The Destructiveness of Distinction

Robert Wurtz II

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19–22 KJV)

On January 27, 1838 Abraham Lincoln, at the age of 29 years, gave what is considered to be one of the greatest speeches in American History. Speaking to young men attending a meeting in Springfield, Illinois, he drew their attention to a particularly ambitious and reckless type of man (or woman) who would find their way into leadership and then destroy the works of those who had gone before them. He warned them in a figure that:

“New reapers will arise, and they, too, will seek a field. It is to deny, what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And, when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion, as others have so done before them. The question then, is, can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot […]. Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it […]. Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us?

Distinction will be his paramount object, and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm; yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.” (end of quote)

However true this may be both historically and presently, it ought never to be so in the Kingdom of God. Men who are given to distinction (building a name for themselves) will do so either by building up or tearing down. They who are unwilling to build upon the foundation of others who have gone before us are bound to bring destruction.

Moreover, as Christians, we must ever be conscious of the work that God is doing rather than the work we are doing for God. In other words, are we working as fellow laborers in God’s building project or are we blazing our own path in His name? This is an important question. Paris Reidhead once said that “it is amazing what a person can accomplish without God.” We need to be in step with what God is doing lest we branch out on our own and bring harm to the kingdom of God.


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One of the greatest temptations that ministers face is that of building a legacy. Many want to build “something” that will live on after they pass away. For example, in our city, we have numerous large churches — some of which can be seen for miles and miles away. They are large and imposing. Yet this is not the type of building that Christians should be focused on. We are colaborers in building the kingdom of God. After our work is done and we pass from this life all that will truly remain are the treasures that we have laid up in Heaven. The kingdom of God does not come with observation and often times the works of our hands will leave no physical evidence as a testimony. The record is in heaven.

The world promotes the notion that we should distinguish ourselves. In fact, there are shows designed to make people into idols. However, this attitude has no place in the kingdom of God. We are fellow workers and are to esteem others better than ourselves. We’re not aspiring to be “stars” or anything of the sort. And far be it from us to do something detrimental to the kingdom of God in an attempt to exalt ourselves.

Our greatest accomplishment in his life is to simply do the will of God. We don’t need a “vision” or anything like that. We simply need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to accomplish through us what He wills. If that means ministering to people and in places that man disdains — so be it. We are here to please God and work to a standard of what He would call success — not success in the world’s eyes. “Well done thou good and faithful servant” are words that will be heard by people who followed the Lord no matter where He led them. They will be heard by self-less people who were willing to do a work that will never earn earthly recognition or accolades.

We can never improve on God’s perfect will. It is our job to find it, walk in it, and be faithful to the end. “My course” (as Paul called it) is God’s perfect will for my life and it is my responsibility to finish that course. It is the only thing I can do that will please God. That… is the meaning of success. Not big buildings and monuments of men. To move apart from God’s will is misdirection at best or the driving of selfish ambition at worst.

2 thoughts on “The Destructiveness of Distinction

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  1. This is a truly great questions you’ve asked…”In other words, are we working as fellow laborers in God’s building project or are we blazing our own path in His name?” I appreciate this and have written it down so that I can seriously take time to do some self-examination! Thank you!

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