Posts Tagged ‘humility’

2 Samuel 20:1-26 (Part 2 of 3)
The Revolt of Sheba

Have you ever had someone in your life that is the counterpoint to your point? They are the B to your A. They are the west to your east. No matter what it is, they are going to offer up a differing opinion than the course of action that you are supporting. I think we all have had one of those in our lives. How does that make you feel? Does it grab your goat (as the old saying goes)? Does it anger you? Do you think, “ok here come the words out of my mouth and … wait for it … differing opinion coming…now!” Does it frustrate you? How do you handle it?

In life, there are certain things we can control and certain things we cannot. The main thing that we can control is ourselves and how we react to things. So, then, in these situations, let us examine ourselves. That’s what we can control. Why is it that we are being frustrated by the differing opinions? Are we so prideful that we cannot see another point of view? Maybe, we have come to associate our chosen actions with our ourselves and that differing opinions are an attack on us personally. Maybe, we need to step back and separate our chosen course of action from ourselves. What is it we are after here? Are we not here to do what is best for our family, if that’s the situation, or our company, if that’s the situation, or our church, if that’s the situation. Are we so prideful that we associate anything that we do with our ego? If someone questions our choice of action, then, they are questioning our value as a person, right? Let us examine if our own pride is making the situation more stark that it really is. Maybe, this person loves you and wants you to make the right choice for your family. Maybe, this person wants to see you and your function/group within the company to steer the company toward success. Maybe, this person wants your church to be successful and just wants the right choices to be made.

Let us lose our pride and really look at the situation. Is it pride? That’s usually it! Almost always. When we have to make choices of courses of action for a family or your job (for your department, for your whole organization) or your church, it’s not about you. It’s about what’s best for your family or what’s best for your company or what’s best for your church. Being able to step back and see that is growing up as a person and as a child of God. When we become so married to our chosen course of action, it’s just prideful not to be able to examine alternative courses of action that are either more efficient, or less time consuming, or uses less resources or produces more revenue or creates the more ideal outcome. It is a mark of a man to be able to say, “you know what? The course of action that you recommend is better than what I had come up with! Let’s go with your idea?” Or “I had not considered that ramification! Let’s modify the plan I developed to incorporate what you have said!” Or “You know! I really do see what you are saying! We don’t have time at the moment to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to it but let me think on it for a day or two and get back to you.” Sometimes, that time to consider other options through prayer will allow you to see the flaws in your own chosen course of action or it may allow you to say well on the whole my idea is better but there are certain aspects of what you say that I can incorporate into the course of action that I have chosen. It’s all about thinking of the team more than thinking of yourself. It is the essence of teamwork to be able to consider other points of view without taking it as a personal affront.

It is this idea of losing our pride and doing what is best for the people that we live, work and play with is what I thought about this morning. Here, for once, Joab does something that we can admire about him. Rather than continue down the path he was on, a path that would have cost many lives and many resources, he listen to someone else’s opinion about what to do in this situation. Let’s read now the latest in the episode “Joab: The Commando!” in 2 Samuel 20:1-26:

Chapter 20
1 There happened to be a troublemaker there named Sheba son of Bicri, a man from the tribe of Benjamin. Sheba blew a ram’s horn and began to chant:

“Down with the dynasty of David!
We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Come on, you men of Israel,
back to your homes!”

2 So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stayed with their king and escorted him from the Jordan River to Jerusalem.

3 When David came to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to look after the palace and placed them in seclusion. Their needs were provided for, but he no longer slept with them. So each of them lived like a widow until she died.

4 Then the king told Amasa, “Mobilize the army of Judah within three days, and report back at that time.” 5 So Amasa went out to notify Judah, but it took him longer than the time he had been given.

6 Then David said to Abishai, “Sheba son of Bicri is going to hurt us more than Absalom did. Quick, take my troops and chase after him before he gets into a fortified town where we can’t reach him.”

7 So Abishai and Joab,[a] together with the king’s bodyguard[b] and all the mighty warriors, set out from Jerusalem to go after Sheba. 8 As they arrived at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa met them. Joab was wearing his military tunic with a dagger strapped to his belt. As he stepped forward to greet Amasa, he slipped the dagger from its sheath.[c]

9 “How are you, my cousin?” Joab said and took him by the beard with his right hand as though to kiss him. 10 Amasa didn’t notice the dagger in his left hand, and Joab stabbed him in the stomach with it so that his insides gushed out onto the ground. Joab did not need to strike again, and Amasa soon died. Joab and his brother Abishai left him lying there and continued after Sheba.

