"When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square, the young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood." (Job 29:7-8)Job missed the respect he had with the others in his city. The young men feared him and the old men respected him. He was welcome at the place of prominence, the city gate, and all who gathered there waited to hear what he had to say.
"To me they listened and waited, and kept silent for my counsel. After my words they did not speak again, and my speech dropped on them. They waited for me as for the rain, and opened their mouth as for the spring rain." (Job 29:21-23)Job's words, and his wisdom, were counted as valuable and were sought for by those who were in need. Job was not insignificant, rather he was counted as a leader among men, one whom men sought after and followed, "I chose a way for them and sat as chief, and dwelt as a king among the troops, as one who comforted the mourners." (Job 29:25) The praise and adulation of his fellow countrymen affected how Job saw himself,
"I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. My glory is ever new with me, and my bow is renewed in my hand." (Job 29:14,20)Job saw himself as one who embodied righteousness and justice. Job received glory from his fellow countrymen, a glory that he valued greatly, and a glory that he hoped would never pass away. But all this had changed. Now, Job was despised and rejected by the ones who previously had revered him. He was no longer sought after, nor did people search him out to hear his wisdom and counsel. Job had gone from being popular to being alone. And even the lowest of the land mocked him, "But now those younger than I mock me, whose fathers I disdained to put with the dogs of my flock." (Jon 30:1) No one honored him and no one gave him any glory.
I have a friend who wrote a lot in high school. In time, he became acknowledged as a writer. People respected him for what he had to say and, as a writer, he became "special". But one day, he realized that he had come to enjoy being a "writer" more than writhing. He came to enjoy the respect and honor of people who viewed him as a writer more than the actual work of writhing. His reputation as a writer became more important to him than his writings.
I think Job suffered a bit from this same problem. Job was in love with the honor and glory he received from others who saw him as both wise and just. He enjoyed the reception at the city gate more then the responsibility of sitting at the city gate. Job wanted people to see him as wise, but he was balking at God's work in his life that would, in the end, impart to him greater wisdom. If only he could be seen as wise without having to endure the process of becoming wise...
As Christians, we often fall into the same trap. We want people to see us as "spiritual" but we are often unwilling to endure the process that makes us "spiritual". We like people to think we "have it all together" yet we balk at the spiritual disciplines that help us to "get it all together". We enjoy it more when people seek after us as one who has the word of the Lord, than the effort needed to enter into God's presence to get the word of the Lord. In short, we enjoy being seen as Christians more than the work of being a Christian. The truth is, however, that it does not matter much what others think or say about us, what matters most is what God has to say about us. The praise of men is like mammon, you cannot live for the praise of men and the praise of God at the same time, you must choose one. Therefore, let us live for the praise of God and concern ourselves not with what others might think.