We live in an age of celebrity Christians: legendary best-selling authors, venerated rock stars of worship, and renowned mega church pastors. While we may not worship them (not that we admit), we certainly wish a share of their fame, good looks, and natural talent.
Christina Kelly is the former editor of young women’s magazines like Sassy and Elle (and, no, I’m not a subscriber). She once wrote,
Why do we crave celebrities? Here is my theory. To be human is to feel inconsequential. So we worship celebrities and we seek to look like them.
But it is so dumb, with this stream of perfectly airbrushed, implanted, liposuctioned stars, you have to be an absolute powerhouse of self-esteem not to feel totally inferior before them.
So we worship them because we feel inconsequential, but doing it makes us feel even worse. We make them stars but then their fame makes us feel insignificant. I am part of this whole process as an editor. No wonder I feel soiled at the end of the day.
The greatness of others spotlights the smallness in us.
The Badness of our Goodness
Even if we aren’t a famous celebrity, think about how our “little” goodness operates. Each un-famous us is born with natural gifts. Some things just come easier to us than they do to others. We may are good with finances, naturally disciplined, or eternally patient.
Aren’t we angriest with friends who are bad at the very things we are good at, like finances or hard work?
But our innate skills are the exact strengths we are least capable of imparting to others. What comes so easily to us prevents us from understand our friend’s difficulties. What feels like a side-skirmish for us may be the battle of a lifetime for our friends.
We grow impatient with their slow progress. They sense it, and our strengths make them feel inferior; their natural weaknesses increase their sense of inadequacy.
Besides, we are farthest from God precisely during the times we sashay through life in our natural strengths. (These are the times we least need God because “I’ve got this covered.”) Our inborn strengths are the least valuable to God. His strength is not glorified in our strength.
Our Greatest Gifts
Our greatest strengths are not produced in the womb, they are born in the cauldron of fire. They are nourished in poverty, the areas we most need God. Supernatural gifts are always accompanied by humility because we acquired them through suffering.
Only in poverty do we find riches we can share. Our job in life is to be in such a relationship with Christ—born and then forged in the fires of tribulation—that others want that same super-natural work in their lives, with no admiration for us or our innate abilities.
We need to attend the funeral of our natural strengths
Our natural life will never be super-natural until we sacrifice all that is not born of God. It’s our hardest sacrifice. Sure, we wish to kill off our lusts and addictions, but what about the strengths we pride ourselves on: our brains, discipline, and natural love of others? Why sacrifice them?
Our goodness cannot be greatness until it dies. Oswald Chambers said,
You must be willing to go through God’s winepress where the grapes are crushed. Then the time will come when that very expression will become God’s wine of strength to someone else.
Let’s humbly step into the winepress instead of brazenly stepping up to the spotlight.
There’s Only One Good Celebrity
There is only one Christian celebrity whose greatness never made us feel inconsequential: “A bruised reed he did not break, a flickering wick he did not quench” (Is. 42:3).
But it is only in his sufferings that he changed us. His goodness was squeezed out in the agony of the crucifixion, so he could lift us up with him after his funeral. He became like us in every respect so that through his sufferings we can become like him.
If Christ’s main gift to us was his suffering, maybe we can admit our greatest “natural” goodness may just be air-brushed, liposuctioned, plastic surgery.
Your messages always make me think…:-)
Rich R Finley
so true! Great wisdom.
There are good things to think about in your words, Sam. I asked myself as I read the blog what it means to sacrifice natural or innate gifts/strengths. For me, natural or innate means that we didn’t ask for them and they were designed in us. Probably why they are commonly called “gifts.” But, this then leads me to believe that our natural gifts are actually supernatural in that we were powerless to make them happen. We call them natural because we are born with them, but birth, creation, and all that we entail as humans is supernatural.
And, if they are gifts, and there is goodness in these gifts, it’s not a simple thing to figure out how or why we sacrifice these gifts/strengths. I think there is a line from Shakespeare about lilies that fester (go bad) smelling worse than weeds. Don’t know what this was meant to say at the time, but lilies don’t ask to be made lilies any more than weeds ask to be weeds.
