Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: God's reputation

A double warning for those who work

We see the same stereotypes in most of our TV shows.  Take a group of five adults in a workplace setting, and you’ll almost always have an overbearing boss, the perky one, someone who can’t keep their personal life together, the nerd, and the old guy/gal.  We’ve seen them so much that we tend to anticipate that people in life will act out these roles.  In a real sense, our entertainment has become our expectation.  And while TV shows are society’s current choice of distraction and amusement, the need to be mindful of a stereotype’s influence is actually an old issue.

There was a running gag in ancient comedies of the arrogant, back-talking slave who mocked the master behind his back and sassed his master to his face.  Either of which would lead to the slave taking a beating for comedic effect.  This motif was regularly present in Greek and Latin plays.  These shows also type-casted the role of the slave to be wicked and selfish.

When Paul wrote to Timothy, as much as one-third of the Roman world was made up of slaves.  Roman slavery was not like what we think of in terms of slavery – it wasn’t race-based (there were slaves of all races) and while some did the harsh, menial work other slaves had significant skills and responsibilities (such as medical work, teaching, and business).  The average age of a slave was 17, and most could reasonably expect to be freed by the time they reached 30 (with typical life expectancy of 36 for women and 43 for men). 

So if 1/3 of society was slave population, you can imagine that there would be a fair number of slaves in the church.  And if the general expectation of “slave behavior” was rudeness, disrespect, and conduct that deserved an occasional beating – would God expect something different because of their society status?

1 Timothy 6:1-2
All who are under the yoke as slaves must regard their own masters to be worthy of all respect, so that God’s name and His teaching will not be blasphemed. 

And those who have believing masters should not be disrespectful to them because they are brothers, but should serve them better, since those who benefit from their service are believers and dearly loved.

Whatever circumstance a slave found themselves in, they were to demonstrate their relationship with Jesus in the way they treated their master.  Paul doesn’t say that the master must deserve respect or should earn respect…instead, the slave must [choose to] regard their own masters to be worthy of all respect.  They were to ignore the low-bar expectations of society and realize that their actions mattered to God’s reputation.  A slave that acted counter-culturally would stand out as a positive witness for God.

Paul is such a realist.  He recognizes peoples’ general, selfish tendency to use a situation to their own benefit – and warns slaves not to take advantage of their believing masters.  Choosing to act like society’s stereo-typical slave because you assume that grace and mercy will be available is not only hypocritical, but shows a lack of understanding of the love Christ showed all of us.

Paul’s directions are applicable for us, even though we don’t live in an indentured-servant society.  We come across all sorts of stereotyped behaviors in our own jobs, and we need to make the choice to live out of our relationship with Jesus, rather than meet society’s low-bar expectations.

Every time we go to work, God’s reputation is on the line.  Others will definitely notice how you go about your business – even if the boss is an overbearing jerk.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A warning for the young ones

Success at a young age can have its downfalls.  We see it often in the entertainment industry, when a child star has national fame and an unending flow of fans…and then, as soon as their voice begins to crack, the public focus shifts away to the next young talented person.  The starlet usually doesn’t handle this rapid change in fortune very well, either.  Our news feeds are full of sad ‘Where are they now?’ stories.

I think a large reason why these starlets begin to flail and eventually fail is because they are not receiving sound advice as they navigate their early success.  Their manager’s (and oftentimes, also their parents’) ambition is to take advantage of every opportunity to keep the starlet’s name in front of the public.  Whirlwind tours, constant events, and deceptive sweet-talk convince the child that he or she really is the center of the world.  When the starlet begins to believe they are the reason for everything going so well, they think that they actually deserve the spotlight.

As Paul explains to Timothy which characteristics either seek out or avoid for someone to fill the overseer role for the local church, he includes this warning:

1 Timothy 3:6-7
He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil.  Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap.

Paul’s concern is that a “young one” in the faith will not be ready to handle either the rapid success or flattery that could come their way in an overseer role.  An overseer’s job is to leading people toward God, helping them avoid personal pitfalls, and instructing them on how to navigate cultural issues.  However, if an overseer doesn’t keep his focus on God, if he begins to dwell on all the compliments that come his way…then he might become conceited and think that he is reason for his congregation’s success.

It was pride that cost the Devil his position as an archangel.  Likewise, if an overseer becomes conceited in his position, God will remove him. 

Satan is more than willing to use his experience to lay a trap for the overseers in God’s church.  Therefore, overseers must be vigilant in protecting their reputation among those in the larger community, and especially among non-believers.  The world loves to point out the stories of when Christian leaders fall into disgrace.  If an overseer is a new convert, then the risk of being caught in these traps goes up significantly…so it is better to let the young one develop a blameless reputation on his own before he carries the burden of representing a larger Christian community.

Paul doesn’t gives Timothy these guidelines so individuals will be excluded from doing the noble work of an overseer; rather, Paul wants to protect the individuals who do lead, the church, and most importantly, God’s reputation among unbelievers.  We need competent, mature leadership within our church family. 

This is why Paul mentored Timothy.  Now it’s Timothy’s turn to mentor others.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Choosing our focus

There are many things to be afraid of in this life.

Every day, the morning newspaper is full of stories about dangerous situations, unsafe people, riots, and natural disasters.  Stories about people from all walks of life with hidden agendas, corruption, and greed shaping the decisions they make.  Some days, it just feels like the whole world is closing in with evil people and bad situations. 

By his choice of words, we can see that David felt that way often…especially when he was on the run from King Saul.  Saul wanted David dead, so that he could continue being king.  Since David’s advisory was the most powerful man in the country, it seemed that everywhere David turned, he was in danger.

Here’s how David describes his situation:

Psalm 57:4
I am in the midst of lions;
I lie down with those who devour me.
Their teeth are spears and arrows;
their tongues are sharp swords.

Don’t just glaze over this description.  Let’s try and picture what David’s describing here.

You’re out in the open.  Not just in proximity to wild animals, rather there are lions who freely roam around the area where you’re standing.  You look for shelter, for cover…anything that will help you avoid an attack.  Even where you sleep at night is not entirely safe.  And you don’t have to guess as to how the lions will treat you if they find you.  There will be blood, and certainly no mercy.

How do you feel?  Where’s your focus?

In moments like these, our real priorities come into a much sharper focus.  We clearly recognize what’s important and what is not.  Survival normally becomes the driving influence in all our decisions.  We may even select a few people we trust, and then we would make our next move. 

However, David’s next move is to look up

Psalm 57:5
God, be exalted above the heavens;
let Your glory be above the whole earth.

Previously in this psalm, David has approached God for refuge and protection.  However, when the danger arrives…when Saul comes close to where David is hiding…David’s request turns away from himself and focuses solely on God’s reputation.

That is the true challenge for us.  When we find ourselves in the crucible of life, when the corruption of the world is pressing in…are we looking to merely survive the evil around us, or are we looking to advance God’s reputation in this world?  Which do we desire more? 

If we choose the focus that David did, then the scary things in life won’t be so overwhelming. 

Keep Pressing,
Ken