The little girl was rather shy; she wasn’t the kind to stand beside a visitors and chatter away. Instead she quietly whirled and twirled around the room, often checking to see that I was watching. Each child has his own way of saying, “Look at me!”
We all have it, don’t we? We just have different ways of going about it: teens with neon hair and many piercings that shout “NOTICE ME!”; the ‘fashion plate’ with not a hair out of place, clicking around on six-inch heels; the ones who derive their status from the designer labels they wear. To them this says “COOL”; older folks often read it as “INSECURE.”
It’s such a part of our human nature, this insecurity rooted in pride that tugs at us, wanting attention, approval, applause. If we give in to it, it will drive us to do things so we’ll be noticed, to have others say, “Wow. Look at her!” Even to provoke a little envy. ”Do I ever wish I had her looks… body… dress… whatever…” Then years later we look back and wonder, “How could I have done something SO obvious?”
When we become Christians, we realize that pride is unacceptable to God. The Bible calls it “the root of all evil.” The Holy Spirit will nudge us when we start to slide into areas of honour-seeking. But that desire for applause wants to creep back into our lives; like the scribes and pharisees we develop more sophisticated ways of getting attention.
They chose good deeds, long prayers, fasting, religious garb. All worthy activities, but Jesus reproved them because they did these things “to be seen of men.” He warned them that God knew exactly what was in their hearts—and it wasn’t pretty. He tells His followers to shun honour-seeking and rather to take the humble place of a servant. Matthew 23:7-12
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” Matthew 6:5
“But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the market, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” Matthew 23:7
One day I was asked to say an opening prayer at a ladies’ meeting. I considered some of the needs and decisions we were facing and started out. As I was praying, some ladies heartily sighed, “Yes Lord!” in agreement and I felt rather flattered. I could get hooked on that! To get that kind of “Amen” I might even be tempted to choose my words to please others rather than to please God.
I attended a different church service one Sunday and observed their “praise & worship” time where everyone stood up, raised their hands and joined in a chorus of praise to God. I don’t want to knock this idea, but I did take note of one teen girl who was making a lot of motions with her body that seemed more “to be seen of men” than for God’s glory. I could see myself in her: that longing for attention that I had as a teen and the things I did to be noticed.
God doesn’t need for us to wiggle and wave and sigh deeply to get His attention. He “hears” our spirits. He asks us to be holy as He is holy—no hidden sin, no idols—to be pure of selfish motives when we come before Him. (1Pe 1:16) He tells us we must empty our hearts of malice, of envy, of resentment. (James 4:8) He commands us to forgive. (Mark 11:25) We can fool ourselves, but we can’t fool Him; He knows exactly what is in our hearts.
As He goes with us through each and every day of our lives–watches us choose our clothes, our shoes, our hairstyles–He understands exactly why we make the choices we do. He knows the look we want, the picture we want to present to others. He sees why we walk a certain way when we know certain others are watching. As He listens to our conversations with others, He knows what’s behind the words we say. Are we conscious of serving Him? Of grieving Him?
(And to make matters worse, our motives are often obvious to the people we meet, too. We look just like that little girl twirling in circles to be noticed. So who ARE we kidding?)