Sunday, May 16, 2010

How Do You Handle the Poison Cup?

Just finished reading an interesting article from Vincent Bacote on what he calls the "poison cup". The poison cup is what happens when ambition meets with fame or recognition. Bacote's article is based on the recent announcement that renown preacher John Piper, is stepping down for a period of time in order to address "several species" of pride in his life, stepping away from "the poisonous cup of international fame and notoriety".

Bacote explores the question of ambition, fame and pride by asking this soul penetrating question -

"What is it about the pursuit of our ambition, our legitimate and godly desires for success in vocation, that can become poisonous when it meets that admiration and recognition of others?"

It's a difficult but necessary question to ponder and answer, even if you never become as famous as John Piper. All of us, in our respective spheres of influence, can be tempted to thrive on fame and recognition. We can find greater delight in the praise of our clients, coworkers and the CEO than in the praise of God. We can breath in the rarefied air of recognition for "a job well done" or being viewed as "indispensable". Perhaps in a far less dramatic way, we are all susceptible to the "poisonous cup".

Assuming most of us cannot simply take a leave of absence from our work, what can we do about this? How do we crucify our love for the "praise of men" and cultivate true humility?

No absolute answers but here's a thought - we ought to hold lightly to any honor we may receive - whether it comes by way of our position, wealth or ability. In fact, Proverbs soberly reminds us that praise from others is a test of our soul -

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.
Proverbs 27:21

We can also aim for something better. While many have faltered by taking sips of the poisonous cup, John Piper and other godly men show us how to deal with the poison cup of praise and fame. You have to deal with it radically. You make the changes you need to, even if it means taking a leave of absence. You take radical steps when you realize that fame, notoriety and praise of men pale in comparison to hearing your Father say "well done, good and faithful servant". One of the chief ways we battle our unhealthy desire for recognition is by seeking recognition from the One whose praise is ultimately valued. We can refrain from feeding on the praise of men by seeking praise from God.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Good thoughts, ESI. Thanks.

I appreciate what John Piper is doing. He is certainly on the front lines of the Lord's work, and will get harangued as a result by the devil. I wonder if Jesus himself at least in the eyes of people would do something of the same himself, even though he never sinned when tempted. He would certainly withdraw at times for prayer away from everyone else.

Every Square Inch said...

I think being able to step away when you realize that you perhaps love the accolades and fame a little too much - it's not only healthy, it's a mark of a man/woman who loves God