increase—but I must decrease
(J. R. Miller, "Ministry of Comfort" 1898)
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men—to be seen by them." Matthew 6:1
One of the most difficult lessons to learn, is self-effacement. It seems to us, that we have a right to put our name on every piece of work we do, and to get full honor for it. We like people to know of the good and virtuous things we do—the kindnesses we show, our gifts, our sacrifices, and our services.
SELF always dies hard.
John the Baptist, in his life and ministry, illustrated the grace of self-effacement as few other men have done. When he first began to preach, great throngs flocked about him. But when Jesus came—the crowds melted away from John and went after the new preacher. John rejoiced in seeing Jesus thus honored, though at the cost of his own fame. "He must increase—but I must decrease" was his answer, when his disciples grew envious of the Galilean Rabbi. He understood that the highest use to which his life could be put—was to add to the honor of his Master. He was glad to be unnoticed, to have his own name extinguished, that the glory of Christ might shine the more brightly.
Renunciation of self should characterize all who follow Christ. They should seek only to get recognition for Him, willing for themselves to be unrecognized and unhonored. Yet not always are the Master's friends content to be nothing—that the praise may be given to Christ. Too often do they insist upon having their own name written in bold letters on their work. It would be the mark of a higher degree in spiritual attainment, if we were willing to be anonymous in every service for Christ.
Not only should we do all our work for the divine approval—but we should not be seeking to get our own name on what we do. If it is done solely for the honor of Christ, why should we be solicitous to have everybody know our part in it? Should it not be honor enough—to have Christ accept our work and use it?
Only what we do for the honor of Christ—is really gold and silver and precious stones in the spiritual building; all the rest is but wood, hay, and stubble, which cannot abide.
Are we willing to do deeds of service and love, and then keep absolutely quiet about what we have done? Is there not among us, too much of the spirit which our Lord so severely condemned—sounding a trumpet before us—when we are going out to do some deed of charity, some act of kindness?
"Everything they do—is done for men to see." Matthew 23:5