“And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied” (Ac 12:20-24).
Herod had probably spent much time thinking about what he was going to say. He had doubtless organized his points, thought over the illustrations he would use, and just how he would raise and lower his voice for the greatest effect. He most certainly wanted to make a good impression. He then chose his robes carefully for the occasion from among his royal wardrobe.
The impressions were perfect. There was a thunderous response. But God was not honored, and a man who had no doubt carefully planned for his future in time, was suddenly judged with eternal consequences.
We puzzle over this account. Was what Herod did really so serious? Was what Herod left out (glory to God) really so serious? Did the audience contribute to Herod’s demise? Was God speaking to them as much as to Herod? Might we as audiences be grieving a jealous God? Might we as speakers, singers or other performers be provoking God’s wrath?
The little second grade girl sweetly recites her poem. She too has practiced and practiced her part for the annual school program. She too is dressed in her best little dress. The effect of the poem and her sweet appearance seem to almost take the audience by surprise. There is an outbreak of applause.
Is there something wrong with clapping when a person has done well? Is it different than giving a sincere compliment to the person when they have shown extra effort and perseverance?
Let us make a few evaluations.
There is a clear distinction between worship and entertainment. When we go to God’s house and lift our hearts in praise, we do not focus on any man or object this side of eternity. It would be entirely inappropriate to clap when the Sunday school teacher has finished his class, or when the minister has closed his message. Even though he has worked diligently in study, and spent hours in arranging thoughts for their effectiveness, we do not well to applaud him. Our best response is a sincere thank-you, a genuine compliment, and a walk that corresponds with the message he delivered.
School programs and chorus renditions seem to be in a different category. But are they really? Is the purpose to give God glory or man glory? We profess to give God the glory. Is it legitimate to join then in an expression of praise to man. Is it right to say by clapping in applause, “I have been impressed by your performance”?
Applause focuses all the attention on the performance. There is no way for an applauder to pretend he is worshiping God. He cannot pretend he has been led to judge his life in light of eternity. His senses have been pleased, and his intellect has been stirred, but has his soul been fed? Attention to the performance ultimately worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator.
Applause poses the temptation of pride to the one sharing. We all know what it is like to face the subtle temptation to feel we are better than average. That temptation is strengthened and heightened by a group who praises an individual.
Applause presents the temptation to dishonesty. There is peer pressure in a clapping audience. If others are giving applause and you simply did not feel there was any thing special, what will you do? If giving a hand is not really saying anything, why do it? If it is saying “you did a great job” and you don’t feel that way, what will you do?
Let us keep our church services, school programs, chorus programs, yes all of our gatherings God centered; not man centered. Let us refrain from adding additional temptation to the one who ministers to our spiritual needs. Let’s avoid the snare of dishonest commendation. In short, let us refrain from using hand clapping applause. Instead, let us give a sincere word of thanks when our hearts have been blessed. Above all, let us serve and worship our Creator, blessed forever.