11 One of Joab’s young men shouted to Amasa’s troops, “If you are for Joab and David, come and follow Joab.” 12 But Amasa lay in his blood in the middle of the road, and Joab’s man saw that everyone was stopping to stare at him. So he pulled him off the road into a field and threw a cloak over him. 13 With Amasa’s body out of the way, everyone went on with Joab to capture Sheba son of Bicri.

14 Meanwhile, Sheba traveled through all the tribes of Israel and eventually came to the town of Abel-beth-maacah. All the members of his own clan, the Bicrites,[d] assembled for battle and followed him into the town. 15 When Joab’s forces arrived, they attacked Abel-beth-maacah. They built a siege ramp against the town’s fortifications and began battering down the wall. 16 But a wise woman in the town called out to Joab, “Listen to me, Joab. Come over here so I can talk to you.” 17 As he approached, the woman asked, “Are you Joab?”

“I am,” he replied.

So she said, “Listen carefully to your servant.”

“I’m listening,” he said.

18 Then she continued, “There used to be a saying, ‘If you want to settle an argument, ask advice at the town of Abel.’ 19 I am one who is peace loving and faithful in Israel. But you are destroying an important town in Israel.[e] Why do you want to devour what belongs to the Lord?”

20 And Joab replied, “Believe me, I don’t want to devour or destroy your town! 21 That’s not my purpose. All I want is a man named Sheba son of Bicri from the hill country of Ephraim, who has revolted against King David. If you hand over this one man to me, I will leave the town in peace.”

“All right,” the woman replied, “we will throw his head over the wall to you.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off Sheba’s head and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the ram’s horn and called his troops back from the attack. They all returned to their homes, and Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem.

23 Now Joab was the commander of the army of Israel. Benaiah son of Jehoiada was captain of the king’s bodyguard. 24 Adoniram[f] was in charge of forced labor. Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the royal historian. 25 Sheva was the court secretary. Zadok and Abiathar were the priests. 26 And Ira, a descendant of Jair, was David’s personal priest.

In this passage, we see that Joab’s men were attacking the city and looked as if it were going to be destroyed (most assuredly after expending much effort, time, resources and people). Though women in the ancient Middle East were usually expected to be quiet in the presence of men while in public, this woman spoke out. She stopped Joab’s attack not with weapons but with wise words and an alternative plan of action.

What can we learn from this episode of “Joab: The Commando!”? I think that there are three things. First, as we have discussed, we must not be so prideful that we cannot or are not willing to see alternative courses of action that are better than the one we have chosen. Often, we get so tied up with the path that we have chosen that we often see others’ alternatives as a personal attack on us. That’s just pride. Let us lose our pride and do what is best for the people we have influence over – whether it be at work, at home, or at church. Second, I think we learn from this woman that we should not just be people who complain about a leader’s chosen course of action but rather be ones who can offer up better, faster, cheaper, smarter options for the leader to consider. Let us not just complain but be solution seekers. Let us not be part of the problem but be part of the solution. Third, it reminds us that we are all part of a team anywhere we go in life – whether it be with family, co-workers, or fellow volunteers at church. We should always put the good of our team ahead of our own prideful needs. If we come at a problem, let’s work together to come up with solutions.

Jesus put his divinity, his royalty, aside to do what was best for mankind. He came to earth to live a sinless life and then offer himself up as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could be reconciled to the Father and be covered in His righteousness. He did not HAVE to do that. He did that because He loved us that much. He did that because that was what was best for us. He did that even though it took great humility to do so. He thought of us before He thought of Himself. Why then are we so prideful at home, at work, at church? Let us demonstrate the humility of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and do what is best for others even if it means that we have to set aside our pride and our personal desires. Let’s be all-in for the teams we play on in our lives and humble ourselves for what is best for the team rather than what is best for us personally. That means sometimes listening to someone’s B to your A and then deciding that B is better than A.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 18:1-16 (Part 3 of 3)
Saul Becomes Jealous of David

Would you give up your seemingly rightful claim to a position that should be yours because of succession to someone who was more talented than you? What if you were in line for a promotion but the company brought in a new guy from the outside to take the position? Would you be able to handle the blow to your pride? Would you be able to work with that person in the future – knowing they took the position that should have been yours but you knew in your heart that they were more talented. Could you swallow that humble pie?

