Something within us knows that when we do something well, celebration is in order. Some achievements are even worthy of an award. 

Further, we know that it feels really good when others acknowledge our significant achievements by showing up for the award ceremony. After all, graduation diplomas, race medals, and other forms of recognition could easily be handed out privately (or even as a .pdf download in an email). But, we go all out for big celebrations and invite our family and friends to the occasion.

We were made to achieve and made to crave the affirmation that comes when we achieve.

That desire to be awarded and affirmed is not wrong. It is just misplaced if what we do is simply for the praise of people. 

Listen to Jesus as He gives the first of three warnings, all of which tell us not to crave the praise of people:

Matthew 6:1 (NLT): “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”

From this simple verse, I want to draw out some very basic principles:

  • God plans to reward us for our good deeds! But, we will have to wait. It will ultimately happen at the Judgment Seat and for the rest of eternity.
  • It’s not just what we do – it’s WHY we do it. We can do a very good deed and yet do it with a wrong motive which will wipe out all hopes for a reward from our Heavenly Father.
  • It’s not necessary wrong to be applauded by others and to enjoy it. We just can’t make their affirmation our aim.
  • It’s not even wrong to do our good deeds in front of other people so long as we don’t do it for their affirmation. Given our sinful propensities and craving for human affirmation, it is often better to simply do our good deeds behind the scenes.
So, why is it so wrong to crave the affirmation of our peers? Let me give you a few reasons:
  • If we live for the praise of others, we will be elated when they give praise and depressed when they withhold it.
  • If we live for the praise of others, we may forego doing a good thing (or do it poorly) when we think no one will notice.
  • If we live for the praise of others, it shows that we have elevated people above God. We crave their approval more than His. So, we have broken the first commandment (“You shall have no other gods before Me.”).
  • If we live for the praise of others, then we may get some pleasure from their applause but it will only last for a few moments. Shortly thereafter, we are left to relive the moment in our memories because the applause is now over.
  • If we live for the praise of others, then when they applaud us (or don’t), we received what we desired. If we didn’t do it to receive God’s affirmation, He is under no obligation to give it … because we didn’t crave it.
  • But, if we live for the praise of God, then others can applaud us but we aren’t consumed by their praise. We didn’t do it for them. We did it for the Lord. And we know that when He applauds us, it will be much more satisfying and His reward will last for eternity.

So, if you want applause that will satisfy the deepest recesses of your soul and a reward that will last for all of eternity, then don’t do your good deeds for others. They may see and may applaud you but don’t do it for that. Do it for the Lord. He won’t let you down.