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Popularity (Matthew 23)

The great sin of the Pharisees was losing sight of God in the issues of fame, fortune, pleasure and power. They wanted to be recognized.  The gold in the temple became more important than the temple, convenience and living over others was what their religion produced.

The Pharisees were lost in self-promotion.  It was actually required.  Pharisees had to maintain social standing in the community, be seen in the right places, dressed the right way, be recognized for who they are to maintain influence.

Not much has changed.  Social media has fostered this same world of self-promotion where people seem to compete for attention. In the early years of social media, people had to have something to say, whether on a blog or message board, but now you just need the right look or share the right video to be recognized.  You can promote your movies, books and causes, just to show the world that you are relevant.

A pastor and his family took his daughter to Italy for her senior trip.  For a pastor, this was a treasure, to see the Colosseum and the Forum in Rome.  He had been there before, but every time was special. This trip was different.  He hadn’t been in a few years and rather than people taking pictures of sites, people were posing using a selfie stick.  After several minutes of getting the right picture, the volume of people backed up at all the tourist sites.

The out-of-touch pastor didn’t understand why people would be getting glamour shots in front of the arch of Titus missing the significance of the monument, or the Colosseum…  His daughter tried to explain:

“Dad, it’s bragging rights. They’re taking selfies to prove to everyone where they’ve been. That’s far more important these days.”

To which the pastor replied, “It’s all about image, isn’t it?”

She continued to explain the social dynamics of our world to her out-of-touch father, ending her little tutorial with a wry smile and saying, “To be seen is the only thing that matters.” 

The pastor looked back to see the gang of tourists with their selfie sticks, posing in front of the arch of Titus, ignoring the dramatic scene of the aftermath of the destruction of Jewish temple in AD 70 carved in the wall, wondering what the ancient people of Jerusalem who suffered the tragedy would have thought of the charade. 

Then, with the words of Jesus echoing in my ears, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt 23:12) (Reeves)1

Maybe we are not as different from Pharisees as we think…  Maybe God is calling us beyond our own fame to live for His glory. Maybe this is not about Mark Zuckerberg changing Facebook.  Social media is successful because it caters to our hearts.  Maybe it’s time for us to take a moment and look at who we really are.

1. Matthew, Story of God, Bible Commentary, Rodney Reeves