Look at me!
I love my grand-daughters. The oldest is almost four and she loves to say, “Grandpa, look at me!” Or she will say, “Grandpa, watch my new dance!” Now most of the time, it looks like one of the previous “dances” that she has done. Usually it is standing on her toes, doing a twirl and kicking up her foot, or some variation. I try to always be excited and give her good marks on her little ditty. Sometimes, she will come downstairs like today and say, “Grandpa, look at my dress!” And I will respond how nice her dress looks on her and how she is ready for where she is going – church, in this case. People need encouragement as they grow. It is pretty normal for children to want that kind of attention.
I have noticed that the attention getting does not stop with young children. Adults have their own way of saying, “Look at me!” Certainly, people don’t say it, but their actions – what they do, wear, drive, or own – say it very loud. Not everyone seeks that attention, but most do in our society. Often it might be a particular car we choose to drive like a Lamborghini (that must follow the same speed limits posted as a Yugo). Often it is the style of clothes that attracts attention to the owner. Lack of modesty will always attract more attention from foolish men than proper clothing. Adults are more subtle about calling attention to themselves, usually. How should a mature believer live?
Scripture describes something quite different for those who are mature believers. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) Instead of “look at me,” the attitude should be, “I die to myself, so people can see that I am following Jesus.” Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(Gal. 2:20) Instead of “look at me,” that attitude should be, “I no longer live, it is Christ who should be seen in me.” Again Paul writes, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) Instead of “look at me,” the attitude should be, “My life is centered on Christ and people should not see anything but Jesus in my life. People should see Jesus, not me.”
This might seem a little extreme, but consider Jesus’ own words. When Jesus was in the upper room with the disciples during the Last Supper, Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father. Jesus responded,
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say,`Show us the Father ‘? 10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (John 14:9-10)
Jesus explains that Philip sees the Father when He sees Jesus. Jesus is not referring to His flesh and blood, because Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman that God is Spirit and has no face or body (John 4:24). Jesus is referring to His works.
When we draw attention to our dress or transportation or looks, we draw attention to the wrong thing and reveal that we are still a spiritual child at heart. Of course this takes discernment to understand the balance. I cannot draw a line for people, or it would quickly become a legalism. Take, for example, jewelry. You could take the Amish approach and not wear any jewelry at all. Yet, Scripture has plenty of examples that jewelry was worn in Israel and God did not condemn it. However, when Jacob led his family to worship, he made the women remove all the earrings that had been significant in idolatry (Gen. 35:4). Peter made it clear that adornment for women should not have an external emphasis, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward– arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel-” (1 Pet. 3:3) Peter emphasizes that external adornment would draw attention to it rather than the “quiet and gentle spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4) And we see in God’s judgment on Israel, God removes the jewelry,
18 In that day the Lord will take away the finery: The jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents; 19 The pendants, the bracelets, and the veils; 20 The headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; The perfume boxes, the charms, 21 and the rings; The nose jewels, 22 the festal apparel, and the mantles; The outer garments, the purses, 23 and the mirrors; The fine linen, the turbans, and the robes. (Is. 3:18-23)
There must be a balance. It is likely at the point where the believer is seeking God’s righteousness, depending on God’s guidance and humbly submitting to God’s will.
The real issue is, “how should I look, dress, or live so that attention is drawn to Jesus instead of me?” How are people supposed to see Jesus in me? The answer is found in the internal heart expressed in works. It cannot be in what is seen. Jesus is described as less than humanly good looking. Isaiah wrote, “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” (Is. 53:2) Jesus would likely not be chosen as a leader, or a television anchor man, because He was not good-looking from the human perspective. But the real person is the soul, not the looks.
When God gave Israel their first king, King Saul, he was a handsome man and taller than everyone else. That was a normal human choice, because the people rejected God. God gave them what they wanted, instead of what they should have had. King Saul was a disaster.
The Apostle Paul is described historically as the last person who would be leading churches. History records Paul was short, rotund, bandy-legged, bald and had a high squeaky voice. That is not the person people naturally choose to follow.
As we already noted in John 14:9, Jesus told Philip that he saw the Father when he saw Jesus. Jesus was referring to His works, not His looks. His works exalted the Father, not even Himself. Jesus said, “Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19)
Instead of saying, “Look at me!” we should be saying, “Do my works mirror the Father’s work in life?” How should we dress, wear jewelry, choose a car or house, or live in such a way that we are not the recipient of attention, but God is the obvious One who is living through us?
I am certainly going to enjoy my grand-daughter every time she says, “Grandpa, look at me!” I am going to affirm and help disciple her. At well-chosen points, I will help her parents see that the issue is not her, but the Lord. I will also help to prepare her, so whatever she wears or how she fixes herself, she is drawing attention to her soul devoted to Jesus and serving others, rather than to herself.