Several folks asked me to weigh in on Michael Jackson. Frankly, I’ve not been one of his greatest fans. Don’t get me wrong, no one could deny his unique talent. Michael Jackson will always be the undisputed king of pop. His later years were fraught with strangeness and not even the most ardent fan could deny his shortcomings.
It will be a while before the dust settles on Jackson’s passing, but for me he is a parable on the toxicity of fame. The trouble with fame is that it brings with it the imposition of worship. Like it or not, men are not made to receive worship; we are made to give it. The fact is there is a really good reason why only God should be worshipped and that is that He is the only one who is unaffected by it, one way or another.
As we've seen in the case of Michael Jackson, strange things happen in and to men when we worship at their feet, and even stranger things happen in and to them when we withdraw that worship. Michael, and all those who drink from the toxic-cup-of-fame, fall victim to the fact that men are made to worship, not be worshipped. When we don't worship God, it's not that we worship nothing, it's that we worship anything (Rom. 1:19-25).
Interestingly, Philippians 2:5-11 fits this point. Because God the Son personally chose to "humble Himself" in eternity (vs. 6), in incarnation (v. 7) and in death (v. 8), God the Fathers has “highly exalted Him” to the place of supreme worship before the whole of the universe. But this exaltation is not something “new,” rather it is simply the restoration of “the glory which [He] had with [the Father] before the world was” (John 17:5). In plainer words, Jesus Christ was not seeking personal enhancement but rather was fully dedicated to “esteem other better than [Himself]” (Phil.2:3). Thus worshipping Him has no toxic potential!
His Most Telling Admission
In a recent article in The Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote the following words about Michael Jackson:
I will never forget what he said when we sat down to record 40 hours of conversations where he would finally reveal himself for a book I authored. He turned to me and said these haunting words: "I am going to say something I have never said before and this is the truth. I have no reason to lie to you and God knows I am telling the truth. I think all my success and fame, and I have wanted it, I have wanted it because I wanted to be loved. That's all. That's the real truth. I wanted people to love me, truly love me, because I never really felt loved. I said I know I have an ability. Maybe if I sharpened my craft, maybe people will love me more. I just wanted to be loved because I think it is very important to be loved and to tell people that you love them and to look in their eyes and say it."
The above quote from Michael Jackson may be the most important admission of his life. He was a man in a frantic search for love—but, sadly, “looking for love in all the wrong places,” as the song goes. There are many others like him among those who are famous, those who are infamous and those who fit neither category.
What does that say to of us? It surely reminds us of the opportunity we have to love people with the authentic love of Jesus Christ.
There's a line in the sand with religion on one side and Jesus Christ on the other. I want to spend my life being on the right side of the line, don't you? Who knows what difference you will make in somebodies life if you do.
Like Michael, we often look for achievement to bring us love. When we don't get it from that, we look for comfort from substances (food and work), etc., etc. The truth is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only source that really satisfies.