“Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” – Jeremiah 45:4 (NKJV)
George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) had a devout Christian father. He was named after a minister of the gospel. But I doubt Custer ever read the Bible. So he never learned this heavenly advice. Instead, Custer was a megalomaniac. He wanted glory, honor, and fame for himself – preferably in battle. Custer wanted to be a celebrity and a star.
Finishing at the bottom of his class at West Point Military Academy, Custer performed reckless deeds in the Civil War and in the western Indian wars. He wanted a great victory at the Little Bighorn River in Montana, timed with the American Centennial celebration back East, so that he could run for the office of President that fall. Custer also manipulated the media through photo shoots and newspaper and magazine articles. America hasn’t changed much.
Custer didn’t care about his spiritual state or his relationship with God. He just wanted the world to adore his reputation and public image and they responded. After his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, America gave Custer the glory he desperately craved. He couldn’t run for office in November 1876, but in his death Custer achieved fame that President Rutherford Hayes (1822-1893, 1877-1881) could only dream about.
Sadly, Custer deserved none of the glory that he received. He wasn’t a Christian. Custer never gave glory to God, sought and obeyed his will, or shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. He thought of Native Americans as vermin who should be exterminated in order to make room for American imperialism rather than as human beings. Custer was foolish and rebellious too. A wiser person wouldn’t have led a reckless charge at Gettysburg in July 1863, even though it succeeded. Nor would he have killed innocent Cheyenne women, children, the elderly, and a peace chief at the “Battle of Washita River.” This is how the media painted it, but the event was really a massacre. Some Cheyenne warriors were guilty of rape and murder, but not these people! Finally, a wiser person than Custer wouldn’t have died at the Little Bighorn. Outnumbered 10-to-1, he would have known that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” The media mislabeled this event as well, calling it “Custer’s Last Stand.” It was really the Cheyenne and Lakota’s.
The American media was none the wiser. Why would anyone glorify a megalomaniac and make him a celebrity? The media doesn’t look at character, only reputation. It doesn’t focus on the heart and soul either, just the external image. Private responsibility doesn’t matter, just public conformity. Trying to please the media through image and PR usually leads to hypocrisy.
The media can turn a saint into a sinner and a sinner into a saint. The 1925 Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, was a snow job. If you want the real story, click here. Thanks to the admitted use of racial slurs, albeit 25 years ago, during the deposition of a lawsuit, Southern chef Paula Deen was crucified in the media this summer. She won the suit but lost her Food Network contract, as well as contracts with grocery store chains. Yet in the last five years, the media has glorified and deified President Obama to the point of absurdity. Does he deserve it? Most people with sense, Christian and otherwise, say “no.”
The media today could be a force for good. They could be a good moral influence on the people they claim to serve. They could use their power to share the gospel of Christ and lead people to him. The media doesn’t want to do any of this. It’s full of sinners who unknowingly serve Satan, the prince of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11).
No wonder Jesus warned his disciples not to be like the Pharisees and do their “good” deeds before men (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)! Private giving, fasting, and prayer lead to honest worship before God. Doing such deeds publicly leads to hypocrisy. It also turns good into evil.
No wonder God said, “Don’t carve an image and bow down to it” (Exodus 20:4-5)! During the Great Tribulation, condemned sinners will worship an image (2 Thessalonians 2:9-13, Revelation 13:14-15). However, God is a spirit and we must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Jesus’ 3.5-year ministry was very public. But he hated PR. Jesus often told people he had healed to keep it quiet. They didn’t. They spread his fame everywhere they went. We too should spread Jesus’ name and deeds everywhere we go. But let’s make sure that he receives the glory, not ourselves. Jesus prefers to work behind the scenes, through people. He does not receive honor from men because he knows what’s in their hearts (John 2:24-25, 5:41). Jesus is in the shadows. That’s where we must go if we want salvation and healing.
Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus,
He’s the Friend who always cares and understands.
Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find Him,
And you’ll know Him by the nail prints in His hands.
— Words and music by E. J. Rollings (YouTube)
Who are we daily conforming to and trying to please – Jesus Christ or this world? Are we consumed with our public image and reputation, or our private character? Do we want to influence people for good and lead them to God, or merely impress them? In our hearts, how many of us are like George Armstrong Custer? Let us not be conformed to this world but rather transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Let us say “no” to media publicity and “yes” to the private work of God’s grace.