That’s kind of what a portion of this passage today, 1 Samuel 18:1-16, is about. The story of Jonathan and David is one of the greatest friendships of the Bible. We glory in the brotherhood between these two guys. They were the best of pals. They would have hung out together even if they had not been royal. They just genuinely were like the best of brothers without being blood relations. They knew when the other was going to zig so they would then zag. They were ying and yang. They were frick and frack. But when you think about it, these two could have been and most likely should have been mortal enemies.

The way that Jonathan reacted to David’s anointing as king when the throne of Israel by rights in human standards should have been his is nothing short of amazing. Jonathan was Saul’s son and was next in line to be king of Israel. But God took the bloodline of Saul away and gave the royal line to David. Jonathan could have easily been enraged by jealousy to the point he wanted to kill David to regain his hold on the bloodline to the throne. That’s what most people would have done. Killing family and friends and enemies to gain a throne is as old as the concept of royalty through the ages. Jonathan was different. Jonathan was a contrast to even his own father. Saul spent the second half of his reign as king going insane with jealousy and murderous intent toward David.

Yesterday, we talked about how jealousy in reconciling relationships that have suffered infidelity can destroy the reconciliation process. Jealousy can destroy the very thing that a person is wanting to save for themselves. Jealousy can consume and destroy the feelings one person has for another. Saul was so consumed with jealousy that it ruined half his reign as king of Israel. He was so consumed with jealousy and murderous intent toward David that he basically forgot to rule the nation. However, Jonathan was so different. He saw David not as a threat to him but rather as just another guy doing what he’s got to do in life. Some of us let other people live rent free in our head as the saying goes. Jonathan could have become obsessed with David like his dad while David went about life not realizing that he was the object of someone’s sick and twisted obsession. Jonathan just saw another guy with the right to live his life. Jonathan saw that David was not supposed to be orbiting his planet and that David was a planet of his own. Sometimes, we get so focused on ourselves that we see all others as orbiting around us not as independent people of their own. Jonathan started from a place of seeing the world as more than just his playground. There’s a humility in learning that fact. The fact that we are not the center of the universe. When we see others as having the same right to breath as us, we can have close friendships like David and Jonathan.

With that idea of being humble enough to see others as having the same right to breath, so to speak, as us, let us read today’s passage for the third and final of three reads, 1 Samuel 18:1-16:

Chapter 18
1 After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David. 2 From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home. 3 And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself. 4 Jonathan sealed the pact by taking off his robe and giving it to David, together with his tunic, sword, bow, and belt.

5 Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike.

6 When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals.[a] 7 This was their song:

“Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands!”

8 This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” 9 So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

10 The very next day a tormenting spirit[b] from God overwhelmed Saul, and he began to rave in his house like a madman. David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, 11 and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David escaped him twice.

12 Saul was then afraid of David, for the Lord was with David and had turned away from Saul. 13 Finally, Saul sent him away and appointed him commander over 1,000 men, and David faithfully led his troops into battle.

14 David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul recognized this, he became even more afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David because he was so successful at leading his troops into battle.

In this passage, we see that, when David and Jonathan met, they became close friends at once. Their friendship is one of the deepest and closest recorded in the Bible. They based their friendship on their mutual and independent commitments to the Lord their God and not just on each other. They let nothing come between them, not even career or family problems. They drew closer together when their friendship was tested. And, they remained friends to the end of their time together on earth. Isn’t it amazing that Jonathan, the prince of Israel, later realized that David, and not he, would the next king, but even that did not weaken his love for David? Jonathan would have much rather have lost the throne than lose his closest friend.

Are you capable of seeing those people in your sphere of influence as equal to you or maybe even greater than you? Are you able to see the rights of others as more important than your own? Do you have a friend that you would lay down your life for? Are you willing to admit that someone in your sphere of influence is a better leader, a better employee, a more talented person than you? Are you willing to say, hey, this dude is just more talented than me and I need to submit to his leadership rather than bellyaching and scheming against that person? Or are you going to let jealousy consume you and you become obsessed wit that person and let them live rent free in your head? Are you going to let your obsession with them become your god?

