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Whose Glory Are You Seeking?

August 24, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Isaiah 22:15-17 (NIV)

This is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says: “Go, say to this steward, to Shebna the palace administrator: What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here, hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock? “Beware, the LORD is about to take firm hold of you and hurl you away, you mighty man.

Focus

We can use our authority and influence to advance God’s glory and purpose in the world. Or we can use them to augment our own greatness. May God give us the grace to be humble leaders, people who seek what is good and godly rather than our own glory.

Devotion

Shebna was a “palace administrator” in Jerusalem whom the Lord singled out for rebuke through Isaiah. We don’t know all of Shebna’s faults, though they must have been many, given the fact that he was “a disgrace to [his] master’s house” (Isaiah 22:18). In particular, Shebna was preoccupied with his own legacy and honor, building for himself a lavish and prominent tomb. Apparently, he had used his position in the government to become wealthy so that he might promote himself, both in life and in death. For such self-centeredness, God promised to take away his position of authority, thus ending Shebna’s career in disgrace.

Shebna serves as a powerful reminder of the folly of seeking our own honor above that of the Lord. It’s natural for us to want others to think well of us, and to an extent this is consistent with our Christian discipleship (for example, 1 Timothy 3:2). But if we become preoccupied with our own glory, we dishonor the Lord and risk our own demotion. As Proverbs 16:18 reminds us, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Shebna’s sad life illustrates this proverb perfectly.

How can we avoid Shebna’s fate, especially if we’re successful, a person of power whom others praise? There are many ways to answer this question. But, as I think of highly successful people whom I have known who have not gone over the edge of ego, I find that two things are generally true about their lives. First, they are deeply engaged in a community of people who love them and know them for who they really are. This community can be a family, a church, or a group of close friends. With this group, the person of great success can live genuinely, apart from the hype.

Second, someone who regularly worships God can be empowered to live humbly. The heart of worship is submission of our whole lives to God. If we do this on a regular basis, then we are protected from placing ourselves on the throne that doesn’t belong to us. If we see ourselves first and foremost as a servant of God, then we won’t end up like Shebna, called out by God for our pride and self-serving stewardship.

Reflect

Are you ever tempted to put your honor above God’s glory? When? Why?

Are you ever preoccupied with your legacy, rather than being preoccupied with the work of God’s kingdom?

What helps you to “keep your feet on the ground” when people praise you or when you achieve considerable success?

Act

Talk with your small group, wise friend, or spiritual director about any tendency you might have to be motivated by pride rather than God’s glory.

Pray

Gracious God, the story of Shebna encourages me to examine my motivations and desires. Am I like Shebna? Am I more eager to ensure my good reputation than to advance your kingdom? Does my passion for your glory exceed my desire for people to think I’m good? Am I building a “tomb” for myself, rather than offering myself as a living sacrifice to you?

Help me, dear Lord, to care so much about you, your work, and your glory that my self-centeredness dwindles. May I live my life in the freedom that comes from serving you completely. May I be deeply connected to a community in which I am truly myself. At the end of my days, may you be the one who receives the glory for my life. May it be obvious to all that you did a great work in me, not that I was great. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Worship and Work (Isaiah 1ff.)


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