Institutes: Book 3, Chapter 7, Section 9, Part a
“Therefore, suppose we believe that every means toward a prosperous and desirable outcome rests upon the blessing of God alone; and that, when this is absent, all sorts of misery and calamity dog us. It remains for us not greedily to strive after riches and honors-whether relying upon our own dexterity of wit or our own diligence, or depending upon the favor of men, or having confidence in vainly imagined fortune-but for us always to look to the Lord so that by his guidance we may be led to whatever lot he has provided for us” (3.7.9a).
Calvin is urging us to look to the Lord. He wants us to lift our hearts up above the human realm and gaze expectantly upon the God who provides guidance and placement. He roots us where He wants us. And “misery and calamity dog us” if He chooses not to bless or if we “depend upon the favor of men.”
An inordinate desire for and dependence upon human favor reinforces vanity. It lifts up the recipient on a raggedy carpet and parades him/her around in room full of mirrors, so to speak. These mirrors reflect only images of the honoree. Suddenly, the carpet drops and the mirrors shatter. And so does the self-image of the one receiving praise. Depending upon human praise induces vanity and a fractured image of the self. Looking to the Lord for His approval helps to makes us whole. In Christ, we can become whole again. To be whole in Christ is to be truly human. Christianity is good for humanity. Denying self brings wholeness to the self.
I remember reading somewhere that you can tell a lot about someone’s character by how they respond to a flat tire (an unexpected situation) and how they treat a waitress or waiter. Character is also exposed by the response to human praise. How do you respond when someone praises and honors you? How long do you think about the compliment? What do you do with the compliment? (Justin)