Social media has empowered the masses, granting individuals the power to build massive online audiences — something that would have been a much more difficult task just a decade ago without the ever-intense influence of Twitter, Facebook and other influential platforms.
But with all the possibilities for increased attention in the modern media era, an important question arises: Is it sinful to seek fame online? That’s the very subject Pastor John Piper recently tackled on his podcast after a man named Daniel emailed in with these comments:
“Pastor John, is it a sin to desire to be famous? In this day of blogging, Instagram stories, and all the social media outlets out there, I feel like I’m seeing this growing desire to be famous, even ‘Christian famous’ — to be well known, and well liked, and ‘shared,’ and to have something on the side that gives you purpose. I see this especially in mothers with little children. What are some red flags in this digital age for Christians who might desire to be well known for their books, or blogs, or podcasts, or sermons, or images, or anything they produce?”
Piper immediately responded that he believes it is a sin to “desire to be famous,” but differentiated that from wanting to be influential, saying the latter “may not be a sin.” In the end, he said the scenario becomes problematic when “the pleasure sought in being made much of is greater than the pleasure sought in being of service.”
The pastor added his belief it isn’t sinful for a person to want others to think positively of him or her if the goal is for others to see God in and through that individual, citing verses such as Matthew 5:16 and Proverbs 22:1, which read, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” and “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
In the end, Piper said it’s important to draw some distinctions and to assess motivations when it comes to the every-complex and problematic quest for fame. The preacher said people simply shouldn’t be doing what they do if the end goal is to secure human fame, adding that God should be the true reward.
“Yes, it is a sin to want to be famous; that is, to want to be known by more and more people who will make much of us and praise us,” he said. “It is a deadly craving of the fallen human ego to want to be made much of — even for the good that we do, let alone the evil that we do.”
Piper did circle back to his claim about being influential, though, adding that the end goal should always be to bring as many people to Jesus as possible and to help ease suffering. With that in mind, having influence can help achieve those goals, though, even then, Piper said we must be careful.
“Let’s all admit how deadly difficult this distinction is,” he said. “Wanting to be a blessing to more and more people on the one hand, whether through social media or however, while wanting to be known and made much of and more and more people, is deadly difficult. But that is precisely where the battle must be fought: in our own hearts.”
Listen to Piper discuss the issue in detail here.
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