Taking Credit For God's Work

Author: David Wilber

One of the greatest temptations of mankind is to exalt ourselves. We want people to think we're the smartest, coolest, and most talented. We want to be seen and admired for our gifts and talents. It's natural to desire acceptance and affirmation from others, but there's a danger of idolatry when we make God's work about us instead of Him.

In the book of James we are told that not many people should be teachers (James 3:1). God takes leadership positions within the congregation very seriously. Why? Because "we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2). We all struggle with temptations, including (and especially) the temptation to make everything about us instead of God. If a teacher gives great sermons, he might be tempted to say, "If it weren't for my amazing talent as a speaker, the people wouldn't have such a deep understanding! I'm the best!" And when a person in leadership stumbles in this way by putting the focus on himself, he could potentially lead many others into idolatry. This is how cults are formed. Thus, "We who teach will be judged with greater strictness." Leaders must always direct the people to God as the One through Whom blessing and understanding of His Word come.

When God told Moses and Aaron to speak to the rock in order to bring forth water for the people of Israel, Moses and Aaron should have simply done their part and reminded the Israelites that God was the source of the miracle. Instead, Moses said, "Shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" (Num. 20:10) Indeed, Moses led the Israelites to think that it was through Moses and Aaron that the water came. It was by this prideful act that Moses sinned by not upholding the Lord as holy in the eyes of the people:

And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12)

Interestingly, God's Word is directly connected to the symbol of water (Eph. 5:26). It is God's Word that washes us and changes us. Just as Moses and Aaron were merely the vessels through which God brought forth the water from the rock, leaders and teachers are the vessels through which God brings forth the water of His Word. They are not the source of the water themselves:

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1)

If God has blessed you with a position of leadership, don’t let it go to your head. You are merely a servant, a messenger. If God has blessed you with teaching abilities, remember that God is ultimately the source of the water. Remember that teachers are judged with greater strictness. Don't exalt yourself. Remain humble, point people to God, and God will continue to use you to bless others. But if you get in the way, God might move you out of the way.

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