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Is it wrong to want to be famous?

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Question: "Is it wrong to want to be famous?"

In our age of celebrity, the pull toward fame can feel overwhelming. The famous seem to have it all, and we sometimes find ourselves coveting what they have (or appear to have). When we evaluate whether a desire is right or wrong, we have to look at our motivation. First Corinthians 10:31 says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." That instruction is our gold standard for evaluating our own motives. We can look at any desire and ask ourselves, "Do I want this for God’s glory or for my own?" It’s easy to tell ourselves that we could glorify God more by being famous. wouldn’t more people listen to our message if we had a bigger platform?

Jesus gives us a great example in John 6. He had just fed over 5,000 people, healed the sick, and performed other miracles. The people were thrilled. They believed He was the One who would finally deliver them from the oppression of Roman rule. Jesus’ fame was at its peak, and the crowds were ready to crown Him king. But verse 15 says, "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself."

Imagine the situation. Jesus had the opportunity to be catapulted to fame and fortune. A certain logic says that, if Jesus were famous, powerful, and wealthy, then people would take more notice of His message. If He were king, He could glorify God even more. That makes sense from an earthly perspective, but Jesus said “no” to the coronation. It wasn’t God’s plan, so Jesus chose the harder way. Jesus’ goal in everything He did was to seek the will of His Father and to do it (John 4:34; 8:29; Luke 22:42). He said in John 8:50, "I am not seeking glory for myself." Since Jesus is our model, that must be our goal, too.

Some people have a worldwide platform with which to glorify God. Others serve Him in seeming obscurity. Both are equal in importance in God’s kingdom (Matthew 5:19; 25:14–15). A desire for fame is not wrong in itself, if we want it for the right reasons. Most of us wouldn’t have the proper motivation. If we are honest, our desire for fame is to glorify ourselves (James 4:3; 1 Timothy 6:9). But God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8–9). He chooses the humble to accomplish things of eternal value. He chooses simple truths to confuse those who think they are wise (1 Corinthians 1:27–28). He does it all so that “no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29). That should be our heart’s cry to Him: "Lord, let my flesh never glory in Your presence."

When we make it our goal to keep our hearts humble before the Lord, He promises to exalt us in His way, in His time (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). If He can better use us by making us famous, then fame will come our way. But fame brings its own challenges. Many famous people warn that fame is not all it appears to be. There are headaches and heartaches that come with fame that many cannot handle. God wants the very best for each of His children. When we seek His fame over ours, we can trust that He will direct us into the path He has chosen for us (Psalm 37:4; Proverbs 3:5–6). His path, unlike the world’s, includes rewards that last for all eternity (Matthew 6:4; Luke 6:35; Ephesians 6:8; Proverbs 19:17).

Recommended Resource: Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need by David Platt

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