He must increase

It hurts when you have worked hard and been overlooked, or when you have toiled in anonymity and were never thanked.

There is humility, and then there’s false humility. The Bible demands one, but actually, not the other.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you, do not think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment …” (Romans 12:3).

There are two extreme reactions to this: There is false humility, where we cry, “I’m useless, I can’t contribute anything.” If you are a good song leader, (or Bible class teacher, or soul winner) go ahead and tell the congregation that you are willing to lend your talents. The church needs your talents. As a good steward of God’s gifts, you are obliged to offer them.

Arrogance: “I am the essential element in this congregation; they couldn’t do without me.” You are not the church’s essential ingredient. I like the words of the older, wiser missionary to a new arrival: “Son, God was working here before you arrived, he will work while you are here, and will continue to work when you’re gone.”

Both arrogance and false humility are wrong.

John the Baptist had it right when he said of the reciprocal relationship he had with Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The more you saw of John, the less you saw of Jesus; the more you saw of Jesus, the less you saw of John.

We cannot, dare not, get in the way of people’s vision of Jesus. We must point beyond ourselves to him. That is precisely what a disciple does: He lets his light “shine before men” that they may “glorify” God (Matthew 5:16).

There is another side to not getting the credit for hard work. Sometimes the quiet or “little” people you serve (the elderly, children, the poor, the lost) did notice, but are unable to thank you. The Lord also suggests that if we are humble, he (yes, the Lord himself) will exalt us (James 5:6). That’s better than getting in the headlines anyway. And, what is more, faithful service is known by the one who truly, eternally matters.

He won’t say “Thank you.” Instead, he will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). That might be worth a little, don’t you think?

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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One thought on “He must increase

  1. EXCELLENT! These are thoughts each of us should start every day with. If people are seeing us instead of Jesus, then we should be willing to do as John said, HE must increase. I must become less important. Thank you, brother.

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