The eighth commandment states “You shall not steal.” When we think about applying this precept, our minds usually go to material possessions. God forbids shoplifting from the department store, robbing banks, committing grand theft auto, stealing a person’s identity, and refusing to give to the church. The more studious will relate it to stealing time at work by showing up late, stretching out your lunch break by five minutes, or surfing the internet on the company’s time. Besides stealing time from an employer, we are guilty of robbing time from God when we skip church, fail to spend time reading the Bible, and do not commune with God through prayer.
While these offenses are serious, there is one application in which we are all guilty, especially as open-air preachers. We are prone to steal God’s glory. What is God’s glory? In this article, I am referring to the definition from the BDAG Greek lexicon. It states, “Honor as enhancement or recognition of status or performance.” It can be translated as “fame, recognition, renown, honor, prestige…” A glory thief steals the honor and praise that God deserves by making himself the object of God’s glory. He promotes having other people give praise and honor to him at God’s expense.
One of the best examples in the Bible of this sin comes from Acts 12:20-25. The people of Tyre and Sidon requested a peace treaty with Herod since his dominion supplied them food. On the next day, he gave a speech. The residents responded by saying, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” They gave Herod the glory and praise that is only reserved for God. He did not stop them but accepted it. This sealed his judgment. Verse 23 says, “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” God sent an angel to kill Herod as punishment for robbing His glory. We must take this example seriously, so that we do not commit the same sin.
As open-air preachers, our ministries are public. Through preaching in our communities, interacting on social media, and posting videos on Facebook, there are many temptations to pursue our glory and not God’s. Over the next two posts, I will examine eight ways that we can break this commandment. In this first post, we will cover the following four instances.
1. We rob God of His glory when we accept rather than deflecting praise.
Herod gladly received the approbation of the people. If he truly feared God, then he would have stopped the people immediately and said, “Do not praise me, a mere man. Direct your praise to God who created me!” Herod’s pride led to his downfall. For accepting God’s glory, God sentenced him to death.
Open-air preachers have many occasions to receive praise too. When a fellow Christian who passes by your preaching stops to thank you, do you immediately direct it to God? When a fellow open-air preacher praises you on Facebook on a video of you preaching, do you deflect it? You could respond online by saying, “I praise the Lord for any good that comes from my preaching and for the gifts He has given me to communicate His truth.” When fellow church members encourage you after you give an update on a specific outreach, do you direct their praises to God? Or do you accept it because your heart is warmed by the praises of men? If this is you, then you are a glory thief.
Remember brethren that Jesus Christ is the only one who deserves to be glorified by men. In fact, angels and saints praise Him every second of the day. Revelation 5:11-12 says,“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Whenever you are tempted to steal God’s glory, look with your spiritual eyes to heaven. Observe the multitudes of heavenly hosts who are singing praises to the Lamb.
2. We rob God of His glory when we praise other open-air preachers without referencing God.
Points 1 and 2 form different sides of the same coin. We previously reviewed praise from the recipient’s perspective. Now we will look at the one who gives glory to another person. In our first example, Herod could not have received glory if the citizens did not give it to him. The people robbed God of His glory by giving praise to Herod as if he was God. Their disobedience laid a trap for Herod to sin.
As advocates for open-air preaching, we can unknowingly set a similar trap for our brothers in Christ. Think back through your words of encouragement or comments on Facebook. Were they man-centered or God-centered? For example, did you compliment a preacher by saying, “You are an excellent preacher!” Or did you say, “I praise God for giving you the gift to preach!” Can you guess which one is God-centered?
When we leave God out of a compliment, we subtlety withhold the praise that He deserves for creating and gifting that individual. Revelation 1:6 says, “And made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” God is the one who made us to be kingdom of priests. We did not create ourselves. Second, by centering our honor on man, we fail to remind our brother that he can do nothing apart from the grace of God. This feeds his pride and will puff him up.
If you desire to learn more about giving God-centered compliments, I recommend the book, Practical Affirmations: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God by Sam Crabree. He reviews Paul’s praises to the churches in his epistles as a guide on how we can affirm our brothers without stealing God’s glory.
3. We rob God of His glory when we try to solicit praise from others.
John 12:43 states, “For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Many Jews failed to confess Christ, because they were afraid of the Pharisees. They did not want to suffer synagogue discipline by being put out. In the end, they desired to have the praise of the Pharisees instead of giving it up to obey God.
With social media, there are myriads of ways to be a self-promoter. Take an inventory of your heart. Why do you post messages on Facebook about your upcoming outreach? Is it to request prayer? Or are you seeking a “That-a-boy!” from another open-air preacher? When you post a video of your preaching on the street corner, are you trying to witness to your unconverted friends? Is your goal to see Christ glorified? Or are you trying to get people to comment to stroke your pride? Do you want people to think that you are a bold, passionate, fearless, godly preacher? Or are you trying to encourage other men to go seek and save the lost?
Brothers, we must remember that our goal is to pursue conversions, so that all people will praise Him. Philippians 2:11 says, “And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” One day, every person from all ages of time will confess the name of Jesus Christ, and this will bring glory to God the Father. Many of these people will be lost. However, God will still be honored on the judgment day. Whenever you are tempted to post a video on Facebook in order to gain praise, think of this verse.
4. We rob God of His glory when we engage in false humility.
False humility is the attempt to present a humble, God-glorifying exterior while the prideful self-seeking heart pursues praise for displaying a humble appearance. The Pharisees were experts in this type of behavior. In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus exposes their false humility.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The Pharisees practiced outward religious deeds so that they would be praised. Jesus calls them hypocrites since their hearts did not worship God but themselves. Their behavior tried to encourage bystanders to worship them too by praising them for their “religious works.”
As open-air preachers, we can commit this sin in two ways. First, we put on a facade of religious deeds. We are tempted to talk in a more Christian way when we are around other believers. We post blog articles talking about the exaltation of Christ and the wickedness of man’s heart while our desires are focused on the flesh. An open-air preacher can even take the advice from point two to praise other men in a God-centered way in order to appear to be godly. While these outward actions are not wrong, it is false humility if the motivation is for self’s glory instead of God’s praise.
Second, we sin by speaking poorly of ourselves and our ministries, so that a brother will praise us. Some men are more sensitive to becoming introspective. In their eyes, they can never do anything right. This comes out in their description of their preaching and ministries. They bemoan their speaking abilities. They groan about the fruitlessness of their outreaches. At the end of the conversation they may say, “I can do nothing useful for God.” The brother listening will have compassion for him and will encourage him. However, the open-air preacher may be participating in false humility, so that his brother would commend him. This evangelist may be sincere, but this is a form of pride. The underlining assumption is that they should be better. Yet, the Bible says that we are nothing without Christ. If you are tempted to lament for the purposing of receiving glory, then please repent. This is the behavior of a glory thief.
Pastor Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History, from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity, and a PhD in Historical Theology in 2021 from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He is also an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. He is married to Karise with whom they raise Ian, Elizabeth, and Patrick. He is interested in history, especially Charles Spurgeon, and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.