1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I quote this verse in “R.U. a Sanctuary” where I make the statement and the case that “You were created to Worship.” I also quote Isaiah 43:7, “Even every one that is called by My name: for I have created him for My glory.” While R.U. a Sanctuary goes into much more, these verses define the subject of this post.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who manages to take anything you say and turn it around to talk about themselves? You know, you say, “I had a bad day yesterday. My car broke down, I was late for work and it’s going to take a week’s pay for the repairs.” And they say, “Ya, my car broke down once. I was late for work too, but I had to walk because I couldn’t find a ride and I thought I was going to have to sell my first child to pay for it.” How many read this example and mistake it for “sympathy” or even “empathy?” Merriam-Webster says “Sympathy implies sharing (or having the capacity to share) the feelings of another” and “Empathy is having the capacity to imagine feelings that one does not actually have.” Both of these words are centered around the “other” person. Sympathy might sound like, “Ya, I had a similar experience once, I know how hard that can be. I’m sorry you’re going through that.” You see, while both mention the listener having the experience, the first completely switches the focus to themselves; you and your feelings are not even part of the equation. They do not offer understanding or care for what you are going through. Somehow your bad experience suddenly became about them. They do not “share” your pain. There is no Sympathy there. Empathy then? Actually, the listener makes no attempt to even imagine what you might be going through at that moment. They didn’t say, “That must have been hard for you. Is there anything I can do?” They are not trying to “imagine” what you are going through or how they might help. It seems to be all about them.
Allow me another example. A few months ago when we bought our new home there was some work we needed to get done, preferably before moving in, but there were no contractors either available or willing. When it seemed we would never find a contractor for the job, someone we knew found one and put us in contact. This contractor took the job and it was quickly apparent that he and his crew were, at least, committed church goers. What was just as quickly apparent was that he wanted his sacrifice known. It seemed a conversation didn’t go by where that wasn’t at least subtly referenced. The large amount of money we were paying for this “sacrifice” didn’t seem of importance. The fact that he would set appointments to meet to move the work along and then never show up at the scheduled time, sometimes missing by days and without contact, wasn’t worth mentioning or discussing. The fact that his crew didn’t start work, and I use that term liberally, until 10 a.m. and quit between 4 p.m. and 5, also not an issue. The fact that these things delayed and complicated our move was not a consideration. What was important was that taking our money was such an inconvenience for them. Of course, when it came time to tally the bill there would be added cost because they had to do some of the work I agreed to do. It didn’t seem to occur to him that the reason we didn’t get the work done is that my crew was scheduled and present to do the work with his instruction as agreed, but by the time he showed up days later, they were gone. But, hey, that was an additional burden on them and it’s only fair that we pay for that. In the end we just wanted to sign off, pay them and get him and his sacrifice out of our house, even though that meant finishing some of the work he had agreed to do ourselves.
Here’s the point. Somehow our difficult situation became his. The fact that we had to move in and live around his crew for a week because of his delays was not our pain but his sacrifice. Once into the job certain parts required more than he anticipated. As a result, this required constant pressure and more money from me to get him to live up to the agreement, even though not doing them the right way would cost us more money indefinitely. Still, what a sacrifice this was for him.
I use this example because of what I started it with: “it was quickly apparent that he and his crew were, at least, committed church goers.” You see, I had to think hard about how to state this fact. As the world does, your mind wants to equate the statement “church goer” with “Christian.” Isn’t it sad that too rarely is this true? Christ said “Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So when you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be praised by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their full reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” Matthew 6:1-4. While it was obvious this man is a “church goer,” it was painfully more obvious he wanted “to be seen.” He would “sound a trumpet” of the sacrifice it was to help us out every chance he got. In so doing he “already has (his) full reward.” He sacrificed his “reward from (his) Father in heaven” to “be praised by men.”
How does this example tie into where we started? By the end all I wanted to say was “It’s Not About You!” As we talk about in “Stop Struggling… Choose God,” even a good person who does not claim Christ knows that sacrifice is not about them… it’s about the person to whom they are giving. And again, as we point out in that post, this is where every Christian should start. As a Christian, “It’s Not About You;” from a purely physical perspective, it’s about those to whom you give or for whom you sacrifice. More importantly, as a Christian everything is spiritual; therefore, It Is About God. “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name be the glory, because of Your loving kindness, because of Your trustworthiness.” Psalms 115:1 (The Hebrew word is “lo” H3808 which does mean “not,” but it also means “never,” which leaves no wiggle room) “Never to us, O LORD, Never to us, but to Your name be the glory…” Maybe that large amount of money was still a sacrifice for him, but we were going to be the ones without heat or with a large heating bill. We were the ones living out of boxes and sleeping on the floor. We were the ones trying to pull this off while my wife was in the hospital under the threat of death and open-heart surgery. So, even if his profit was a little harder earned than normal, It was Not About Him. Furthermore, as someone who wears God’s name, It Was About God, and how did he make Him look? Where was the true Sympathy? Or, as someone who claims Christ, where was the Empathy every Christian should have at the ready. Even if he couldn’t share the experience as Sympathy requires, he ought to have been able to imagine or have Empathy for what those in need were going through. If he truly knew God or knew the manual, he should have heard somewhere in his spirit… “It’s Not About You!”
