And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15)
Have you ever patted yourself on the back? I mean, have you literally reached around behind your neck and patted yourself on the back? I have, and I can honestly say it’s not so easy nor is it very rewarding. It feels better when someone else comes behind you with a solid pat on the back and a heartfelt, “Good job!” In comparison, self-approval always rings rather hollow.
These days the media are full of the “rich and famous” who take any opportunity “toot their own horns” from the highest levels of our government to the lowest levels of the entertainment industry. This is nothing new; it has been around from the beginning of time. Remember Cain? He thought so highly of himself that brought God an offering that he determined was good enough by his estimate. Then, when God rejected his offering, his jealousy, and anger toward his brother. Abel, who offered a proper offering, drove him to commit the first murder. However, such arrogance started even before that. It was Lucifer that started it all when he said, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Paul encourages us “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3). Jesus provides the insight for this axiom: “God knoweth your hearts;” and furthermore, “that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). Instead, what God esteems is an abomination to men; that is, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10). God’s pat on the back exceeds any spiritual contortion I can make to pat my own back. How I long to hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21)!
However, the Preacher reminds us, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). The Apostle Paul admonishes, “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). The final test of our work will reveal its true value. Nothing we have done on our own will earn God’s “Atta boy!” Therefore, the Preacher concludes, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Rather than follow the world’s example of self-aggrandizement (and risk pulling a muscle by patting ourselves on the back), let us faithfully serve the Lord with humility. He will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) in due time.