Praise From Men or Praise From God
For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
Loving the praise of men more than the praise of God is not something I'm proud of, but the truth is, I can identify all too well with the parents of the man Jesus healed who was born blind. I wrote in my journal that I wanted to be more like the blind man while he was with the Pharisees. But I will get to that in a minute.
In John 9, we find Jesus walking along with His disciples when they see a blind man. The disciples must have been familiar with him because they asked Jesus if the reason he was born blind was because of his own sins or the sins of his parents. If they didn't know who this man was, how would they have known he was blind from birth? Anyway, Jesus surprised them when He said, "It was not because of his sins or the sins of his parents. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him."
We don't usually think in terms of sin when we see a blind person or someone who is ill or disabled, but neither do we believe it's because God wants to display His glory through their situation. But the Bible says right in this passage that's exactly what God wanted to do.
Jesus spit on the ground and made some mud. He spread the mud over the blind man's eyes and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. This instruction sounds slightly bizarre, and I wonder if the man hesitated. We aren't told. We only know he went to the pool, washed his eyes, and returned as a seeing man.
The people who knew him as a blind beggar asked him how he could see? He told them the story of how Jesus healed him, but when they asked where Jesus was, the man said he didn't know. So they took him to the Pharisees because it was the Sabbath, and working on the Sabbath was forbidden by law.
The Pharisees argued over who Jesus was and questioned the man again. They still weren't sure they believed his story, so they called in his parents. His parents said, "We know our son was born blind, but we don't know anything about how he can now see or who healed him. Ask him for he is old enough to speak for himself."
When I first read what the parents said, I assumed they weren't there when their son was healed, and they really didn't know. But then the next verse tells us there was more going on with what they said. The parents answered the way they did because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. This man's parents didn't want to be kicked out. Fear silenced them. They cared more about what the Pharisees thought than what they secretly believed. The parents wanted to please the Pharisees more than they wanted to please God. In other words, they feared man.
When the Pharisees questioned the man again on how he was healed and accused Jesus of being a sinner, the man stood up to them. He told them, "I don't know if He is a sinner; what I do know is I was blind, but now I see. I've already told you how He healed me. Do you want me to tell you again so you can be His disciples, too?" His response angered the Pharisees, but the man went on when they claimed they didn't know where Jesus came from. "That's strange," the man replied. "He healed my eyes, yet you don't know where he comes from? We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man was not from God, he couldn't have done it." That's when the Pharisees threw him out of the synagogue; the very thing the parents were afraid would happen to them. Who do you think did what was right? The man who was healed and stood up to the Pharisees, or his parents who were afraid to say what they believed but kept there place in the synagogue? We live in a world that has convinced many Christians that it is wrong to stand up for what they believe. Don't "rock the boat" or talk about things that might offend others. We don't fear getting kicked out of the church, but what if it meant we lost our job, or we were rejected by the ones we love?
I believe the world is wrong on this point. And so are we if we refuse to stand for God's truth. The praise from God is more important than the praise of men. God asks us to tells others about Jesus, stand up for the truth in the Bible, and live in such a way that lets others know we are different. When we act like we don't know who Jesus is and are unwilling to risk offending others when faced with speaking God's truth, then it's likely because we are afraid of what they might say or do, or we care more about being comfortable and accepted. I know, because this is still my struggle.
Do you see why I want to be more like the blind man who was bold, rather than his parents who were afraid? When I think about why I am so scared to speak up about Jesus in a "hostile" situation, and why I care so much about being accepted by man, I realize my worst fears have never come true. But they might. When I have taken a few small steps of faith and offered to pray for a co-worker or invited them to the Christmas program or told them I am a Christian, not a single person has rejected me or ridiculed me or started ignoring me, all things I am afraid of. I know the message of the cross is offensive to those who will not believe, so I am aware of the things I fear happening could happen. I want to get to the place where I am willing to accept the consequences of doing what pleases God when others don't like what I'm saying or doing. I don't know if the blind man cared that he was thrown out of the synagogue or if his conviction was just that strong that he was willing to risk rejection and any consequences. Regardless, he was bold, and that's what I want to be. I want my conviction to be stronger than my fear, and I want to care about others more than I care about my own comfort and ease. I believe the day is coming when I will live victorious in this area.
If you are like me and struggle to speak up about Jesus when you don't know how others will respond, how does it make you feel? Are you sad about it, or do you think it's not your responsibility? Do you, too, want to overcome this fear and get to the place where the praise of God is more important than the praise of people? If we take small steps, God will honor us with more. I always think of the verse where Zechariah tells Zerubbabel not to despise these small beginnings (Zech 4:10). God is faithful and will complete the good work He began (Phil 1:6).
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Tim 1:7
I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Prov 29:25
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Ps 118:6
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 Jn 4:18
I really like David Jeremiah's daily devotional on the Praise of Men.