Or are you going to be like Jonathan? Jonathan is a Old Testament symbol of sorts for Jesus Christ. By all rights Jesus is the Son of God and does not need to humble Himself for anyone. He is of one and the same essence as the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is God. He does not need to submit to anyone. He is rightfully the king of the universe. He is the Creator. However, he so loved us that he submitted Himself to live in the flesh. He submitted Himself to the Father in heaven while He was on earth. He did not have to do this. He could have said I will not. He could have said I am a co-equal part of the Trinity and I will not lower myself to live in the flesh and submit myself to the leadership of the Father, to whom I am co-equal along with the Holy Spirit. However, because of the entire trinity of God so loving us they He sent His Son and His Son willingly submitted Himself to live in the flesh and live under the leadership of the Father so that the Son could become the perfect sinless sacrifice for all time for all men’s sins. Jesus did this because He loved us and was willing to do all this so that we would have a way to be reconciled to Him, the Father, the Holy Spirit. Jonathan so loved David as his best friend that he willingly gave up his right to the throne without a fuss and submitted himself to David’s leadership because he knew that was what was best for Israel.

Jonathan did that for David. Jesus did that for us. How can we be so arrogant as to think that all the people in the world orbit around us and that the world is here to serve us. Let us be humble enough to see others with the same humility and servantlike hearts and Jonathan and Jesus.

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 11:16-30 (Part 2 of 3)

Moses Chooses Seventy Leaders

As our church begins planning for one our main events of the year, as we call it, The Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway (TMG, for short), I am reminded of how sometimes people forget that we are ministering to others but rather see such events as ways to make themselves known. I remember the first year that Elena and I were in charge of the event (which was the second year of the event) I had a situation that simply baffled me as to where a person was at in their spiritual walk. I had this one lady who not once came to any planning meetings or any of the volunteer meetings nor did they commit in any of the volunteer sign-ups for the event. However, on the day of the event, they just showed up. And they showed up with expectation because, at that time, she and her husband were members of the small group that I and my wife lead. This lady thought that because we had pushed participation to our small group members and that because she knew us that she would get a special position or something at the TMG.

 

In this event, we make it known to the community through various helps agencies that we will be giving away 500+ turkeys and dry goods for families to have a nice thanksgiving meal at home with their families. It is a big event with lots of moving parts to it. It is a big event with Elena and me as the overall event leaders and then leaders of the ten different functional teams underneath us and then probably 350 volunteers from our church participate in the event (between the 350 volunteers and 15 leaders at various levels, it involves almost half of the 770 regular attendees and staff of our church). It is an event that has taught me more about leadership than any of my secular jobs put together. Needless to say, it’s a big deal that pushes our church’s people resources to the limit each year. However, anyone who has ever participated in it comes away humbled by seeing the needs of the community around us that often remain hidden from our eyes. It is to teach our people that there are needs all around us and that we have to be bold in engaging the culture around to find out what our neighbors are going through and meeting those needs as we are talented by the Lord.

 

I digress on the beauty of not only the beauty of giving to our community without expectation but also the discipling that the event does for our people. Back to this lady of which I have spoken. Although we had meeting to which she did not come where we told people to be there by 7am so that we could marshal all our volunteers into place and advise them of what their functions were and to pray at length for what was about to happen, she shows up at 9am – an hour after the doors opened for the event at 8am. She immediately sought me out and asked where I wanted her. I told her that since she did not sign up for anything that I would have to find a place where we did not have enough volunteers. I knew that we were weak in the “bag room” (where we were handing out the bags of dry goods to our visitors). In that room we had 600 bags containing canned yams, canned green beans, canned corn, etc. that had been donated by our church members and regular attendees. There were people at the counter in that particular room that would actually hand the bags to our guests and interact with him. Behind them were volunteers who would hand to the bags to the counter folk and people behind them that were keeping the inventory of bags moving forward as the inventory was being depleted. This last part was where we were weak and this is where I put this lady.

 

I learned later that she was outraged at me for having put her in the “back of the back of the back” of the event as she called it. She thought that just because she was in our small group that she was going to be given a place of privilege even though she did not take the time to be part of any of the meetings in preparation of the event and did not show up when all the other volunteers did. She wanted a visible position because she knew me. She wanted to be out front and seen. Needless to say, my putting her in the back of the back of the back of the event caused to not only caused her (and her husband) to leave our small group. They eventually left our church over this one offense toward her pride.

