Four years ago, my husband, Tim, and I attended a press trip where, tucked into our swag bag, we found an info packet that listed all attendees by name, website, and number of followers. Flipping through the list, I noted some bloggers, another couple, with a reach of over 500,000. A few hours later, when we rode the elevator down to an opening night reception in a room at our hotel, a smiling woman introduced herself and I immediately connected her to that bio and the numbers I’d seen. What would have otherwise been an ordinary meeting became a meeting with a person who’d impressed me. She was somebody. And while the experience of esteeming people by blog readerships may not be relatable to everyone, the experience of esteeming people by something is. Whether we do it by our children’s accomplishments, our career developments, our physical appearances, our connections, or our social media followings, we naturally tend to give each other ranks.
What We Value
As a mom, I notice it every time I’m with other parents and we start comparing developmental milestones: Is your baby crawling yet? How long will you nurse? What percentile is he in? As a writer, I hear it in questions about bylines, book sales, and endorsements, or, as a blogger, when I’m asked about page views: You were published where? How many copies did you sell? How big is your site?
While the questions themselves can be nothing more than small talk, the value we give the answers reveals our hearts. Oh, you got what award? Oh, you paid how much for your house? Oh, you were noticed by them! While we add up details in our minds, we tally invisible points in our heads, creating our own little scoreboards of who is important and why.
But this is not the way our heavenly Father works.
Behaving Like Pharisees
In Luke 16, Jesus tells his disciples a parable that concludes with the instruction “you cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13), and the Pharisees, “who were lovers of money” (Luke 16:14), ridicule him in response. He introduces them to a revolutionary value system, one where being humanly rich — or powerful or popular or successful — is not what matters most, and they laugh. “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts,” he responds to them. “For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).