Wouldn’t it be odd for a child to open all her presents on Christmas morning and then go into her room, look into the mirror, and give herself a high five for being so deserving of such great gifts?
The child would be totally missing the point. The people she should be thanking are her parents because they bought the gifts and freely gave them to her. Her parents are not trying to show her how much she deserves; they are trying to show her how much they love her. The child should know that without the parents she would have nothing. She would have so little, she wouldn’t even have any money to give gifts of her own to her parents.
When little children want to buy their parents presents, they have to ask their parents for the resources to do it. If they hope to bless their parents, they first need to admit they don’t have the means on their own. The only way they can bless their parents is by asking the parents to give them the money to do it.
And her parents freely give the child the money not because dad really wants another flashlight and not because mom wants more plastic earrings. They give the child money because they know the greatest joy in life is not to receive but to give. The parents want to bless the child by giving her the greatest joy, the joy that can only come from pleasing those you love most. They show their love for their child by giving her the gift of giving.
This is exactly how it is with our heavenly Father and his children. We would have nothing to boast about if it wasn’t for him. Therefore we shouldn’t boast about the gifts but rather about the Giver (James 1:17).
And for us to really be able to please God, we must first admit we cannot do it on our own (John 15:5). We must ask God to give us the power, and even the desire, to please him (Philippians 2:13).
And he doesn’t give us the means to please him because he needs more pleasure (he is perfectly happy within himself, Psalm 16:11). He gives us the means because his greatest act of love for us is helping us to love to him. For as Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Therefore, through his grace, he gives us the greatest gift of all: the gift of being able to please the One we love most. He gives us the gift of giving to him. God forgives us for his glory, makes us new for his glory, and even causes us to produce good fruit for his glory. All of it benefits us, but it is all meant to glorify him.
Our Diminishment Does Not Equate to His Magnification
Often times in our desire to give God all the praise, we seek to do this by diminishing ourselves. The desire to give all the credit to God is a holy desire, but the way we seek to fulfill this desire is often misguided.
The parents wouldn’t want their little girl to go to her room to cry in sadness about how she did not deserve all those gifts. They wouldn’t want her to sheepishly hand them the present she bought them because she used their money to buy the gifts. Rather, they want her to be ecstatic about getting gifts and giving gifts. They just also want that joy to be coupled with gratitude for their assistance rather than pride in herself.
People are often fearful of truly accepting how holy and pure God has justified them to be because they worry they are being prideful if they admit such things. Subconsciously we sometimes translates the words of John the Baptist, “He must become greater; I must become less,” (John 3:30) into a verse that doesn’t exist, “For him to become great I must make sure everyone knows I am a loser.”
When John said what he did, he didn’t mean that for Jesus to be seen as great he must be seen as an idiot. What he meant was his publicity and fame needed to die because the real Star was here. John knew Jesus came to earth to show everyone how amazing God is so they would turn to him, benefiting themselves and praising Jesus. And the way God shows the beauty of himself is by making it clear that Jesus deserves all the credit for everything good his people are doing. As John the Baptist explained, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven” (John 3:27).
So we should seek to glorify God not by shining less. Rather, we should seek to glorify God by embracing his power so we are shining brighter while giving all the credit for our brightness to him.
Raised to Show the Incomparable Riches of His Grace
God’s ultimate aim in everything is to bring himself glory. Humans try to glorify themselves by pushing others down. God brings himself glory by raising people from the dead through the gospel. He didn’t raise us so we could modestly sit in the corner as dull little trinkets. He raised us to shimmer brightly for him. Ephesians 2:4-7 explains:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
An architect is praised because of the magnificent structures he creates. He isn’t threatened that a building might get all the praise. Instead, he knows the more beautiful he makes the building, the more praise he will receive. If the building created itself, then it would be worthy of receiving praise. But a building is always made by a builder, just as a Christian is always made by Christ. We are not to boast in ourselves, for we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:9-10).
Like a child on Christmas morning, we must remember the gifts we receive and the gifts we give are because of God’s grace and not our own merit. But this does not mean we should not boast at all. In fact, God actually expects us to boast about him, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30). He didn’t say not to boast at all; he just said when you do boast, boast only in the Lord. This is why Paul says, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (Galatians 6:14).
We are not supposed to diminish the amazing work of God in our hearts. We are supposed to fully recognize his grace while giving him all the glory for it.