Just recently I was approached by the parent of a student in our youth ministry. This parent was very complimentary and said some incredibly kind things about myself and our ministry. In my attempt to be humble I responded by saying things like, “that is very nice of you to say that,” and, “well, we have some great young people…”
I walked away from the conversation secretly pleased with how humble I had been. However, the next day while taking a run, I had some time to reflect on the situation. I have concluded that my “humility” was deceptive pride. I had seemingly deflected all of the credit and praise that was being given. I had carefully crafted my responses to appear as though I refused to take the credit, while in reality taking both the credit that was being offered as well as credit for being humble.
My error was two-fold.
1. Pride. Pride is a serious offense. So much so that the Bible says in James 4:6 that “God opposes the proud” or, “God resists the proud.” The definition of “oppose” is “to actively resist or refuse to comply with, disapprove of and attempt to prevent, to compete with.” When I am proud I put myself in a position where God “actively resists” me. I can not think of a less desirable place to be than in direct opposition with the creator of the universe. But that is the direct result of pride in my life and repentance is necessary.
2. Theft. The second part of my error is that of thievery. Even if my attempts to deflect praise had been sincere, they still would have been wrong because the praise belonged somewhere. Romans 13:7 says, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (NKJV) The compliments that were being given to me were genuine. The student that was being discussed has undergone serious life change. There is beautiful fruit growing in this student’s life and someone is responsible for that and is due the credit. Correctly identifying who the praise should be given to, then, is an important determination. I underhandedly took the credit, though it did not belong to me. That is theft. However, simply refusing to accept it is inadequate as well. When I am given something that belongs to the Lord I must give it to “whom it is due.”
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV)