Hello dear blog, it has been so long since we were together.
While reading this morning, I had a sudden urge to write… Right now I’m reading in Luke, much slower than I had planned, but perhaps even that is due to God’s timing. This morning I read through chapters 15, 16, and 17 and while reading in 16, I came across a small verse I had never noticed:
And [Jesus] said to [the Pharisees], “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
This made me start to think about all of the things that we hold up as virtues that perhaps God sees as vice. I hadn’t quite put my finger on anything in particular but I continued reading.
And then in chapter 17, Jesus asks:
Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’
That got me to thinking and I realized that I had absolutely no concept of what Jesus was talking about. Clearly I don’t have servants (unless you count my dog, but frankly, he isn’t terribly productive), so the idea of having someone who I wouldn’t thank for serving me is outside my understanding. Unable to relate on that level, my thoughts went to the averaging working person. But the average working person probably correlates their happiness at their job with how much they are appreciated. We’ve been taught that we need to be appreciated to be a healthy working person and that a good working culture provides that for their employees. While I don’t disagree that it makes for a better work environment or that its the nice thing to do, what does that say about our culture?
It seems to me that for the most part, we don’t have a good concept of what it means to just do our duty. We like things to be about us. I like things to be about me. I want my job and my family and my friends and the random person I meet on the street to appreciate, encourage, and inspire me. I have a feeling that this is human nature, the desire to have the world revolve around us, but I wonder this is an example of what Jesus told the Pharisees in chapter 16 – exalting something that is an abomination to God.
In between these two scriptures are three parables about how God loves sinners and longs to have them return to Him (the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, and the Prodigal Son). Clearly God doesn’t hate people or turn His back on those who are far from Him. My thought is simply that by creating a culture that is all about ME, we’ve exalted something abominable to God – idolatry of the individual and the self-esteem. We see it everywhere but this morning it was most obvious to me in the way we work. Unable to work for extended periods of time (days, weeks, months, years even?) without recognition, we often cannot really understand what it is like to do our duty as an unworthy servant. At least I know I can’t. I like to think that I can but this morning I realized that I have a lot to learn about living in a world that doesn’t revolve around me.