Choose the Greater Glory
Once upon a time, there was a young prince born in the land of ancient Israel named Solomon, a son of the famous king David and his infamous mistress Bathsheba. By the grace of God, Solomon grew to be the wisest, richest, most powerful human alive during his lifetime; if he was around today, he’d likely be the type of person who would have 200 million Twitter followers. And many of his “tweets” have been archived, all of which inspired by God Himself, and recorded in a collection of writings that has become the best-selling, most-read book of all time. With that background, it’s not all that surprising that his zingers still ring true today, and the primary one that I want to exhort our souls with this morning is this: "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe."
There are three quick things I want to draw out of ancient tweet. First, what is the fear of man? Rather than simply being afraid of other people, similar to the common Biblical phrase “fear of God,” the fear of man is being in awe of, and seeking out the approval and avoiding the disapproval of other people, especially powerful or popular people. You could also think about the fear of man in terms of people-pleasing. That is, striving to make other people happy (especially those people that we inherently should try to please, like a parent, boss, roommate, spouse, friend, sibling, coworker, or neighbor), but in a way that out of proportion to your fear of God, and thus prevents you from truly loving others. At the root, fear of man, or people-pleasing is actually self-focused. It's about me. It's about getting pats on the back, likes on my posts, good responses to my emails, thumbs up on my texts. It's using other people to get what I want.
Ultimately, it’s a form of idolatry. While harmony with others is certainly a good thing (Psalm 133:1), when elevated above above its determined place it become an idol. An idol is not just an ancient statue. It’s something that we look to as a primary source of identity, happiness, or security. A good way to identify an idol is to ask, what would happen if I lost the approval of that person or group? Is it possible that I love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God? Jesus, the greater Solomon, gave a similar tweet when he walked the earth, saying “they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:43).
Second, why does the fear of man “lay a snare?” A snare (no we’re not talking about drumline) is an old-school trap. It was laid on the ground or hung from something, and you couldn’t see it until it had captured you, and you’re stuck. Hunters used them to catch birds, but they had to entice the prey into the trap first with something tempting, like that little triangle of cheese on the mousetrap. So in the same way, an elevated trust in people may have the impression of being more real, more solid, perhaps more practical, but it’s a lie! That's why it’s a trick, a snare! It offers the illusion of security in the praise of others, but it's a trap; once you've tasted it, you just need more, and it's never enough! And you start chasing it, addicted to the high, lashing at others or even yourself when you don't get what you've grown dependent on. We curve in on ourselves.
But lastly, let’s turn our attention to the last phrase, “whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Versus the trap, a false promise, God always keeps his promises. Trusting in the Lord is safe, because He does not change his mind, and He judges based on true reality, based on the heart. Humans hold grudges and write people off based on first impression. But God is faithful, always standing by your side, abounding in patient, forgiving, solid love. Because of the perfections of his Son Jesus, he looks at my wavering faith and says, “perfect.” His love is constant; it does not oscillate based on your appearance, your achievements, or your mood. He loves us consistently, and far, far more than we could ever deserve. That's why trusting in Him is safe. That's why running to Him and seeking his glory is more valuable than the faint, fleeting glory of men. So Solomon’s exhortation this morning is simple: Seek the source, not the dim reflection. Cling to the opinion of the King, not the fickle whisperings or praises of his subjects. Don't build your identity on the sands of men. Build your identity on the rock!
And this reminds us of our need to confess our sins, pray with me.
Prayer of Confession
Father in heaven, we confess that we have loved the glory that comes from Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, work email, and the many-varied approvals of people more than the glory that comes from You. We have fallen into the trap of believing the smiles would give us lasting joy, and we often find ourselves crushed by criticism and disapproval. Father, I myself so often fail in this, every single day. Forgive me Father, and forgive us for our idolatry, as we confess to your our individual sins now.
And now Father, would you lift the eyes of our souls to the Only perfect Man, the King who always loved the glory of God more than man. Our Jesus never bowed to the will of the crowd or the mobs. Remind us of Jesus’ active obedience on our behalf, and give us the strength by your Sprit to be more like your Son. Transform us, we pray. Amen.