Self-promotion in life results in lost eternal reward.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:1–2, ESV)
One of the large problems that I have seen in Christian circles is that of believers seeking an audience so that people will praise them. Let us face it, people do need affirmation. However, often the seeking of affirmation is a trap that leads to self-promotion. Jesus spoke about this in the Sermon on the Mount. Those who do good works with a motivation to be seen by others will miss out on heavenly reward. Jesus stated that they who receive glory from men on earth have already received their reward.
You might think that this is limited to those Pharisees, the hypocrites of Jesus’ day and not to people in the church context. However, this happens in the church today with great regularity. It is a subtle trap for us preachers as it is trap for every believer.
My first exposure to this was in a small church. In this church, we always had special music. This is where people of the congregation who felt they had some sort of musical talent would get up before the sermon and sing something that was supposed to be appropriate. On one occasion, we had a man with a really good voice. He could sing. However, in one service, he started his special by sitting on the platform with his back against the podium. Then he swung around facing the congregation and stood up. One commented that he was doing his best Perry Como (a pop artist from the 40’s and 50s) impersonation. It was like we were watching a nightclub act. The problem was that his presentation was not drawing people to worship God, but to focus their attention to the man’s performance. His work of singing was done to be seen by others.
I have watched as members of worship teams in more contemporary churches, sought to put on the cool vibe where the music had more of a concert feel than that of worship. Once I spoke for an organization in a church that had people get up on the platform a give testimony only to see young people force a display that seemed disingenuous. There are prayer meetings where certain people will focus on making the most flowery prayers so that others would view them as the most spiritual of people. I think you get the point.
From personal experience, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of doing good works to gain the attention of others. I venture to say that many a preacher has stood on the platform and preached wondering if people liked what he said for the wrong reason. How many times do preachers revel in the glory of their church growth? Many believers have sought to be teachers so they would be highly regarded by others.
The problem with the attitude of self-promotion is that it steals the glory from God. For this reason, it is a motive that will ultimately bring failure at the time of the believer’s reward. Yes, there is a time coming when every believer will stand at the judgment seat of Christ. Paul wrote about this, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, ESV) This judgement of believers is not one for condemnation, but for reward. The believer will either be rewarded or suffer loss of reward (1 Cor 3:12-15). The good is that which brings glory and honor to God will bring reward, and that which is focused on self-glorification will miss the mark and suffer loss.
So, we must do good works for one purpose as Jesus stated, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, ESV) Again, works done with the wrong motivation of glorifying oneself will interfere with one’s ability to use this filter in discerning his or her thoughts and ideas to see if they conform to the will of God. Here too, the remedy is confession, repentance and prayer for God’s abundant grace.