John 5:44 reads “How can you believe? While accepting glory from one another, you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God.” Commenting on this verse, A.W. Tozer said, “If I understand this correctly, Christ taught here the alarming doctrine that the desire for honor among men made belief impossible.” Certainly there are a few ways one could read this verse, but Tozer presents an interpretation which is at best sobering and at worst terrifying.
We spend much of our lives seeking and accepting honor from others. In our Western culture, life is all about moving up and getting ahead. Even a casual look at our Facebook and Instagram feeds proves people are consumed with presenting their best and brightest moments while seeking validation from others.
What if Tozer is correct? What if it is impossible to believe in God while at the same time seeking honor from people? What if discipleship is unattainable as long as we are seeking and accepting honor from others? The evidence is damning. God said we should have no other God’s but Him (Exodus 20:3). Yet we are making ourselves little gods every time we seek honor for ourselves. Honor belongs to God alone. Mr. Tozer goes on to say, “The whole course of our lives will be upset by failure to put God where He belongs. We exalt ourselves instead of God and the curse follows!”
The easiest way to avoid seeking honor is to defer it to God in all circumstances. Paul tells us everything we do should be done as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). Many relate this verse to their jobs. They work for the Lord instead of for their earthly bosses. That’s a great start. We should also apply this verse to the rest of our lives as well.
What if we worked on our families as unto the Lord? How often do we make our focus at home one of honoring our spouse or our kids? When we serve others, we honor God by acting in the way He modeled for us. When we humble ourselves before our spouse, we are admitting we are not worthy of their love, just as we are not worthy of the love of Christ. We can use the same attitude with our friends, co-workers, people in our church, fellow shoppers at the grocery, and the homeless we pass in the street. We should at all times be looking to humble ourselves and to serve others.
Seeking honor for ourselves is to put ourselves in the place of God. He is worthy of all praise and honor. The minute we seek to exalt ourselves we are living in disobedience. We are saying the world revolves around us instead of Him. When someone honors you, defer all the honor to Christ. If He had not gifted you the way He has, you would never be capable of achieving anything. When we accept honor, we deny it from its rightful owner. We can’t be God’s disciple and at the same time be working to exalt ourselves in the eyes of men. All honor belongs to God, and we have no right to steal it away. If we’re not careful, seeking honor from others might just cost us our very soul.