ONE OF THE FIRST LESSONS I LEARNED IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IS THAT YOUR NAME MUST GO ON EVERYTHING. IT WAS DRILLED INTO OUR HEADS THAT IF YOUR NAME ISN’T ON IT, IT ISN’T “YOURS.”
Fast forward a decade, and in a college job, before turning in any work assignment, my boss would ask, “would you put your name on it?” A name means so much in our society. In the most practical sense, our name is our identity. Yet, on a greater scheme, names illustrate legacy, ownership, and authority. By our names we are called, but by our names we are also worshipped.
The world we live in is obsessed with ascribing praise. When we were kids, our parents praised us for cleaning our rooms. Our teachers and coaches praised us for learning and performing. In college, many of us worked hard in class and spent long excruciating hours in the library, for the one purpose of having a praising “A” recorded on our transcript. Whether intentionally or not, even in our jobs, we will work because we want to be praised and not because we want to work for the Lord. In our families, we will often aspire to be good parents, not to glorify the Lord through God-like parenting, but for the praise of having parented a successful child. For years, we have been told that if you put in the work, you deserve the credit, and you deserve the praise.
With social media and few clicks of the mouse, we can abolish anonymity and instead ascribe praise to ourselves at any moment with one well-captioned picture or witty comment Everything has our name on it, and if it does not, it is because we don’t want our name associated with it.
But, Paul exposes this prideful sin for what it is. In 1 Corinthians 4, he writes, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (v.7). When Paul asks us why we boast of things we have received, we have to ask ourselves why we are competing with our Creator for credit.
It sounds like a scary thing, to compete with the Almighty God for credit for things He has given to us.
Paul writes in his second letter to Corinth, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay.” C.J. Ellicott explained that in early A.D. Eastern kings would accumulate treasures of gold and silver in earthen jars. Imagine these great kings finding their worth in mere jars rather than the kingdom that was before them.
Similarly, we tend to hoard up treasures in earthen jars. Ours are often in the form of praises— approval of man, good grades, and raising successful children— but nonetheless, are merely filled jars. Still, we find our identity in our accumulation of things that we can take credit for, “put our name on,” and drop into our jars, rather than the kingdom before us. In doing so, we spend far too long filling jars, hiding cracks, and making sure they look resilient in comparison to our neighbors’. Each time, we polish them and watch them shine only to dull again in the face of His presence.
How foolish we must look to the Father as we walk around showing off our jars that are filled with gifts He has given. How shameful it must be that we carry this jar, too focused on filling it with more that we miss views of His kingdom that spreads further than the eye can see.
Paul writes, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (4:7). And, later in 2 Corinthians, he explains, “If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am” (11:30).
As we carry our jars of clay, fragile and, in many cases broken, let us show His light through our cracks. Let us boast all the more of our weaknesses, so that we might illustrate the all-surpassing power of Christ. Let us put our names on our failures. Let us vulnerably attest to our short-comings.
And, let us ascribe praise to no other name but His. “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness” (Psalm 29:2)
[Originally posted at http://gracechurchblog.org/personal-stories/anonymity/]
October 5th, 2016