Imagine you’re the little donkey carrying Jesus during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The people around you are going crazy, shouting songs of praise, and placing their coats and palm branches in front of you as a sign of worship. You look around at the adoring crowd. Do you conclude that all the praise and admiration is for you? (1)
The reality is that many people do believe they deserve the acclaim. How easily we forget that our talents and abilities come from our Creator. I don’t mean to discredit the importance of our toil and efforts—which certainly have a huge impact—but even the chance to work is given to us by God.
Unfortunately, success can quickly go to our heads, and no one is immune to this tendency. Why should we care and try to avoid this? Because God has made it clear that he will actively oppose the proud. (2) I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to have God against me.
Let me give you an example from my life. My debut novel, How to Kill a Giant—an action/adventure story for middle-grade readers—has just been published this week. I have no idea what kind of success it will have—it could crash and burn, make the bestsellers list, or anywhere in between.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that it becomes a success. How should I react? Before I answer this question, let me add that God has led and guided me every step of the way, and I would have never gotten this far without his help. Yes, I put in a lot of hard work, but I would have gone nowhere without his presence and direction. So, let’s return to the question—how should I react to success?
If I claim the praise for myself, I’m no different than the little donkey who thinks the people are worshipping him. Instead of such a delusional response, a more appropriate reaction is remembering whose accomplishment it really is and giving credit where credit is due.
Such an attitude goes against our human nature, but it’s indispensable if we desire for God to work through us and if we want those around us to see his glory in our lives—in other words, if we want to accomplish the purpose for which he created us.
I don’t mean to say we can’t have feelings of satisfaction or accomplishment. There is nothing wrong with having a positive sense of pride that rejoices over a job well done. But if we’re not careful, we can easily cross over the line and end up with a huge ego.
I’m sure we’ve all met arrogant and boastful people, even among those who claim to serve God. They probably started with good intentions, but somewhere along the way, they began to believe and accept the praise they received, and it went to their heads.
So how can we avoid following in their footsteps? Remember, we’re just the donkey on which Jesus is sitting.
(1) This illustration is attributed to Mother Teresa as she talked to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. However, after an exhaustive search, I’ve found no evidence that she was ever a guest on The Tonight Show, so it appears to be an urban legend. I’m open to anyone who can prove me wrong.
(2) James 4:6