READ: Ecclesiastes 7, John 2, Revelation 18
Father Macarius was a church leader in the early days of Christianity in Egypt. A young believer approached him and asked him what it meant to live the crucified life, what it meant in effect to live dead. Macarius had him go to the grave of a departed Christian and speak both praise and condemnation and to record the response of the dead man. The young believer obeyed and reported: “He speaks nothing. He is dead.” Macarius responded, “Praise and blame are equally nothing to him who is dead and been buried in Christ.”
Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 advises that we “do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.” Those that follow Jesus closely are going to be mocked by the world and maligned by the Church. People close to us (those we work with, those we lead, and those we follow) are going to say condemning and critical things about us. We turn a deaf ear to them, not because they are false (there is usually a nugget of truth in the criticism of friends), and not because they are painless (for it always hurts to be criticized), but because we have done the very same thing to them or to others. Christians can unfortunately be the most vicious of verbal assassins–and there is not one of us who is innocent of backstabbing with our tongues. When we are the victim of such things, we can ignore it (whether it is true or false) because we have done the same to others. It is ironically our guilt, not our righteousness, that makes us immune to the meanness of others.
Jesus on the other hand was completely righteous. When many believed in Him because of His miraculous signs (John 2:23), He “did not commit Himself to them because He knew all men and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (vv. 24-25). There is something in man that praises because he wants to be praised. All too often we complement others from a deep longing to be recognized ourselves. Jesus does not “need” the praises of men to satisfy His ego. God was perfectly content and satisfied in the love of the Trinity before man existed. To think that God’s works are validated by man’s praise is blasphemous. In the ongoing journey of becoming like Jesus, we are to become tone deaf to the praises of men and to their blame. Our validation must not come from what man thinks–neither saint nor sinner. Our ears must be attuned to one expression of praise: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” We must ever be leery of the cheers of the crowd; woe to us when all men speak well of us. Jesus wants us living where the blame of men is harmless and the praise of men is hollow. The commendation of Jesus alone must drive, fuel, and please us.