Day 25: Audience

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

As I began writing this series, realizing how much I had wanted to impress God, the phrase "audience of one" began to sound wrong.

I really had to think about if I thought this was bad advice or not.  I went to the Bible to find some clarity.  Should we be doing everything for an audience of one, meaning God?

The verses I found on this subject seemed to be in two different categories, the work we do in a workplace and the work we do to serve others.

In the case of workplace work, the verse I found is actually addressing slaves.

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
— Colossians 3:22-25 ESV

Context matters.  This verse comes from a letter Paul wrote to the church in Colossus, and he had just asked wives to honor their husbands, husbands to love their wives, and children to obey their parents.  Even as a slave, we should not be people-pleasers.  We are to work, whatever the work may be, as if we are working just for God, even in the harshest of work conditions.

If we are taking orders at a fast-food restaurant, cleaning bathrooms, entering data into computers, stocking shelves, preparing reports, making sales, washing other peoples' clothes, or writing code, we should do the task in a way that pleases God.

The Message version of this verse is worth reading.

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.
— Colossians 3:22-25 The Message

Another kind of work we do as Christians is good works.  When we serve others, we are commanded to do it for only the Lord as well.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
— Matthew 6:1-2 ESV

These words are straight from the lips of Christ, and he warns us to avoid looking like a hypocrite by serving others in secret.  I've been serving others all of my adult life in ministry.  Serving in secret is easy some days, no one is watching because, honestly, no one cares.  Other days, it is not as simple.

My husband's job is to tell others about the work we are doing downtown in ministry.  He produces a tv show that has a large segment informing others of the ministry we are doing.  Our church couldn't serve the hundreds of families and children with just the tithes we receive on Sundays.  We have to raise money to fulfill the mission we have downtown.  We have never thrown fundraisers, but we have taken the approach of telling people what we are doing and then depending on God.  As we tell people what we are doing, God prompts them to give to our ministry.  We have been serving families and children in the neighborhood surrounding downtown for 20 years now.  This month marks 20 years of ministry, and the Amarillo Globe News came downtown to do a newspaper story on our church.

Is all of this non-secret ministry going against the words of Jesus?  I don't think it is.  God has used our tv shows, newsletters, and other media to provide for our ministry.

In some circles, there are public relation people employed to organize service by celebrities only for the recognition and nothing else.  That actually happens.  

I ask myself, "Would I stop doing this ministry if I was never recognized for it?"  And, "Does me telling others about my service actually go to encourage more service?"  And, "How do I feel about the service I've done where I am never recognized?  Am I still glad I did it?  Am I doing all of my good works with The Lord as my audience?"

The Message version of this verse says it this way.

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
— Matthew 6:1 The Message

I think the reason "audience of one" sounded off is that audiences usually applaud.  I've been in a lot of audiences at concerts and shows.  The audience is impressed with the performance that took place, and they whistle, yell, jump, and clap to show their appreciation.

God is not that kind of audience.  We should only be concerned with what God thinks of us, but we shouldn't be expecting applause.

He loves us.  He is pleased with us; He promises rewards in Heaven, but we cannot strive to impress God.

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