 

It is that idea of having our pride get in the way of ministry that came to mind when I read through today’s passage, Numbers 11:16-30, today for the second time. Today, my eyes and my heart were particularly drawn to vv. 26-29:

 

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

 

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

 

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

 

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

 

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

 

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

 

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

 

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

 

In vv. 26-29, we are reminded of a similar incident in Mark 9:38-41. The disciples wanted Jesus to forbid others to drive out demons because they were not part of the rock band, “Jesus & His Disciples”. The narrow view of Joshua here with Moses and the disciples with Jesus was condemned both by Moses and by Jesus. Moses correctly asserts that oh that all of Israel were prophets. Jealous pride can make our churches into cliques. I am part of the in-crowd and you are not. I have special privilege because I know the preacher and you don’t. I am privileged because I know an event leader and you do not. As leaders too, we can become smug in the power that we have obtained or, even in the fact that we are so in-tune with the Spirit and most of our church folk appear to be here just for what they can get from the church. There is a smugness that God detests in that. God can choose whomever He wants to work through. Just because I have been at my church six years longer than you does not mean that you must wait six years to be on par with me. You are my equal child in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are here for one thing. To give God the glory. We are not here for our glory. We are here to lift Jesus up high!

 

When you may have a chance to get offended at church, think about why you are offended. Are you harboring the sin of pride? When you as a leader of the church start feeling that you get it and your people do not? Whose fault is that? As leaders, we are not here to massage our egos. We are here to grow people up in Christ. We are grow them up to “get it!” just like somebody grew us up where we got to the point that we “got it!”. We are to develop those who we lead. We are to disciple them so that they can take our place. As the old saying goes in the business world, “the best manager is the one who works himself out of his job!”. That means that you have developed your people so well that the best of them would be able to take over your job when you leave it. That means by developing your people that you give away your job to them by offloading responsibilities to them as they grow. It means by doing that you can take on more responsibilities from those above you and make yourself more valuable to the organization. In Christian organizations, we are to reproduce the leaders that we are in the people beneath us. As a church volunteer or as a leader in the church, we cannot let pride and possessiveness get in the way of ministry. We must humble ourselves to the ministry of Jesus Christ. We are not here to stake out our realm of power. We are here to give glory to God through the love that we show to others in whatever way we can participate in it. We are here to give glory to God by developing disciples who have the hunger and passion that we do and develop them so that they can take our place (when God calls us to the next step within our church or in another avenue of service to the cross).

 

That’s what we are here for!

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 18:9-14 — The timing of God is so completely awe-inspiring at times. I call it God’s synchronicity. He teaches me things in small windows of time with the same message from multiple different sources in many different ways.

Yesterday, I got to take part in honoring the life of a dear friend of mine, Marvin Williams. I was given the honor of speaking of Marvin’s life since I was his small group leader, not the main sermon but about a 5-6 minute speech about the man that I knew. The burden that was placed on my heart from the time that I knew I had to speak was the comparison of Marvin’s life to that of the Apostle Paul. The similarities are there. Paul was a highly religious man who knew Scripture frontwards and backwards. He was high up in the ranks of the Jewish religious power structure. He studied under the greatest biblical scholar of the day, Gamaliel. He knew everything there was to know about what we call the Old Testament. He was scholarly with much religious zeal. He was enamored with His own understanding of Scripture. But yet, he could not see the Messiah. He was so zealous in defense of his way of life, his power, his pride that he persecuted, literally, those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. It took a watershed moment in his life. The Damascus Road Experience we call it. It was not until he had a vision from our Savior Jesus Christ that His life took a 180 degree turn.

Marvin’s life was similar. He was in church all his life. He knew Scripture well. He could have biblical debates with the best of them. He even taught Sunday school. There were even young men who had been in his Sunday school class that went on to be pastors. Yet, for all his doing the right stuff. He could not see the Messiah. It took a watershed moment in his life to see that all the things that he had talked about all his life were real. He had to pull his car over on the side of the road to finally see Jesus. To finally see he needed Jesus. It was until this side of the road experience that he finally accepted Christ as his Savior at age 65.

