“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Our culture is celebrity-crazed. (I don’t think that’s a real revelation to anyone who is reading this.) The obsession is disturbing on many levels. There’s so much idol worship in our society…so many people striving to make a name for themselves. So many people put on pedestals, constantly having their egos stroked by their many “fans.” Many who have attained celebrity status and many still seeking their moment in the spotlight, seek those things which are self-serving. In their never-ending quest for validation, they blind themselves to all that is truly valuable and seek all that is pleasurable… all that serves to elevate them…all that eventually will fade away.
Webster’s Dictionary defines celebrity as: the state of being celebrated; Fame, a famous or celebrated person. Some synonyms include: icon, light, V.I.P., megastar, somebody. The whole idea of “celebrity” is of the world, pure and simple. It is extremely secular and glorifies self. There is no true redeeming value in celebrity.
All the various forms of social media in society today have created outlets and opened up new doors of opportunity for people craving attention…people seeking their own spotlight of fame and followers…people wanting their “15 minutes.” It seems to have ramped up even more the incessant desire and craving for celebrity.
It’s sad that our culture is so celebrity-influenced. It’s sad that some people are esteemed as more important than others. Even more disheartening, it’s complete and total idol worship!
So why, if it’s wrong, do we see it mirrored in so many churches…among so many followers of Christ today? Why is it that when God makes it crystal clear His children are to be in the world, but not of it, that many Christians and churches mimic and ride the coattails of the secular world? Why does “celebrity” get a pass and suddenly become okay when the label “Christian” is attached?
Slapping a Christian label on something doesn’t sanitize it, justify it, or make it acceptable or pleasing to Almighty God. “Celebrity” – whether inside the church or outside the church – is, without a doubt, plain wrong. But, for the follower of Christ and the church body as a whole, there’s no place for it at all, in any form.
Think about this: Is it really okay for pastors to sign autographs in books they’ve written? Is it really okay to have “famous” worship leaders, speakers, and musicians among the body of believers? Is it okay to have Christian radio hosts talk about “celebrities” both in the Christian and the secular arenas? Is it okay to have the GMA Dove Awards lavish praise and hand out trophies of recognition to Christian artists as they walk their own version of the red carpet? And is it really acceptable to give preferential treatment at a church event with V.I.P. seating… especially given the fact that V.I.P. stands for… “Very Important Person,” and the spots are sometimes saved for those who pay more money?
Let’s look at what the Bible says about such things. James 2:1-10 states:
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy, old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
Matthew 23:12 sends a strong message as well:
“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
I think if we were to ask ourselves, “What Would Jesus Do/Think?” – if He physically walked into many of our churches today – we might see a repeat performance of Matthew 21:12-13:
“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.’”
If memory serves correctly, doesn’t God say we’re not to put anything or anyone above or before Him…ever? Exodus 20:2-6 states:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
1 Samuel 16:7 is pretty clear:
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Let’s look at some other verses:
Jehoshaphat said to them, “Watch what you do, because you are not judging for people but for the Lord. He will be with you when you make a decision. Now let each of you fear the Lord. Watch what you do, because the Lord our God wants people to be fair. He wants all people to be treated the same, and he doesn’t want decisions influenced by money” (2 Chronicles 19:6-7).
“For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11).
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
“As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself’” (Acts 10:25-26).
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them” (1 John 2:15).
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
After reading these verses I’m not sure there’s any grey area left for debate. It’s pretty clear that God doesn’t mince words on this topic.
As Christians, we’re not to elevate ourselves. As a body of believers, we’re not to allow secularism to creep into the church. We’re not to idolize anyone or anything but God. We’re not to be sellouts, but rather be fully sold out to Christ. We’re not to seek glory, but rather give God the glory forever and always.
There’s no room for idols or celebrity in a Christian’s heart or a church’s congregation. There’s no room for favoritism when God clearly conveys, “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (James 2:9).
We must always remember that everything we have, everything we are, everything we’re given (talents, intelligence, gifts, looks, blessings) is ours only because God’s blessed us. Without Him, we’d be nothing…we’d have nothing. It’s humbling how much we desperately need God, isn’t it? It’s humbling to know we’re only blessed because He’s merciful and chooses to bless us, not because of anything we’ve done to deserve such mercy. James 1:17 states,
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
It’s all from Him. We’re unwise if we still believe we should be celebrating ourselves. And we’re only fooling ourselves if we believe we can hide behind Christian labels and justify idolizing anyone or anything but God.
We’re not called to be celebrities, but servants…instruments used by God to continually point others to the only star worth worshipping, the bright Morning Star…the Creator of heaven and earth, the Lord and Savior. Nothing we do should ever steer our hearts or take the spotlight away from the only One who deserves to take center stage—Almighty God.
One day this world will pass away and all the fading stars with it, but the bright Morning Star will continue to shine bright for all eternity. And what we, with God’s help, have humbly done in obedience to Him and in service for others will remain shining forever.
“For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36).