Jesus Christ left heaven for us. He came to earth, first to preach the gospel of the kingdom (as well as teach and heal) and then to fulfill it by dying on a cross for the sins of mankind. This King of Kings didn’t live like a king, in a palace with soft clothing (Matthew 11:8). Jesus shunned the crown instead – all earthly honors, awards, and titles. He accepted only heavenly titles: “Son of God,” “Son of Man,” “King of the Jews,” and “Messiah.” Jesus worked as a carpenter for 10-15 years, and then relied on women believers for his basic needs for the next three-and-a half years (Luke 8:2-3). Many times, Jesus had no earthly place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20).
On the cross Jesus wore a crown of thorns, placed by a Roman soldier in mock honor (Matthew 27:29). He endured this great trial because he had his eye on the joy of an eternal crown and heaven’s throne (Hebrews 12:2). After his ascension, Jesus received honor from God the Father in heaven as a result – the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9-11).
We say Jesus is our example (1 Peter 2:21). But we don’t take this spiritual truth literally. Oh, most of us shun watching the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and other award shows this world offers. But now we have an alternative – the Dove Awards. We’re not against watching and competing in the Olympics and beauty pageants either. The Pentecostal denomination I was reared in has talent competitions every year. They also have a ‘hall of prophets.’
The Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church, sits on a gold throne in the Vatican. England’s current monarch Queen Elizabeth II is head of the Church of England. She faithfully attends services each week. But is she really a Christian? Is the Pope? I doubt it. If they really loved and followed Christ, they would shun all these things – selling and giving to the poor what they could. It’s not unheard of! I challenge princes and princesses today, whether or not they’re heirs to thrones, to forsake all and follow the Prince of Prince.
God created his bride the church as a community of believers. He wants to make us one with Christ (John 17:21-23). We’re not supposed to compete among ourselves for worldly honors, awards, titles, and crowns. As children and heirs of the King we’re supposed to run the race of life instead, for a crown of life, righteousness, and glory – one that does not fade (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 2 Timothy 4:7-8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 2:10, 3:11). We’ll gladly toss our crowns at Jesus’ feet one day, knowing that we are unworthy (Revelation 4:10-11). We’ll also live in a heavenly mansion in the New Jerusalem (John 14:2-3, Revelation 21-22).
So what’s happened? Why are we throwing away our time and talent on things that don’t matter? Why are we storing treasures on earth rather than in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20)? We should give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). But most of us misinterpret this phrase. We want both secular and spiritual honors while on earth. Paul meant we should honor worldly rulers and governments in obedience to God. Others covet honor, forgetting that Jesus shunned such things as unworthy of him. If we say we’re God’s children, then we should act like His Son.
Too many Christians today are like the rich young ruler. We want to follow Christ and still keep our earthly goods (Matthew 19:21-22). When he says ‘sell,’ we hold on tight. We don’t see the eternal crown and heavenly mansion that Jesus holds out to us. Neither do we see the moth and rust about to destroy our worldly treasures (Matthew 6:19).
Count von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) shunned his title and all that came with it. He gave up his earthly goods to follow Christ. Mathilda Wrede (1864-1928) of Finland did the same. She shunned the title “Baroness” and all the earthly luxuries that came with it. Matilda followed Christ instead, preaching the gospel to Finnish prisoners and working for prison reform.
How many Christians today are like them? How many forsake earthly things to follow Christ? The answer is ‘too few.’ If we really love Christ, then let us sell what we have and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21). Let us refuse all earthly titles, honors, and awards. Let us shun the crown.