Diotrephes is Back: Part Two

Love of Praise

Diotrephes was a church leader of some notable rank, probably a senior pastor by today’s standards. For all his achievements in ministry he is described in scripture as an egocentric personality who “[loved] to be first among them” (3 John 9). He had an insatiable desire for preeminence. His heart secretly delighted in the praises of others which fed his exalted view of his own abilities. When a leader satisfies himself with the cheers of men he lays the groundwork for a host of ministry-disrupting behavior. For example, Diotrephes’ love for preeminence led to an unsubmissive heart toward church authority (v.9b). Furthermore, he became deceitful, “unjustly accusing …with wicked words” (v.10). The egocentric leader is intolerant and hyper-critical of others. Positioning himself for maximum attention he will readily dispense with another’s ministry gifts, talents, and ideas. Like Diotrephes, he will not tolerate anyone encroaching upon his territory. Such an appetite for man’s applause is the result of ingratitude for one’s gifts, and desiring personal significance outside of God’s will. The scriptures warn against “[searching] out one’s own glory” (Proverbs 25:27; 28:6-7). We can avoid the lure of man’s praise by remembering that our significance is found in becoming useful to Christ. Moreover, we are told in 1 Peter 4:10 that we have “received” spiritual gifts from God and are merely “stewards of [his] manifold grace”. Apart from Him we can accomplish nothing!

Human praise always tests the character of a leader (Proverbs 27:21) because it brings true motives to the surface. All of us at one time or another have received a word of thanks for a job well done or praise for personal qualities and talents. In fact, according to Proverbs 12:8, it is natural for a man to be “…praised for his insight”. There is even a place for publicly praising a faithful servant, as Paul does when referring to Epaphroditis in Philippians 2:29-30, “Therefore…hold men like him in high regard because he came close to death for the work of Christ…”. In ministry, however, striking a balance between humbly receiving a genuine compliment and seeking only the glory of Christ can be challenging. How can you know whether you love the praises of men? A few simple questions may help: Do you withhold praise from others? Do you delight in getting attention? Are you uncomfortable in the presence of gifted peers? Would others describe you as self-promoting? If you struggle to rejoice in the usefulness of others you have laid the seed-bed for cultivating a love of praise.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Jerry,

    Nice post. I particularly enjoyed the pictoral illustration of self-praise. In a homiletics class I took my prof. always warned us of the dear old lady in the second row. She is the one that will tell you what a wonderful job you did no matter what you said.

    Even as somone who does not have years in the pulpit I can say that the greatest joy I get is not when someone comes up to me after the sermon and tells me how great I did. My joy comes when someone finds me after the sermon and talks about how wonderful the passage of Scripture I taught on is, or how wonderful the Savior found in that passage is. Our goal is to be Christ-centered in our preaching. When people want to talk about Christ after a sermon, rather than the preacher, it was a good sermon.

  2. “our significance is found in becoming useful to Christ”

    Great thoughts and questions.

  3. A most excellent post- Now to the prayer closet to confess.


  4. Jerry-

    Let me be the first to praise you for this fine piece!

    Seriously, thanks for this crucial reminder. We are all subject to our heart’s depravity in these areas and are in constant need of self-examination lest we fall prey to the idol of self-importance. There is no better aid to this than to look regularly into the mirror of God’s Word allowing it to reflect our true self back to us with the goal of putting off ugly pride and embracing biblical humility.

  5. Paul –
    Great point about Christ-centered sermons.

    Caleb –
    According to Matthew 6:6, you shouldn’t have told us you’d be in your prayer closet…are you secretly wanting our praise?

    Jonathan –
    Who is responsible for the quote?

    Chris –
    As you implied, there is no true clarity in self-evaluation without the word!

  6. Jerry,

    Great posts! I think the Word challenged many of us through this current series.

    In light of the Matthew 6 comment.

    Perhaps the principle of James 5:6 (Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed), can be understood in light of the Matthew 6:5-15 principle.

    Their are definite occasions when prayer (even confession of sin) may be soley an external act of self-righteousness. Their are other times when as the MacArthur Study Bible notes, “Mutual honesty, openness, and sharing of needs will enable believers to uphold each other in the spiritual struggle.” MacArthur also adds in his James commentary, “Therefore James called for mutual honesty and mutual confession (of sin) as believers pray for one another.”

    Your post led me to pray (first)for myself but also for my fellow ministers.

    None the less a good reminder and a great series of posts.



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