Groveling at the Feet of God to Whom All Praise, Honor, and Glory is Due

tim tebow

Tim Tebow, giving God all the praise, honor, and glory.

Dear Human Worms,

You are NOTHING! It’s all about me. I am your King, Lord, Sovereign, and master. Nothing happens that escapes my eye. I hear, see, and know everything. I am the one who gives you the ability to breathe and move your legs. I am the one who is in control of every aspect of your lives. I am the puppet master of the universe. I spoke the universe into existence and I alone have the power to give and take life. Get it into your head, worm — it’s all about me, me, me!

Now, grovel before me, worm. 

God

Millions of Christians believe that what I have written above accurately portrays God and their subservience to him. Simply put, with one voice these worms cry, You are everything, oh Lord, and I am n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Each and every day countless Christians do good works, yet, if they are true to the teachings of the Bible, these do-gooders never take credit for their acts of love, kindness, and compassion (or touchdowns, winning baskets, or walk-off home runs). No matter how much effort  and time Christians put into helping others, they must never, ever take the credit. If they do, they are reminded of the fact that the Bible says, without me [God] ye can do nothing. God is everything, everything, everything. Christians are nothing, nothing, nothing.

Why then, do Christians do things such as tell their pastors, great sermon, applaud when singing groups or soloists finish their songs, clap when church children perform, and thank others for doing a good job? Why then, do churches advertise the name of their pastors? Why do churches praise the hard work of Sunday school teachers, missionaries, youth leaders and junior church workers? Why do churches put “IN MEMORY OF . . . ” plates/labels on things, reminding everyone of who gave the money for this or that item/project.  Shouldn’t imprints of human effort be stripped away, and God alone be given all the praise, honor, and glory?

The truth is, Christians love receiving the approbation of others as much as the rest of us. I am a big believer in giving credit to whom credit is due. I appreciate it when people thank me for the work I do on this blog. Their support helps spur me on, be it financial support or a short email that lets me know they appreciate my writing. When people do well, we should praise them. I know I don’t do it enough.

My children have turned out to be good people. They aren’t perfect, but neither is their father. My oldest son was recently promoted to a management position with a large manufacturing concern. My youngest son was recently promoted to team leader at the same company. Son number two is a network administrator for a local wireless internet provider and phone company. Son number three is an expert automobile mechanic. My youngest daughter continues to sharpen her seamstress and furniture restoration skills.

Eighteen years ago, Polly started working in the auxiliary services department for a large manufacturing business. We moved away from Northwest Ohio several times, yet each time we returned, Polly’s previous employer immediately offered her a job. Last year, Polly was promoted to the position of shift coordinator. She is responsible for second and third shift auxiliary services employees. If you had asked me 20 years ago whether Polly was supervisor material, I would have said no. Yet, here she is, supervising two shifts, and, by all accounts, doing a great job.

My children and wife have one trait in common: they are all hard workers. When Polly and I first married, our meals consisted of whatever came from boxes or cans. Today, Polly is an excellent — dare I say superb — scratch chef. Unbeknownst to Polly, I ordered her an immersion mixer. It arrived today. Her glee was a sight to behold. Why, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that I bought her a vibrator with a lifetime supply of batteries.

As many of you know, I have someone who edits my writing. While I am a better writer than I was a year ago, there are days when my writing, due to fatigue, pain, or entrenched bad habits, can still be a pain in the ass to edit. While she tells me it is not necessary, I thank my editor from time to time. Why? Because I appreciate her hard work.

Yes, many people are lazy slackers whose goal in life is to do as little work as possible. These workers tend to be the people whom we complain about on social media. Sadly, some people just don’t care. But, others do. When cashiers, waitresses, restaurant workers, and customer service representatives — to name a few — do a great job I try my best to say thanks. If they are wearing a name tag, I address them by their name. It takes all of two seconds for me to do this, yet it reminds those serving me that I appreciate their efforts.

And that’s the point of this post. Why should a narcissistic, demanding employer — God — receive praise for that which he did not do?  Everything you and I do today, tomorrow, and until we end up ashes in urns is because of our own hard work and effort. Granted, none of us got to where we are today without the help of others (Thanks, Mom!). Hillary Clinton is right; it takes a village to raise a child. My life is the sum of all those who have touched and helped me in some way. It is important that I recognize this lest I turn into Donald Trump. I would not be where I am today without the help of others. When I write the acknowledgement pages for my book, I will rightly thank all those who helped me along the way. But, none of them will expect me to grovel at their feet, giving all the praise, honor, and glory to them. Only in the Christian world are people expected to die to self and give God the praise that should be theirs.

deny self

Is it any surprise, then, that many Christians have poor/no self-esteem? I know it has taken Polly and I many years to regain any sort of respect for self. Hammered by a lifetime of preaching meant to destroy self-worth, is it any wonder that, to this day, we have a hard time accepting praise from others. Our lives were swallowed whole by God’s absolute claim on our lives. We were called on to be bond servants (slaves) of the most high God. We worked seven days a week, from early morning hours to late at night — never once expecting the praise of others. We do it for you, Jesus, we said to the ceiling, believing that none of our good works would have been possible without God. Even when people broke with protocol and threw some praise our way, we quickly deflected it, throwing it back to God. We are just his humble servants, we told those who thanked us. Without him, we are nothing.