But it doesn’t end there. I thank God I already knew Christ, because his behavior would not have left me grateful and interested in this God he represents. It would have soured my taste and deafened my ears for and to God perhaps forever. If he has had this impact on any “unbeliever,” he has brought shame to God’s Name and he will have to answer for that “fruit”.
This self-centeredness can take many forms. We began the post with “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” And “…I have created him for My glory.” These are not meaningless words! The Scriptures are clear. Whatever pleasure we have here on earth is a gift from God. And whatever sacrifices we as Christians make, we make with Christ for God. We have quoted 1Peter 3:17 many times, I suppose because it is one of those “Improve Life” every “Moment” references. “For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
In “Don’t Want… Want More” we ask, “Can you stop being a martyr?” Do you put wallowing in self-pity before God? Here we ask, “Is there always a painful sacrifice for you?” Is the pain of others secondary to yours? If there is sacrifice for you, do you share it quietly with Christ or get out your “Trumpet?” Do you forget Jeremiah 32:19 that He will “reward each one according to his ways and the fruit of his deeds”? Or, do you look to “be praised by men,” hence receiving your reward now? I actually like how Christ put it, as quoted in Luke 6:23, “leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”
Here is yet another version of this self-centered perspective. I saw this on TV the other day. Maybe you have personally experienced something similar. The show was a crime drama as many are these days. Shortly into the story the perpetrator was apprehended and put on trial. When the trial begins, the defense lawyer argues to the judge what a burden this trial is for his client (the perpetrator). He tells the judge what an inconvenience this whole thing is for his client. The lawyer is trying to get the judge to empathize with his client and let them out on bail until the end of trial. After the trial has come to an end and it is time for the guilty to receive their punishment the lawyer again pleads with judge for leniency. Then the perpetrator gets up, the victim sitting right behind them, and tells the judge they are sorry if their acts hurt anyone (not, that they are sorry they did them). They beg the judge to see how they are also a victim of the situation. They tell of the pain it has caused, not for the victim, but for themselves. They cry and moan and steal the victim’s cloak from those they harmed and scream, “you have no idea how hard this is on me!”
Do you know anyone who has done that? Have you done that? Have you done something you shouldn’t have and then complained about the cost? The lawyer was just doing his job, but what the judge should have said is, “It’s Not About You.” When you harm someone, it becomes about them, and the truly repentant will understand that. They will allow the true victim their pain rather than seek their sympathy. They will plead forgiveness not just for the harm of their acts, but for the acts themselves. If you are truly repentant, you know the victim owes you nothing. If you claim to be a Christian, then you know you have not Honored, much less Glorified, God and you are sincerely ashamed. You know there is a reward for this too, but you know it is not one you want to receive. Remember the quote we just read from Jeremiah, “reward each one according to his ways and the fruit of his deeds.” The Scriptures are quite clear here as well. If your ways are not His and your deeds produce bad fruit, your reward will also be given accordingly.
I hope I’ve been clear, “…whatever You do, do it all for the glory of God,” “…I have created (You) for My glory.” “It’s Not About You,” It’s “Never” About You! As Christians, it’s about God first. Are our “ways” self-centered or God-centered? Do our “deeds” Glorify Him or shame Him? Have we shown His character? As we talk about in “Where Do You Live?”, does the world see that you “Live In” obedience to Christ or somewhere else? Second, it’s about those our deeds impact, good or bad. Have we acted for God’s Glory or do we expect others to sing our praises for these same acts? If we have harmed someone, do we show that we are in “Pursuit of Character” and repent, or expect our victims to sympathize with our plight? In the end, however, it will be about you. You and only you will explain to God your ways, your deeds, your motivation, your fruit and your impact on others.
The circumstances are irrelevant: whether it is doing painless good or making a sacrifice, whether an occasion requires sympathy or empathy, whether life seems easy or hard. If you claim Christ but have harmed someone and shamed God, or if you have payed a physical price for your deeds, accept it. If you refuse true repentance, you will one day stand before God and He will say, but… It Was Not About You. Remember, this physical world is but a flicker in the eternal light of our existence, and what we do or the price we pay in each moment Is About God. Finally, whether it be to point to sacrifice and pain or gain and glory, if you pull out your “Trumpet” here, you’ve traded God’s reward for man’s!
© Scott A Caughel 1/10/2019