In one of our recent family devotions, my wife and I sat our three children down to talk about the importance of ‘family.‘ We do this ever so often because our children, and probably yours as well, often withdraw into their own world of fantasy and ignore the rest of the family. They each have their own room and their own ideas about how to spend their free time. If we allow them, they will shut themselves out from the rest of us to do their thing. While this can be cute when they are very young, my wife and I have noticed that it lends itself strongly to an attitude of selfishness. It becomes all about ‘me’ and less about others in the family. When the kids do get together, it becomes a war of words or worse, as each of them stand up for what they feel is ‘their rights’. They have no sympathy or compassion for their siblings. It is almost as if they desire to build their own little ‘kingdom’ or ’empire’ in their own little space.
As I was thinking about this it struck me that this is also a danger for all of us in ministry. If we are not careful, we can allow ourselves to get caught up in building ‘our kingdom’ instead of building ‘His Kingdom.’ Even though we feel like we are doing the work of Christ, it can become more about ‘me’ and less about others. There is a grey area here where the lines of demarcation become blurred. ‘His Kingdom’ begins to blend into ‘my kingdom.’ Motives become mismanaged. Desires turn dangerous. And it is not too long until ‘my kingdom’ becomes more important than anything or anybody else. Because of this danger, we all need to test ourselves every so often. We do this by asking; How do I feel about the others in this Kingdom? Do I truly have sympathy and compassion for their needs? Or, are my desires more important?
As we all do, I understand the importance of caring for others, but recently, while listening to a Jewish Rabbi, this understanding became crystal clear.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin was speaking of the typical Orthodox Jewish family. I paraphrase his words;
Why is it that everywhere in the world the Jewish people are so successful and wealthy? Why are their families so close knit and strong? Why is there very little divorce?
The obvious answer is they put God first. However, beyond that, it is because of their strong sense of ‘family’.
The origin of the Hebrew word for ‘family’ means; to serve. A family is not a family unless they serve one another. Brother serves brother. Sister serves sister. Husbands serve their wives. They put others needs in front of their own. The Jewish people live this way.
Many people believe that Jewish people are wealthy because they are stingy with their money. Not true at all. In fact, the opposite is true. They serve one another in their professional life. They consider their professions and businesses as a means to serve and help others. They seldom retire because retirement means to willfully stop helping others. Why would anyone make such a decision?
It is in this way that the typical Orthodox Jewish family has always been successful.
Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi, and this is what He said;
25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Jesus was not stating, ‘it is wrong to become great’. He was stating, ‘there is only one way to become great’. If you want to be the top dog, you have to be the low dog. If you want to be the King, then you must be the servant.
There is only one way to build a kingdom, and that is; serving others, caring for others, helping others. If you are not in God’s Kingdom to serve, then you are building your own Kingdom. The moment you stop helping and serving others is the moment that kingdom comes crashing down and all the kings horses and all the kings men cannot put it together again.