There are a whole bunch of ways we can find which make us "stand out" in a crowd, huh? We could dress in some stunning manner, or in tattered jeans laden with chains - each attracts attention - just for different reasons! We could sing with lovely melody, never missing a note - or croon out a song which only "resembles" what the writer had in mind! One gets our applause, the other causes us to cringe and at best, offer a "false" accolade. Jesus was talking to his disciples one day, using the Pharisees and religious leaders of the time as an example of trying to "stand out" - just for the wrong reasons!
Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. (Matthew 23:11-12 The Message)
He spent a great deal of time in the first ten verses of this chapter outlining just how much "attention" some seek by their actions and words. In turn, they "pile" their opinions and multitude of silly requirements upon US! To put it in today's vernacular - they are like the ones who dress in black tattered jeans laden with chains, have sleeves of tattoos and more metal in their bodies than someone with a joint replacement! They strut their stuff, then expect others to live up to THEIR idea of "normal" or "right". Don't get me wrong - I could have chosen the one dressed to the nines in a fancy suit, silk tie and imported Italian shoes - either way, to impose the outward without really looking at the inward is way wrong!
The idea of what we ARE inwardly is much more important to Jesus than what we wear, the church we belong to, or the gaggle of people we say we "belong" with. He was quite plain - if you want to STAND OUT you have to STEP DOWN. This is a tough one for us to grasp because of all the influence media has in our lives these days. We see one story after another of this celebrity, or that politician - all "STAND OUT" for some reason - and the media has a hay-day with whatever that reason may be! The individual gains notoriety simply because of their actions - not always because of their heart!
Jesus is focusing his attention on our heart - the place of our struggle with pride. We all want some degree of recognition (and even notoriety), yet when we get it, the response of our heart determines what comes next. Either we get a little too big for our britches or we honker down and keep up the good work! I am not often found quoting others, but I could not help but note some of the pretty awesome lessons Mother Teresa had learned in her time in the Calcutta mission fields. She wrote: "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." In her actions, she lived out this principle each and every day! She loved the unlovely - the homeless, the hungry, and the hurting. Jesus simply was reminding us of the importance of our words and actions matching!
I would like to leave us with a seed thought or two from Mother Teresa today - may we let her words spark a little introspection and an aligning of our hearts with the heart of Jesus:
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
In the words of Jesus: "But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty." Maybe this is what Mother Teresa was saying AND living! Just sayin....