As positively unchristian as it sounds to say, it’s not wrong to seek glory. In fact, it can be quite good—as long as we’re seeking the right glory. This, however, is where we all fall down because the glory we seek is usually for ourselves. We want people to think we’re a pretty big deal. We want to make a name for ourselves. We want to be somebody. And we will gladly rob God of glory and honor to get it.
In other words, when seeking glory is about seeking it for ourselves, it’s a very bad thing indeed.
This is where Glory Hunger by JR Vassar is so helpful. As in Dave Harvey’s Rescuing Ambition before it, Vassar assists us in combating the shallowness of our glory hunger as he examines its origins and the only source of satisfaction we will ever need.
We are all narcissists now
“Has a generation ever been so concerned with its own glory?” Vassar asks as he considers our nasty social media habits (58). After all, we value blog posts based on how many likes and tweets and pins and comments they receive; we tweet and Instagram our best duck faces (or, if you prefer, blue steel1). We consider ourselves more important because we have people following our Twitter account and Facebook page. We even have services like Klout which tell us how influential we may be.
We are, most assuredly, a painfully narcissistic generation, and it is destroying us:
Narcissistic people rarely have deep friendships and usually don’t really desire them. They have fans but not friends. They have the admiration of others but not intimacy.… Narcissists tend to use others to build up themselves, but do not invest or give in relationships. … A narcissistic glory hunger is destructive primarily because it means that one has taken a life direction that is opposite to reality. (58-59)
Don’t gloss over this too quickly. Stop and really consider it—and especially those of us who serve in some form of vocational ministry. One of the trends I see that absolutely terrifies me is the “lonely leader” archetype. No one understands him. No one appreciate him. Or at least, that’s what he tells himself.
The problem here is that it’s a delusion. Leadership is lonely only because we choose for it to be. The only reason people don’t know us or understand us is because we don’t let them. And I wonder if it’s because we secretly (or not so secretly) really like it? We like being seen as the embattled leader, standing up against the forces of the world and our defiant congregations, when, really, we’re just stroking our own egos. It makes us feel good to be admired from a distance because if people actually knew us, they’d see that we’re kind of a hot mess. We might look good on the outside, but we’re a complete disaster.
(Is anyone else getting a bit uncomfortable here?)
Refocusing glory by becoming realists
So what do we do about this? If we are so narcissistic that we love to be seen as being vulnerable (without actually having to be vulnerable), if we are so in love with our own selves and our own glory… we’re in a lot of trouble, aren’t we?
True though this may be, Vassar doesn’t leave us hopeless, though he does continue to push on us to think correctly:
Imagine attending the 2014 New Year’s fireworks show in Dubai, which, at a cost of nearly six million dollars, was the largest the world has ever seen. As you gaze into the sky in amazement, feeling the rumblings in your chest from the explosions, some kid yanks on your pant leg and tries to sell you a ticket for a viewing of the Roman candle he is about to set off.… We are the glory hogs with our little Roman candles; God’s just a realist. (83)
“When mans’s glory is raised against God’s, the bottom line of the riches of God’s glory reveals the utter bankruptcy of man’s” (82). Our attempts at glorifying yourselves can’t begin to compare with the glory that inherently belongs to God. We need to see it this way, not because we should wallow in self-pity, but because we need to realize that the only true rescue we can find from taking our eyes off ourselves! If we want to be free from a self-focused glory hunger, we need to be realists as God is a realist. His glory is better than ours. He is more important. We should seek to become like John the Baptist, who, after Jesus’ ministry began to grow, simply said, “he must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
And this is the cure for our insatiable glory hunger. This is the one thing that can satisfy it. It’s not in achieving whatever goal we’ve set for ourselves—it’s by taking our eyes off ourselves.
The cross deflates us and serves as a clarifying lens that allows us to see our true condition. When we are tempted to boast in ourselves, the cross tells us we are not awesome.… When you are tempted to think highly of yourself, remind yourself why Jesus had to die. Let the cross measure you, not your accomplishments or your failures for that matter. (90)
The happiest we can be is when we’re forgetting about “me”
If there’s one thing from Glory Hunger that should stick with us, it’s this:”The happiest people are those who are most free from personal glory hunger and refuse to compete with God for glory” (96).
We’re not going to be happy until we actually stop trying to make a name for ourselves. We won’t find what we’re looking for there. The world wasn’t made to function that way, nor were we. It’s only we stop thinking about our own glory and focus on God’s, that we will know true glory. And only then will we be satisfied. Glory Hunger is a strong reminder of this truth, and it’s one I hope will be appreciated by all who read it.
Title: Glory Hunger: God, the Gospel, and Our Quest for Something More
Author: JR Vassar
Publisher: Crossway (2015)