The praise of humans is so fleeting and temporary. Besides that, it’s meaningless for a Spiritual person trying to walk a Spiritual path. It’s meaningless because human praise is meaningless to God. What matters to God is the personal relationship we have with Him, the motivations He finds in our heart, and so on. What other people say or don’t say about us is a non-factor in God’s Eyes.

Since human praise is so fleeting and temporary, it must never be our motivation for doing anything. Jesus warns in Matthew 6 that if we’re motivated by human praise, that’s the only reward we get for our “good” deeds (“good” in quotes because they’re ignored by God since we do them for the wrong reasons). Do we want to pass up a Heavenly reward in exchange for an earthly one that lasts mere seconds?? Of course not, not when we think of it that way.

Thinking of it another way, when something is so short and fleeting and doesn’t last, it has diminishing returns. If anything with diminishing returns is our motivation, we’ll need more and more of it to get the same effect from it we’re used to. Much like an addict. We can get addicted to human praise, and need more and more of it to feel the same good feelings about ourselves we want to experience.

Some may not agree with the addict metaphor. And they would say, “how can anyone be addicted to human praise?? Ridiculous.” But I can tell you from the scientific book The Compass of Pleasure, which I wrote about in a post here, that both the valid good feelings and the guilty pleasure ego boost we get from human praise produces dopamine in our brain. Human praise creates pleasure in our brains, with dopamine.

And not to over-simplify things, but … if it produces dopamine, it can be addictive.

But enough of that. Whether you agree with the addict idea or not, we can all agree that if we’re motivated by something fleeting with diminishing returns, we’re going to need more and more of it all the time because of the diminishing returns combined with the short duration. We’ll always be getting less out of it, all the time. At the same time, we’ll want and need more of it all the time.

And what a tragedy that is, because God doesn’t care one bit about the praise people give us. That praise does not influence His opinion of us at all, good or bad. God will judge us on an individual basis. And one of the things He will judge is the true motivation in our heart for why we do what we do (or don’t do).

With that in mind, let’s always operate by the Matthew 6 protocol. Let Matthew 6 guide our actions. We don’t need to be rude and shoot down human praise if we happen to receive it. But we must never make that praise our motivation, must never seek it out. As best we can, let’s keep our good deeds, Charity, and other things private between us and God.

Then we will get a Heavenly Reward from our Father in Heaven, like Jesus says. And that’s infinitely better than a fleeting puff of air from someone’s lungs that lasts for a moment and is gone. There’s no comparison between the two.

That’s it for #shorts Part 30.


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Your new best friend in Christ,

99:9

<<<EXALT THE LORD OUR GOD AND WORSHIP AT HIS HOLY HILL; FOR THE LORD OUR GOD IS HOLY>>>


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