If I have learned anything post-Jesus, it is that without him I have come to understand that I am someone who is deserving of the approbation of others. I have worth and value. I matter to my my wife, children, and grandchildren. I matter to my friends and extended family. And yes, I matter to many of the readers of this blog. And I can say the same about those who have positively touched my life. We matter, not because of God, but because we are fellow travelers on the road of life. While we are all headed for the same destination — a soylent green factory — how much better and fulfilling is our journey having people by our side.

How about you? Were you taught that all praise, glory, and honor belonged to God? How did these teaches affect your view of self? What have you done to regain a healthy view of self? Do you still have a hard time accepting praise from others? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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8 Comments

  1. Pingback: The cult of self-abasement | Civil Commotion

  2. Kittybrat

    Oh, HELL YES!
    I get awkward and embarrassed when thanked and/or praised. Just to be appreciated sends me into stammering. Still practicing just cutting it down to “thank you” as a response. You know what? “Thank you” is the only appropriate response when someone is acknowledging.
    Having lived my life serving others “as to the Lord”, I feel stupid and unworthy when I get “attaboys”.
    Self-esteem is the first to go in Fundamentalism…

    Bruce, once again you’ve spoken truth to power! Thank you for being my secular pastor, Man! LOVE to you and to Polly the Great!

    Reply
    1. Brian

      What ↑she↑ said!

      Reply
  3. anotherami

    I have this problem too and my exposure to fundamentalism was brief- from about ages 11-14. Thanks to Bruce and this blog, I am finally seeing more of the roots of my own struggles with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. On this particular aspect of it, the source is clear. It was written in the back of my Bible when I “got saved” at a Baptist revival that came to my step-grandmother’s church.
    I imagine I’m not the only reader here who is familiar with this:

    J – Jesus first
    O – Others second
    Y – Yourself last

    Unless one is a narcissist to begin with, that shit is poison and a sure way to destroy an adolescent’s self-worth. It took 3 years of therapy to even acknowledge that if I didn’t take at least minimal care of myself, I couldn’t take care of others either. To this day, I still suck at it with all the fervor of a Hoover vacuum upgraded by Tim “The Toolman” Taylor.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      Thanks for this, anotherami! Odd thing, that we embrace the Cross and willingly agree that we are a cow-patty and deserve to burn eternally. How did we get there? What happened to us to lead us to a shit-plop in the mirror? And to do that to children! What a royal destruction of innocence.

      Reply
  4. B

    This made me absolutely cry. It is so true and well said! My self confidence and self esteem took a serious hit when a very close family member estranged herself from our family. In the process of deconverting, how much more have I just been unable to define what the heck I would do with all that time, talent, money, effort, gifts, etc etc etc that had willingly been given to an imaginary being and the institutions propagandizing religious bull shit! All the time wondering why I felt so down and worthless. Fuck that! I need to find myself and purpose not putting Jesus or anyone else at the expense of my own self and self worth. An imaginary deity does not deserve praise for what good humans do! or for random happenings, coincidences, or dumb luck! Never again!

    Reply
  5. TLC

    Oh, yeah. That “all the ceedit goes to God” thing hit me the hardest last year, when I finally renounced fundagelicalism for good. I am self-employed and next month will celebrate the 8th anniversary of starting my business. I was TERRIFIED last year that my business would soon fail. Because God was the one who’d gotten me this far, and how would my business continue to succeed if He was no longer with me?

    Now, through the help of people here and many others (Neil Carter has a wonderful post on this), I realized that I am the one who did all this work. God wasn’t setting up meetings and going to networking events. Jesus wasn’t answering emails, building websites, taking photos. The Holy Spirit wasn’t writing proposals and signing contracts. That was ME.

    As a fundagelical, I soon realized that the question of taking credit and giving praise depended on the person giving and receiving. If a pastor or other “exalted” person was receiving praise, then that was OK because they were “worthy.” But if I was feeling blue because I felt forgotten or unrecognized, well then I was “too proud” and I need to work on my “humility.”

    Reply
  6. Rex Jamesson

    Bruce, I can unabashedly say thanks SO MUCH for that! No thanks to an imaginary being – your writing is so refreshing. There’s little I can add to the heart-felt deep emotion listed above. I actually managed to get through 4+ decades of fundagelicalism with reasonably-ok self esteem. Maybe it was because even though I always publicly reflected all “glory” for my talents back to god, there was a voice inside of me that did repeat when I was praised, “well, you’re not half bad yourself!” But I’ve been one of the lucky ones…

    What I really wanted to mention is just: isn’t “breaking” a person, in the same way that Christian fundamentalism does, a core part of creating a culture of mindless drones? The military does it to break individual will and replace it with their particular group-think. I’m not against the military when I say that – it’s just that, I see the “self is nothing, god is everything” meme as survival ploy of the religion – a particularly potent way of a religion to survive. It is terrifyingly like the parasite that destroys an ant’s brain, making it move to a high point on a blade of grass, to be eaten by an unsuspecting grazer who moves that parasite through the next stage of its life and thus survival. I believe the low self esteem is a survival means for the religion itself. Which of course makes it even more nefarious!

    Reply

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