Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Perils of Popularity (Luke 6:26)

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way. (Luke 6:26 NASB)

We have come to the fourth woe. "Woe to you when men speak well of you" is directly contrasted with verse 22, which promises blessings when you are insulted for your faith. In the first instance (the woe), it is the same treatment given to false prophets. In the second, the blessing is in sharing the hard treatment of the true prophets of God. 

What was it about false prophets that garnered praise? They spoke what the people wanted to hear. False prophets condoned sinful behavior, including that specifically forbidden by God, looked the other way when widows and orphans were neglected, and not only failed to condemn idol worship but encouraged it, sometimes going so far as to participate in it. Their religion was just for show, yet they maintained a position of authority in the church. In a way, false prophets were a boon to a sin-loving society, especially in a nation that was intended to be a theocracy. The false prophets allowed whatever the people wanted, and twisted the words of God to make it seem acceptable to Him. God, of course, did not appreciate the work of the false prophets, nor the people following them, so their temporary popularity eventually resulted in bondage to sin and literal slavery to the Babylonians, followed by occupation by various military powers for centuries. Even the homeland they occupy today is only a portion of what God intended, and there is no peace in the land.  

Whoa! Who wants to be compared to a false prophet? Hopefully, no one!  In this verse, Jesus is saying that the praise of man is often not a good thing, as history has shown. In general, if we are loved and lauded by all, it is because we have pleased them all. If we have stood for righteousness and spoken truth, we are not likely to please everyone, even if we have worked tirelessly doing good deeds. Jesus is certainly the best example of this. He brought grace and mercy, preached love, kindness, humility, and generosity, healed multitudes of sick and demon-possessed, and never sinned, yet He was hated by the religious leaders and it fueled his arrest and murder. 

There is a temptation, of course, to say that Jesus and the prophets had a very rough go. They were, at the least, treated badly and many were martyred, and it is not a treatment that is very easily embraced for oneself. On the other hand, those false prophets seemed to have a pretty cozy position. 

Eternity. That's where the difference comes, and where the ultimate rewards are meted out. Our Lord has promised that, though we do not see the rewards of heaven in this life, one day we will. As followers of the Christ, we are to live as if eternity is our real home, knowing that the trials and tribulations of this life are only temporary. 

You cannot please both God and man. The question we all must answer is which one we live to please?

Today, pray that we will live with eternity in mind and that our loved ones will chose to do the same. Pray, too, that we will be more concerned about the praise of God than the praise of man. 
Here's the link to last night's guest blog: