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Do We Make Our Status Before Men as More Important Than Our Status Before God?


Eric V. Snow Sermonette 04-17-04 Ann Arbor, MI  UCG



      Many years ago I read a controversial book by the philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand called The Fountainhead.   Now the author’s errors are well-known, for she was both an atheist and opposed to the Christian morality of self-sacrifice.   But she still had powerful and acute observations about how human nature operates in the world which can’t be brushed aside, for I believe she was really on to something despite her unusually large blind spots.  In the novel she portrays a very social but very manipulative architect named Peter Keating.  He manages to stay popular with most people on the job with the same architecture firm despite finding sneaky ways to get promoted by getting others to quit or get fired.  The central error of his life is to prioritize what other people think is true or morally right as being more important than what is actually is true or morally right.  His counterpart, the hero of the novel and also an architect, is Howard Roark.  He’s a man of artistic and moral integrity who would rather work in a quarry as a laborer than design a building that violates his esthetic principles.  He’s ultimately a financial and professional success while Keating, the charming manipulator, is ultimately a failure.


As Christians we have to consider whether we’re operating like Peter Keating in our lives spiritually:  Do we want a high status among men more than to please God?  Do we live our lives mainly to impress others, such as family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors?  Or are we willing to humble ourselves socially if necessary in order to obey God?


We need to self-examine ourselves to see if we’re seeking the praise of men more than the praise of God when the two conflict in our daily lives.  We need to check whether we’ll uphold truth when it’s unpopular or even dangerous to do so. 


S.P.S.  We should obey God’s truth even when it causes others to look down on us.


Matt. 10:28-33


V. 28:  Who’s ultimately in charge anyway?  It’s not our bosses at work.  It’s not our parents.  It’s not our neighbors.  God determines our destiny.


V. 32-33:  Would we, like the Apostle Peter did, deny Jesus when under pressure?  Would we deny some truth of God implicitly when it may cost us respectability?


Feast of Tabernacles:  To get off work, would you tell the boss you’re going out of town to “meetings” or a “convention”?  Do we devise cover stories for the real reasons we do things?  Do we pretend we aren’t Christian sometimes when in the world by not mentioning God when we really should?


Danger signs:  Fearing to go to a high school reunion.  Being obsessed with what your friends think.  Is popularity with classmates or coworkers your leading emotional priority?  Example of one kid getting worse grades in order to become more popular.  Is being liked more important to you than upholding God’s truth?  In Peter Keating’s case, he opted to marry a beautiful wife who didn’t respect him at all rather than a homely woman who he could be himself with, that he didn’t put on airs with.  The Fountainhead, p. 321. 


“What will the neighbors say?”  Small town life:  neighbors run other people’s lives by the power of gossip, social criticism.  Sinclair Lewis, Main Street; Gopher’s Prairie. Peyton Place.


HWA’s conflict with wife over Sabbath initially, reluctance to fellowship with lower class people in Church of God (Seventh-day):  Autobiography, vol. 1, pp. 289, 307.


Matthew 27:11-26


V. 18 Pontius Pilate knew Jesus wasn’t guilty, but had Him condemned anyway in order to avoid displeasing people.


V. 24  Pilate gives in to avoid a riot.  Popularity with the mob ranked over administering justice correctly as a public official to him.


Controversial portrayal here with higher critics, yet has precedent in his administration of Judea:  Early in his rule of this province, he sent the imperial standards into Jerusalem.  The Jews objected violently against these idolatrous symbols of foreign rule being planted in his capital.  After first threatening to execute a delegation sent to his seat of government in Caesarea that was sent to petition for removing them, he backed down. 


Would we fold under pressure like both Peter and Pilate did?  Peter denied Jesus really out of the fear of those in authority although no one in actual authority put him to the test.  Pilate had power and authority, unlike Peter, but like many politicians since his time, he opted for the popular choice when the popular choice wasn’t moral and the moral choice wasn’t popular.


Luke 14:7-11


V.  11  Will we accept being humbled in this life if in turn God will give us glory and honor in the next life?  Do we really believe this to be true?


Conspicuous consumption & keeping up with the Joneses:  Do we buy luxury items we really can’t afford in order to impress neighbors?  It’s better to have a used Chevy in the drive way rather than a new Buick if allows us to avoid anxiety about the morrow when paying the bills each month.  Do we get a boat or RV using money earned from overtime to show off to family members?  Do we get a bigger house that takes two incomes to pay for in order to impress business associates?  Thorstein Veblen’s conspicuous consumption, rich leisured people consume merely to impress others, not because they find enjoyment in it directly.


Howard Roark’s summary of second-hand lives to Gail Wynand:  p. 607.


Conclusion:   We have to be willing to obey the truth even when it costs us the respect of others.  Christians have to uphold God’s ways publicly, not just privately, when others ridicule or look down on us for doing so.   We should avoid being like the fictional Peter Keating, the social manipulator who gave up his integrity to get the good opinion of others.  We must not be like Pontius Pilate, who condemned Jesus because it was the popular thing.  We must not be like the Apostle Peter, who denied Jesus because of the fear of what others thought.  When the two values collide, we must value the praise of God more than the respect of men.  We must be willing to humble ourselves now if we wish to be lifted up by God later.


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