Today’s reading: 1 Kings 1-2.
Marketing. Self-promotion. Advertising. Today those are the accepted practices, felt to be necessary for success. As Ecclesiastes says, there’s nothing new under the sun, and self-promotion has been the way of the world for ages. Absalom did it as he prepared to steal David’s crown. As a feeble King David approaches the end of his life, his oldest son, Adonijah, practices the same brand of marketing.
Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. (His father had never interfered with him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.) Adonijah conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support. 1 Kings 1:5-7
Adonijah was the oldest of King David’s living sons, and according to the usual practice in other countries he expected to be the next king. But Israel was not like the other countries. God had chosen both of Israel’s previous kings, Saul and David, and had completely passed over Saul’s family to pick David. Before we see what happened to Adonijah, let’s look at some of the Bible references that talk about self-promotion.
James 4:10. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Our property attitude is humility. We should leave it to God to lift us up, and he will.
Proverbs 11:2. When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble. The outcome of pride is disaster; the result of humility is wisdom.
Proverbs 16:5. All those who are arrogant are an abomination to the LORD; be assured, they will not go unpunished. God is actively opposed to those who are prideful.
Proverbs 25:27. It is not good to eat much honey, Nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory. Like too much of a good thing, trying to magnify yourself is trying too hard.
Obadiah 1:3. The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? Pride blinds us to the reality of our submission to God’s will.
Phillipians 2:3. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Rather than promoting ourselves and seeking our own benefit, we should actively consider the qualities of others that make them better than us.
Phillipians 2:5-8. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Jesus is our best example of a proper attitude of humility and submission. Though God, he emptied himself and became a servant to men, and was obedient to God’s will.
So what happened to Adonijah, who wanted to make himself king? Remember, the verses say he “put himself forward” or “exalted himself.” It wasn’t long before disaster struck. Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, let King David know of Adonijah’s actions, and David quickly had Solomon anointed as simultaneous king with himself. Adonijah was placed under house arrest, but he continued to maneuver for influence and power and Solomon soon executed him.
Jesus gave this example about the pitfalls of exalting yourself: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:8-11)
So I think we should get rid of the term “self-promotion” and ask the question, “How can you pursue influence in a good and bad way?” And the answer would be—as Jesus nailed it in Matthew 6—”If you do your good deeds to be seen by men, you have your reward, and you’ll get none in heaven.” If I pray to be seen by men—or if I answer questions on video in order to promote my ego and my strengths—then I’ve lost all my reward right there and will be of little use to anybody. But influence is good if it is driven by a heart that says, “I’ve seen some things in the Bible. They are precious beyond measure. Jesus Christ has become a friend beyond all friends and wife and children to me. I would love to commend him and all I’ve seen about him to as many people as I can.” John Piper, “What is the difference between good and bad self-promotion.”
Image by Stephen Cuyos on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0