Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)
Seeking The Wrong Praise
The admiration of others is an important part of relationships and how many people identify themselves. Goals are set early in life to become an accomplished athlete, musician, business entrepreneur, or remembered as a historical figure. Men strive for the gold ring of excellence to hear the applause of others praising who they are. They become stars and famous people with accolades of self-importance. Trophies are given, awards bestowed, names flashed across the screen, and for some, they see buildings and structures named after them. The praise of men. It can be very heady, alluring, and intoxicating.
What happens after the awards show is over, and the cleanup crews are putting everything back together? Where do the golden trophies reside? How long will a famous name be remembered? Who can identify the name inscribed on a building in generations to come? The Oscar for best actor in 1956 is long forgotten. Few will know who won the World Series in 1959. Thomas Starzl was a world-renowned doctor who, in 1963, did something very few people know about. There are myriads of buildings named after people that are long forgotten. This is the praise of men that is so powerful in life and yet easily forgotten in the next generation.
The futility of the praise of men is that it is so fleeting. The span of a man’s life is so brief, and when he dies, his memories fade into distant images of days gone by with little or no significance to the next generation. People get older and more feeble in time no matter how rich or famous they become. When older men and women try to retain their youth by looking thirty years younger, they only succeed in making themselves look ten years more foolish. The praise of men is temporary – very temporary. Nothing is lasting about fame. It flourishes for a time and then vanishes away as quickly.
It is difficult to imagine how those living when Jesus walked among them could not embrace His teachings and His message. The miracles proved beyond doubt that He was God. When He preached before the multitudes, hearts were stirred with either the passion of goodness or the zeal for hatred. There was no middle ground. Jesus was the Son of God, or He was a fraud. Among the Jewish rulers, many believed in Jesus. They accepted His teaching as divine. There was no doubt about His divine powers. His message was always a moving and challenging experience. These men believed in Jesus Christ, but they could not acknowledge any allegiance lest they fall from favor from their peers. They were unwilling to admit they believed in Jesus for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue.
Jesus knew why the rulers would not acknowledge Him as the Son of God. They loved human praise more than the praise of God. If they confessed Christ, they would lose their influence among their fellow Jews. People would shun them and treat them as the offscouring of the world. If they wanted fame and power, they could never admit to believing Jesus was the Son of God. So, they held on to the praise of men, and when they died, the praise of men died with them. Their attempt to have praise failed. It was of no value.
Today, there are those in the world who can never devote their lives to serve the Lord as it would harm their social status, job security, or position among their friends. They deny any allegiance to being a Christian because they love the praise of men more. No one knows they are a Christian, and they want to keep it that way. Their lives become empty shells of hypocrisy, showing the world a face of social acceptance, believing that God will accept their pretense to save them. Death comes to all men, and the praise of men ends. What happens next is the tragedy of the story. The praise of men cannot save a soul from condemnation. Only the praise of God can do that. When it is too late, every heart will want to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; who loved My praise more than the praise of men.” Sadly, few will hear these words. Why? The praise of men is strong, powerful, alluring, and deceitful. The only question left to be asked is whose praise are you seeking? Men or God? Choose.