For me, the thoughts shared about all of us feeling inconsequential begin to speak to the need to sacrifice our natural gifts and talents, which your blog calls us to do. So much has been written about how even “celebrities” feel the same way and struggle deeply with inadequacy and their sense of meaningless. And they’re the ones we believe have all the gifts!
I think it’s also possible to miss God’s deeper gifts by willfully insisting, (and hiding behind), a belief that we have NO gifts and we are just the “weeds.” I know that has worked for me rather nicely. If I’m basically nothing, with nothing to offer, I don’t have to “show up,” do the work, suffer in the efforts, walk with Jesus, take risks, etc., which are all really hard to do!
Whether we live in our envious gifting or live feeling like worthless weeds, the need to sacrifice is for all of us because of the heart-level reality of not living as someone loved by God. (Like, seriously, in real-time, living as one who is loved by God.) This is what demands putting to death a lot of things, and frankly, I hate it.
It’s far easier to do, or go to, something else that is easier (and the list is practically endless) than to give up this way of living to pursue a life in the Spirit which seems so unseen, so unreal, so… well, a lot of things. It’s hard. It actually causes me to suffer. The smaller, easier way of existing has a kind of suffering, but the larger, higher but harder way of living hurts even more, at least for a time.
So, yep, I’m known as someone who believes in God, and that would be accurate, but I live without God much of the time, whether I’m feeling like a pretty awesome lily or feeling like an ugly weed.
GREAT to have you share here. I love your ending, about learning a life in the Spirit.
As for sacrificing the natural, here is why I think it is important. Sure, a gift is a gift, natural or supernatural. But in all our “natural” gifting, we walk independent of God. We really do. The “good” is always the biggest enemy of the “great.” Our natural goodness doesn’t look to God to operate.
The saddest people I meet are usually the angriest people I meet, and they are usually the people relying most on their natural gifts.
It’s not that natural gifts are sinful; it’s that they contribute to independence from God.
I was drawn by the Lord’s wisdom to read what Yéshua said to His talmidim – disciples in chapter 18. “At that moment His talmidim came to Yéshua and asked Him “Who is the GREATEST in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child to Him, stood him amongst them and said “Yes! I tell you that unless you change and become like little children, you won’t even ENTER the kingdom of heaven. So the greatest in the kingdom is whoever makes himself as HUMBLE as this child. Whoever welcomes one such child in My name, welcomes Me, and whoever ensnares once of these little ones who trust in Me, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the open sea!” This struck me hard. “whoever makes himself as humble as this child.” – “is the greatest in the kingdom!” And so it is. I saw one Yom Kippur three years ago, that I had to repent to G-d very much. That was that I’d seen my pride and judgemental ways. As I had prayed this He gave me such warmth in my aching back and healed the chronic back pain of over thirty years. And knew He was blessing humility in me to admit this. But I have to sadly say, Samuel, that it has taken all these years to finally extinguish that judgemental way in thinking and beholding people. This through seeing with His way of showing that every creature He has created (*) He loves with endless enduring Love – EVERY person. But didn’t He say that G-d sees each SPARROW as it falls?! So I’m seeing how His love is upon all whom or which He has created. That alone makes me feel humbled.
So great to hear from you, and I love your story of humility. Thank you for sharing.
We all–everyone of us–have this compelling to be strong, good, and independent. But our Father calls us to admit our weakness and walk in dependence. And it goes against every fiber of our fallen being (and against all that the world teaches us).
I’m so glad you are hearing His voice.
(*) I mean EVERY person, animal, bird, fish , sea creature maybe – even every part of nature trees, flowers with their so beautiful looks and often perfumes HE created? How WIDE G-d’s love and care is and how DARE any of we men think that he is perfect in ways. Ways that to Him are they of say a nine month old babe looking up to his say Dad who is say a PhD and a tremendously intelligent father!
Exactly. How dare we! (And how stupid of us.)