Today, in this passage, I see Marvin pre-salvation and I see Marvin post-salvation. The Pharisee was Marvin before salvation. The Pharisee did not go to the Tempe to pray but to announce to all within earshot how good he was. He wanted people to see his puffery. The Pharisee was proud of who he was and how devout he was. Aren’t many of us like Marvin. Aren’t many of us like the Pharisee. We do all the right things. We say all the right things. We go to church. We serve at church. We participate in community events held by the church. We might even help a family in need. As many of you who read my blog may already know, my wife and I are the directors of the community outreach activities of our church. At one of our events, a person at our church got mad at me for having placed her in what basically amounted to an out of sight position at a community event. It was our Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway where we giveaway complete meals to the needy in our community. They come by and pick up a turkey and a full bag of groceries so that they can have a family Thanksgiving in their own home. Since this person had not participated in any of the planning or training meetings for the event and just showed up the day of the event, I assigned her the job of helping keep the bags of groceries stocked for the ones who actually gave the bags to the recipients. This person actually got mad at me because she was not put in a visible position basically. She wanted to be seen by others. A lot of us put on a show of religiosity but do not know the Messiah. Marvin was not alone in this. The Pharisee was not alone in this. We get so busy doing the right things we mistake this for salvation. It becomes all about earning brownie points. It becomes about the heavy burden of being better than the next guy. Do you do all the right things but yet do not know the Messiah? Do you think that this is salvation? Do you know the Messiah? Is he in your heart?

What does it take to know the Messiah? The hated tax collector knew. He went to the Temple recognizing that he was a sinner. He recognized that he needed mercy. There are none of us that can do enough good things to earn our salvation. We must throw ourselves at the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Marvin arrived at this destination on the side of the road one day at age 65. For all his churchiness before this day, Marvin realized that day that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. He had been blind to the Messiah. Now, he saw Him on the side of the road. Like Paul’s Damascus Road Experience, Marvin had his Side of the Road Experience. Like the tax collector who saw himself honestly and humbly as unworthy of the Father in Heaven, Marvin laid it all bare inside that car that day. His pride, his bravado, like that of the Pharisee in this parable, were all laid to waste. He was transformed from the prideful Pharisee to the lowly, humble tax collector. Gone was the pride. Gone was the checklist of doing the right things. Gone was the Paul-like pre-salvation arrogance. Gone was the ambition and zeal for self-serving. The reality that Marvin met with that day was that he was destined for hell because of his sin-filled nature. There was nothing that he could do to change that. All he could do was, like the tax collector in this parable, was to beg for mercy. There is the moment that we see the Messiah.

The Messiah died for our sins so that we would not go to the fiery pit permanently separated from God forever. When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are made clean. We are made a child of God. We are raised into new life. That was the joy of the remainder of Marvin’s life. It fueled his life. It changed his life. He lived a life of joy his last 7 years (even though the last couple of months were full of physical suffering to the point he was just ready to go home to his Father in heaven). He served in those last 7 years not because of duty but because it was the least he could for the Savior that saved him. Are you like old life Marvin, straining under the heavy burden of checklist religion. Are you straining under doing the right thing. Are you like pre-salvation Paul who knew Scripture and did all the checklist “right things”. Man, is that tiring trying to be the proud Pharisee. It is tiring trying to be good and making sure others see us being good even though we are sin-filled inside. We are in need. We have a need. We need a Savior. Do you know Him, really know Him?

We are all the tax collector. We need mercy. Marvin found his. He saw the Messiah that day on the side of the road. He was relieved of his burdens that day. He lived a life of joy that surpasses all understanding the rest of the way. He now rests in his mansion of glory with His Savior. Are you tired of trying to be a Pharisee when you are really a tax collector. Call out in humble honesty to Jesus that you are a sinner and no matter how good you try to be you are imperfect and always will be. Call out to Jesus and tell him that you know what your fate is without His help. Call out to Him to save you from your fate. Call out to him to take over your life and be your Lord. Call out to Him now! Marvin did, so can you!

Romans 12:16 — “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” There is so much discord in the world, among nations, within nations, and in our homes. Pride can destroy. Harmony and humility go hand in hand.

