“Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:” (Acts 14:14–15, AV)
It is always a dilemma when people tend to praise you. How should you respond? I have been in plenty of Christian venues where leaders are recognized for their accomplishments. Fortunately, I have not had too many of these. There is a presentation and then a round of applause and even a standing ovation. I have seen leaders who seem to soak it up and beam with the appreciation. However, this type of thing scares me. I admit, that I have a strong temptation to soak it up also, and often succumb to the temptation. I wonder how many Christians stumble in this area. I venture to say that many do.
In this passage of the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas are in Lystra. There was a man crippled from birth who was listening to Paul speak. Paul saw something in this man that indicated he had faith to be healed. Paul commanded the man to stand up and he did so and began walking. The crowd saw this and then declared that the gods had come down in the likeness of men, namely Paul and Barnabas.
To this, Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes. The tearing of the clothes was and expression of distress at the situation. Jewish people would tear their clothes when they heard blasphemy. The people’s elevation of Paul and Barnabas to the position of deity, was alarming and frightful because it took the glory from God. The people’s response did two things. First, they were elevating Paul and Barnabas to level of false gods. Yet, secondly, they were ascribing the work of the true God to their false deities. This, Paul and Barnabas could not allow to go on. So, they tore their clothes and clarified the situation in order to restrain the people in this heresy.
You might think that in today’s church ascribing to men the works of God could never happen. Yet, it does. Perhaps not in such a bold declaration as we see here. However, in more subtle ways it does. Anytime we give the pastor, the missionary, the teacher, or evangelist the glory for the great things accomplished, we are robbing the glory from God. In a way, this is bordering on, if not outright blaspheme. This is dangerous for two reasons. It can lead a spiritual leader to the problem of pride and it can develop an improper dependency on people to do great things that only God can do.
This type of response by people should be the cause of alarm in the hearts of those receiving the praise. It should drive those who receive praise to immediately shift the glory to God. I do not think that those receiving this kind of praise need to tear their clothes on the stage. In fact, this would be wrong. However, this type of distress over the situation should be in the heart of anyone who receives such praise and drive them to set the record straight. Paul put it like this.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10, AV).
Let us all have such a humble attitude when we are recognized and give glory to God.