Tag Archives: Humble

God’s People, part 202: Children

Read Mark 10:13-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”  (Proverbs 22:6, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

jesus-and-the-little-childrenPart 202: Children. This is one of those texts in which context is key. Most people read this with their 21st century lenses on, doting on the imaginary children they envision rushing up to a tenderhearted, bright smiling Jesus waiting to embrace them and play “patty cakes” with them on his lap. We, in Western Civilization just love children. In fact, we more than love them; we idolize them.

We can see this in the way we parent nowadays. Where the kids are we go. Parents no longer tell their children that they have to go to church and put God first. They no longer structure their children’s lives; rather, they allow their children to structure their lives. This, of course, has not only led to an increasingly godless society but, in some cases, it has created self-centered monsters out of our children.

This was not the case in Jesus’ day and age. Before describing children in the ancient world, I need to be clear that I am not saying that the ancient world’s way of rearing children is the perfect, most blessed way either. I think both eras have their highlights and their shady points in parenting. Any parent knows there is no manual that comes with their children and, often, parenting is learned through societal norms as much as it is passed down from our own parents.

In Jesus day, the place for children was in the household. They were to be seen and not heard. It was expected that they would help around the house. As soon as boys were old enough, they would go to work with their father’s, learning whatever trade or vocation they held. We see that this was the case of Jesus, who was a apprentice in carpentry under his father Joseph. As an adult, Jesus carried on his father’s work until he left that behind to become an itinerant preacher and rabbi.

The girls would help their mothers around the house until the age that their father could find a suitable husband. That usually happened as soon as the girl was able to bear children. Thus, many women were arranged a marriage around the age of 14. Up until then, the girl’s place was in the home with mom, taking care of housekeeping, cooking, and teaching the younger kids stories from the Hebrew Bible.

This was a radically different world of parenting from ours. It was a society built on honor. It was not considered honorable or right for the children to be out in society bothering other adults. Thus, for those parents to be bringing their children to Jesus to be touched and blessed was completely inappropriate in that society. There was a pecking order and children were at the bottom of the totem pole until they grew old enough to contribute to the household. Even then, their place was not with the adults until they became an adult.

“These children are not ill. They have nothing wrong with them. Why, then, would these thoughtless parents bring them, disrupting our master when he was so busy with important matters.” That is, no doubt, what the disciples where thinking when they scolded the parents for bringing their children. According to the societal and religious culture in the ancient Middle East, the disciples were in the right to put those parents, along with their children, back in their places.

Yet, Jesus did not think so; rather, he turned to his disciples and scolded them. “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15, NLT) In that moment, he taught his disciples that “the least of these”, including innocent children, are as valuable to God as anyone else. Jesus also taught them that their pecking order was NOT GOD’S.

Let us be challenged by this. Let us not seek status in the world, but let us humble ourselves before God. Let us approach God and others with the innocence of a child. That does not mean we should be naïve, but that we should be as eager and open to embracing God as a child is. If we approach God and others with that openness, then truly the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:5, NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, give me the openness, eagerness, and humility of a child. Amen.

Honored

Read John 4:1-45

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” (Proverbs 29:23 NLT)

a-woman-of-samaria-mediumIn the last devotion we talked about Nicodemus and how Jesus schooled him. What was not mentioned in that, but is important to note, is that ultimately Nicodemus did have an open and receptive heart to what Jesus was teaching him. As we find out later in John’s Gospel, this Pharisee goes on to be a supporter of Jesus’ and he, along with Joseph of Arimathea, end up pleading with Pilate to give them Jesus’ body so that he may receive a proper burial. Tradition has Nicodemus as one Jesus’ post-resurrection followers.

What I love about the Nicodemus story in John, a story about the humbling of a man of prominence, is that it is followed by the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. This woman’s status could not be any further apart from that of Nicodemus. While Nicodemus was a revered and respected teacher, a wealthy individual who was highly educated and powerful, this woman was not revered or respected, she was shunned by her own community and her community was shunned by Jews as being totally unclean and detestable.

What we have in the Samaritan woman is the pretty much the exact opposite to Nicodemus the chapter before. She was a woman who was traveling by herself to the well to get water at the hottest part of the day. If modern archaeology is correct, Sychar was about a mile or so away from “Jacob’s Well”, which is still in existence today. It would be highly unlikely that this Samaritan woman would travel to this place alone, let alone at the time the sun is the hottest.

What this tells us, if we read the text carefully in light of the social and historical context of that place and time, is that this woman was outcast from the other women in her village. Why? The text gives us the answer to that. This woman had been married five times and was currently with a sixth man to whom she was not married. She was, no doubt, a threat to the other women of her village. What’s more, to be divorced that many times was a shame upon the woman and her family. It mean that she was “less than adequate” as a wife, which was the highest station in life for a woman in that time period. On top of that, she was living outside the marital covenant with another man.

In other words, in the ancient near east context, this woman would have been considered an unclean scourge upon her community. Then add that to the fact that she was Samaritan, the fact that the Jews believed the Samaritans were “unclean” from birth and that for one to even cross the shadow of a Samaritan would defile him or her, and you can see that this woman would have been considered a scourge within a scourge. She was the lowest of the low.

So, knowing this, it should be QUITE SHOCKING that Jesus was having any sort of conversation with her, let alone that he was alone with her at a well (which was a common “hook up” place in the ancient world. E.g., Genesis 24:17; 29:10; Exodus 2:16-21). Jesus is breaking some major social taboos in order to engage this woman in conversation, including the fact that women were not considered to be “teachable” and worthy of being a “student” of a teacher. Yet, Jesus does engage her and treats her no differently than he would have his own disciples.

What can be said is this, Jesus models the economy of heaven here. This woman was the last and the least in her society. She was humble because she had nothing in her life to be “proud” of. Her station in life as a Samaritan woman was humble. As a sinner, she was also humble in that she knew that others judged her and that she was not welcome among the other women in her village. To say that this woman was “lowly” would be an understatement of the worst kind.

In Scripture, we are told that “pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor”. While Nicodemus, in all of his pride, was humiliated by how little he seemed to know in comparison to Jesus, who was a lowly teacher, this woman was honored by the Teacher who chose to engage her over any of the self-righteous  villagers who continually shunned her. As such, this woman not only came to see that Jesus was the Messiah, but she also became his witness to the rest of the villagers. “Come and see,” she exclaimed with joyous excitement, “the man who told me everything I have ever done!”

Today’s challenge is for us to evaluate ourselves. Are we humble or are we proud? In what ways are we proud? How can we let go of the pride we imprison ourselves with? Remember that God humbles the proud and exalts the humble. If there is any part of us that holds ourselves in higher regard than others, that is the part of ourselves we MUST die to. I pray that we all come to a place of humility so that we may be exalted for the glory of God!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
It is far less painful to be humble than it is to find ourselves in need of being humbled.

PRAYER
Lord, teach me the ways of humility so that I may be your humble servant. Amen.