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For Your Weekend: The Desire to Be Praised

Laura Phelps

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Mark 3:20–35

Charli D’Amelio, a teenage TikTok celebrity, lost one million followers after posting a video of a family dinner during which she was disrespectful to the personal chef. I know nothing else about this girl. I’m not on TikTok. I gave up all personal social media platforms a year ago. It wasn’t an easy decision. I loved my Instagram account. I found beauty in a well-crafted grid of photos and connection with my virtual friends. I relished the endorphin release from every “like” and affirming comment. But fleeting praise never compared to the desolation of waking up to discover I had lost a follower. As in one.

Imagine losing one million.

For all that I have ridiculed the shallow content young influencers are becoming rich off of, my heart aches for Charli. Her identity, reputation, and status (albeit misguided) depend on her followers but, more accurately, depend on her being preferred to the other TikTok celebrities. It’s quite the competition out there—and not just out there, but in here too, as in, my heart. 

Have you ever felt threatened by another woman’s talent, beauty, or success?

As an adult woman seeking a life influenced by Christ with zero interest in becoming TikTok famous, I regularly confess feelings of competition. I can only imagine D’Amelio’s struggle: What if someone better comes on the scene? What if I lose my audience? What if a prettier influencer outmatches me? What if I am no longer preferred? What if I am no longer praised? Celebrity or not, we all grapple with these questions in our own ways.

The human desire for praise was well-established long before the rise of social media. Take the scribes, for example. They thrived on self-promotion. As scholars of the Old Testament law, they were trained to write, copy, and interpret the Scriptures. They had their own disciples, as most Jews followed their teachings, but their quest for holiness wasn’t about their love of God—it was about their love of self, following the rules perfectly, and being seen as the most religious. These were the guys who enjoyed the best seats (Matthew 23:6). If social media existed in biblical times, the scribes would have posted pictures of their extra wide phylacteries and extra long tassels while happily exposing everyone else’s sin (Matthew 23:5).

But then something happened. Someone happened. 

Jesus not only enters the scene, He makes a scene. In Mark’s gospel, He amazes the people by demonstrating His power, not just any power—a power attributed to God: The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). He cast out demons (Mark 1:34), healed the sick (Mark 1:42), forgave sins (Mark 2:5), referred to Himself as the Son of Man (Mark 2:10), ate with sinners (Mark 2:16), and challenged their views on the sabbath (Mark 3:2). The people were obsessed, searching for Him (Mark 1:37), removing roofs to get to Him (Mark 2:4), pressing upon Him (Mark 3:10). His power did more than attract crowds to Him, it exposed the scribe’s self-righteousness, and like an overnight TikTok sensation, Jesus became the new fan favorite to follow (Mark 1:28). 

D’Amelio is not the first to lose followers. 

In Sunday’s gospel (Mark 3:20–35), when the scribes came down from Jerusalem, they had one thing on their minds: to get rid of Jesus. Their only other option would have been to accept His teachings, which stood as good of a chance of my becoming TikTok famous. Why? Father Bartunek says it best: “His teaching contradicted much of their own, and so to accept it would be to relinquish their status and influence.”[1] Out of fear of losing the praise of the world, they set out to destroy Jesus.

I want to say, “Isn’t that crazy?" Then I look at our world and think, “hmmm…not so much.”

I don’t watch much news, but I hear enough, and it appears that what motivated the scribes to kill Jesus thousands of years ago is happening today. 

We are terrified to accept Jesus’s teachings because they contradict the world’s. And we want to be liked by the world. 

We are afraid to openly worship Jesus because we know we’ll risk losing friends, family, and jobs. And we like our comfort and stability

We want to stand up for what is moral and right, but we fear violence. And we like to keep the peace. 

We want to do God’s will but fear it will require self-sacrifice and suffering. And we’d prefer to avoid both. 

We want to talk about Jesus but fear what people will say. And we care about people’s opinions of us. 

The scribes cared about the world’s opinion of them and, in their pride, accused Jesus of being in cahoots with Satan. They are not the only ones in our gospel that take issue with Jesus. His friends think He’s lost his mind (Mark 3:21). And I love His response. Jesus doesn’t get defensive or post a crying video of Himself on YouTube. He calmly calls everyone to Him (Mark 3:23).

Despite the anger, hatred, and fear we see today, Jesus continues to call everyone to Himself. Nothing matters more to Him than our union with God. It’s not a sin to desire success so long as we remain in a personal relationship with Jesus. Intimacy with God is the way to fight pride. Father Bartunek says, “God’s will is the foolproof formula for supernatural success.”[2] If you don’t believe him, believe Jesus because He gives us the secret to intimacy with God: “For whoever does the will of God; that person is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35, emphasis added).

In a world doing its best to destroy God, I pray we choose to be that person.

Food for thought or journaling…

What do you fear losing if you go all in with Jesus? Do fame, status, and influence tempt you? What do you seek most: receiving praise or giving praise?

Heavenly Father, help me to know and do Your will, to desire to be seen only by You, to follow only You, to risk it all for You. To You, Lord, I give all the praise. Amen.

P.S. Hey, friends! If you desire intimacy with God but don’t know where to begin, revisit our study, Ordering Your Priorities, especially Lesson 2, Your Relationship with God. If you don’t have a copy, grab one here!

[1] Father John Bartunek, The Better Part, (Avila Institute, 2007), 374.
[2] Ibid, 375.


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