My lawn and I have an appointment this evening. Time to mow. You know what’s not going to happen? As I push the mower back into the garage, it’s not going to boast about what it did for the last two hours.
I can be carried at 30,000 feet and more than 500 miles per hour, but I’m not going to hear the airplane magnify itself as I step off to retrieve my luggage.
Parking lots aren’t full of chatter between Chevys and Fords, Hondas and Toyotas about what a fabulous job they did on this morning’s commute.
They’re all just tools. Some tools cost more than others, some are shiny and some are worn, but they’re just tools. The lawn mower is pushed, the airplane is piloted, the automobile is driven, and we expect them to do what they were created to do. Once they’ve done so, tools don’t boast.
In Isaiah 10, the awesome Assyrian empire is described as a rod in the hand of the LORD. “Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (Isa 10:5-6).
But the “rod” quickly forgets his place. In the arrogance of his heart, with a boastful look in his eyes, the king of Assyria says, “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones” (10:13).
And to God, that sounds about as foolish as my mower leading my shovel and rake in a chorus of self-exalting praise.
“Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood” (10:15). When God has accomplished his purposes with the shortsighted “rod” of Assyria, his anger “will be directed to their destruction” (10:25).
Thousands of years later, tools still shouldn’t boast. Even Apollos and Paul–men of mighty influence in the life of the early church–were simply “servants through whom you believed.” Instruments of service don’t exist to magnify themselves. “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:5-7). Preachers need to remember that Sundays are a celebration of what God has done, not a demonstration of what they can do.
In Matthew 6, Jesus encouraged all of his disciples to beware practicing their righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, “for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” So when you give to the needy, don’t sound a social media trumpet. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrite who prays for the sake of appearances. Wrenches don’t sing their own praises. Mowers don’t magnify themselves.
“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” (Luke 17:10)
Do what you were created to do this weekend. Fill the gaps. Meet the needs. Shine for the reputation of Jesus. And trust that the Father who sees in secret will reward you.