How do we live in harmony with each other? It requires that we exchange pride for humility. Discord in life comes from competing pride. Your pride vs. my pride. My way vs. your way. In order to live in harmony with one another, I must consider your feelings and desires as equal to mine. You must consider my feelings and desires as equal to yours. That’s easier said than done, Paul! I want what I want and I want it now. I am right and you are wrong. Selfish desires are the American way. Our economy is built on pursuing our own self-interest. The whole theory of capitalism is built on competing self-interest. Adam Smith, the 18th century economist, established this very theory as the basis of capitalism. He stated that competing self-interests would bring prosperity. Competition is the hallmark of our lifestyle. Because of our self-interests, our economy has become the most powerful in the world and any nation that aspires to reach the pinnacle of economic development that we have must unleash capitalistic attitudes. So, Paul’s comments seem completely opposite of human nature. Harmony sounds like communism to us. Paul is not calling us to communism, but he is calling us to humility. We must turn our American dream ideals on their head. The American dream is all about me. It’s a me-me-me mentality. It fits in with our nature. Look out for number one. Have pride in yourself. We pick and choose our friends based on what they can do for us. We discard them when they do not. Paul calls us to humility and to love another. When we have humility, we can see others as just as valuable as we are. That is what God intended for us. We are all created in His image. Each of us has value. Should we not take advantage of the talents that God gave us. Certainly, using the talents that God gave us is why He gave them to us. However, we should not use our talents to crush and destroy others. We should use our talents daily as a way to glorify God and to lift others up rather than destroy them.

How do we enjoy the company of ordinary people? First, we do not consider them ordinary. Jesus demonstrated that everyone has value. He cared for those whom society had discarded. He did not choose who He touched based on what political advantage they could give Him. Same with us. When we serve others less fortunate than us, we should accord them the same dignity as we would folks that could be of great advantage to us. For example, if you serve in a soup kitchen, let us not walk away from it as prideful that we are better than those people. Soup kitchens are filled with people who sometimes by mistakes they have made are there. Sometimes they are there because of no fault of their own. Circumstances beyond their control may have brought them there. Do we serve them to boost our own ego or do we do it because we truly care about them. Are you moved to help them or do you do it to check off a box in your self-image about doing good so others see you doing good. Each of us is a child of God with a right to exist. None of us is better than the other. When we die, they put each of our bodies in a box. You can’t take your social standing into eternity. You can’t take your big fine house into eternity. Rich and poor alike meet death and must deal with the judgment of our maker as to whether we accepted or rejected Jesus Christ. Do you feel uncomfortable with people of less social stature than you? It is all pride and vanity. The bum on the side of the road is just as much a child of God as we are. We do not know everyone’s story from their outward appearances. Each of us no matter their social stature is deserving of our respect and are deserving of God’s love and are deserving of receiving the gospel. Who are we to judge? It takes humility to see others as equals regardless of the trappings of this life. The trappings of this life do not matter in eternity. Help us to be the kind of people that judge others by the content of their character, as Martin Luther King said, not by the color of their skin or any other segregating prideful mechanism we may use. All are welcome in God’s kingdom. The only segregator that God uses on judgment day is whether we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior or not.

How do we go about thinking that we don’t know it all? Humility. Humility. It’s all about humility. When we think we know it all. It is again a matter of pride. When we think we have all the answers, it says that we think we have arrived. We have made ourselves god. Pride is fertile soil for sin. When we think we know it all, we think that everything we do is right. We fall prey to our own pride. We rationalize our behavior away and slowly anything becomes fair game. Sin awaits. Discord awaits. When we realize that we do not know it all is the beginning of humility. When we realize that there are others more talented than us is the beginning of humility. When we realize that we do not have the answers is when God can work on us. When we realize that we have so much to learn is when God can really use us. An humble heart is putty in God’s hands. When we stop trying to rule our own world and tear others down when they expose our weaknesses is when we realize that we are not greater than we are. It is when we realize that we have need of something greater than ourselves. It is when we realize that we will never be God for He is God alone. He is above and beyond us. When we realize that we are not god, God can begin to mold us and use us for the purpose He intended for our lives. For the Christ follower, the most freeing moment in our life history is when we realize that we are not god and that He is. Let go and let God. When we humble ourselves to realize we are not our own god, it is the beginning of humility. When we realize that we are not god, we can see others as just as deserving of God’s grace as we are. When we realize that we are not god, everyone is deserving of love and respect. When we realize that we are sinners and are not perfect, we begin to give others some slack for not being perfect. When we realize that if it were not for the grace of Jesus Christ, we would be destined for hell, it takes our pride away. Humility begins. Love begins. Harmony begins.

Father, thank you for today’s meditation of a single verse of Scripture that says so much. Help me Father to love others because you love them. Help me to seek humility and not pride. Help me to see every fellow human being as deserving of being here. Help me to see everyone as equally deserving of dignity and respect. Help me to see them as your children. Help me to see them as deserving of hearing your gospel. Help me to see every person through the eyes that you see them with. Amen.