Recently, I shared my amazement at how my granddaughter, fifteen years old, had established herself as a minor celebrity on the social-media video site Tik Tok. What you might have wondered if you read that post was why I didn’t give more of a shout-out to the kid. I didn’t tell you her user name or provide instructions on how you could watch her videos. Don’t I risk having my grandpa privileges revoked?
The answer is, “No.” No, I don’t worry about my credentials as a loving grandparent, and, especially, no, I don’t particularly want to encourage anyone to watch her videos. For the most part, the ones I have seen are not tremendously lurid or anything, but they do involve her dancing to songs from which we’re better off not repeating the lyrics. Some of her own language in those posts is stuff I find uncomfortable. I’m very proud of my granddaughter but not for this work.
That brings me to a question. Is fame really a good thing? My current study of Ecclesiastes suggests that fame, like pretty much everything else, is a fleeting, futile thing. But my Tik Tok girl is making money from her moment of fame. Shouldn’t she milk it for all its worth, selling all the hoodies and inspiring all the fan art that she can?
Seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands1 Thessalonians 4:11
The answer is, “No.” No, fame is not something to be pursued for its own sake, and no, all fame–even the sort that makes us money–isn’t a positive thing. Let me give a simple example. In 1950, like today, there were two senators from Wisconsin. One of them served for an impressive 24 years, but my guess is that you’ve never heard of him: Alexander Wiley. Wiley’s counterpart, serving only 10 years, was Joseph McCarthy. That’s the “I have here in my hand a list of 205 communists” McCarthy.
Whether you think of McCarthy as the ultimate villain or a guy who was doing a patriotic duty, he almost certainly handled his affairs poorly, doing more to advance himself than to make the nation safe from commies. His fame clearly outstrips Senator Wiley, but was that fame that should bring him pride?
The answer is “No.” No, fame can, perhaps more often than not, be a negative thing, and No, fame sought for its own sake is essentially idolatry. That’s why Paul cautioned the Thessalonians to hold back.
But we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do this even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.–1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12
Just to be clear, I am very proud of my oldest granddaughter. She clearly has a charisma and talent that can help her achieve things that I would never dream of achieving. That said, I want to see her pursuing things that do not degrade her and, ideally, that bring honor to God.
Does my grandfather-ness outrank my role as a child of God? The answer is “No.”