SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

THE DANGERS OF UNDESERVED PRAISE

Bishop François Fénelon noticed that some of those in the parish, who were busy going around helping others cope in the aftermath of the recent war, seemed to be doing it so that everyone would see what a fine Christian they were. The problem was, they weren’t paying attention to their need for self-inspection and a harmonious relationship with God. So, the Bishop had these words to share with them:parish,

Showing sorrow for sin and undergoing other humbling circumstances are far more profitable than the constant desire for success. You know that your troubles helped you find out what you never knew before about yourself, and that the recognition, success, and admiration that come your way will make you self-satisfied. However, such self-satisfaction will bring disarray to the best-organized life because it is incompatible with humility. Therefore, being a successful Christian is far less effective than being a significant Christian.

We can be modest only so long as we give attention to all our spiritual weaknesses. Being conscious of this should be foremost in our mind; the soul should feel burdened by them and groan under them, and that groaning should be a perpetual prayer to be set free from “its bondage to decay,” and admitted into the “glorious freedom of the children of God.”[1] Overwhelmed by its faults, the soul should feel it deserves no deliverance by the great mercy of Jesus the Anointed One. Woe to the self-satisfied soul that treats God’s gifts as merits from good works and forgets what is due to God!

Set apart daily seasons for reading, meditation, and prayer. Involve yourself in helping others, when necessary, but be attentive to softening the harshness of your judgment, restraining your temper, and humbling your mind than upholding your opinion even when it is correct. Finally, humble yourself whenever you find that an undue interest in the affairs of others has led you to forget the one all-important matter of yourself: eternity.

Learn from me,” Jesus says, “for 1 am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.[2] Be sure that grace, inward peace, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit will be with you if you maintain an unassuming attitude amid all your external uncertainties.

Written over 450 years ago

Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

One Christian lady told her pastor: I’m a middle-aged woman who is generally well-rounded in personality. I have a lot of good qualities. However, I have been trying to understand a basic flaw in my personality that gets me in trouble and that I know is unappealing to others. Despite how I try not to do it, I find myself falling back into a pattern that includes monopolizing conversations, talking about myself, bragging, and seeming to be a know-it-all. I think I would be better able to control this negative behavior if I understood why I do it. I remember bragging excessively as a child. My mother bragged about me too. I want people to be impressed and to like me, but this competitiveness has the opposite effect. I want to find the root cause of this behavior and what I can do to avoid it in the future.

Our Lord faced the same kind of situation in His day. He wanted them to know that the world is not a stage for us to show off how religious we are. Here’s what Jesus said:

“Be especially careful when you try to be a good Christian so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t make a big deal out of it to call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure they are artists. They treat prayer and speaking engagements like a performance, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowd. Yes, they get applause, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it even if no one is watching, don’t try to show off. That is the way God, who conceived you in love, is working behind the scenes to help you out.[3]


[1] Romans 8:21

[2] Matthew 11:29

[3] Matthew 6:1-4

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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