Monday, October 11, 2010
Today’s Topic: Enhancing Our Positions
Today’s Text: Isaiah 22:15-16 This is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says: “Go, say to this steward, to Shebna, who is in charge of the palace: What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here, hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock?
Several years ago we outgrew our church facility. We are still cramped in there as we await God’s timing on a new building, but we made some changes back then that temporarily helped. The first thing we did was to rent additional office space and move our administrative offices out of the church. God directed us to a wonderful landlord who gave us an incredible deal on an office complex that not only serves as our administrative hub but also as our youth center.
There were decisions to be made when we moved into the building, not the least of which was who would get which office. The welcome area was sufficient for the office administrator, and there was one small office that was perfect for the part-time staff. But which of the two large offices would the two pastors get?
As Pastor Dennis and I surveyed the two rooms, there was discussion about the pros and cons of each. The larger office had two windows on the front corner of the building. But it was located down a narrow hall right across from the restrooms. The smaller office was on the other side of the wall from the restrooms and had only one window. It was located right off the coffee break area and next to the youth center. Decisions, decisions.
As we looked at the offices, I regretfully remember my pride filtering to the top of the logic column. I am the Lead Pastor. I deserve the best office. Which one is the nicest? Which one matches my status? I fought those urges to make a decision based on those things. In my heart I wanted what was best for everyone so they could serve effectively for the Lord. But how would we decide?
At the same time we were looking at the new offices, a businessman from our church came to me and said that his company had some desks and chairs to donate and wondered if we could use them. The desks we had were very old metal things that were functional but not very professional. I said yes. He had the desks and chairs delivered to the new location while the decorating team from the church freshened up the place with new paint and decorations.
When we saw the desks for the first time, we began to evaluate how they would fit into the offices. The desk designs actually made the decision about offices for us. The desk I needed for the work I do would only fit in one office. That would be mine. Pastor Dennis would get the other one with his new desk. He got the office with the view. I got the office with the sounds of the bathroom through the wall. The decorating team recognized the problem and had sound panels built that are beautiful. They even let me pick out the fabric, which is covered with deer. I love my office, and so does Dennis.
The connecting point I want you to see today is observed as we compare the story I just told with the one in Isaiah 22 above. Shebna, an Egyptian, had been appointed the chief steward of the palace under the reign of King Hezekiah. He had high ambitions. He decided to make a name for himself and promote himself. He decided that his position in the King’s palace was worthy of special recognition – historical recognition. So he had a tomb built for himself in the palace of the King. He wanted to be remembered and figured the best way to do that was to be buried with royalty. He was all about enhancing his own position.
What a contrast to the story of Joseph in Genesis, who as a Jew served in the palace of the Egyptian King, yet never sought to enhance his own position. He even went to prison to maintain his integrity. But not Shebna. He was all about self-exhaltation. But God saw his attempts at honoring himself and declared that it would end in humiliation. And it did. A short time later he was demoted to a secretary and replaced by Eliakim who served humbly as a follower of God.
We are all tempted to promote self. We are all urged by our fleshly desires to enhance our position in the eyes of people. We all struggle with pride that drives us to make decision based on the benefits it will bring to us and the enhancement of our image. But we must fight those desires and be humble before God, considering others better than ourselves. Jesus said, “If any one of you wants to be first in the Kingdom of God, he must first become the servant of all.” After all, if we truly believe that in Christ our position has been fully established, then what else is there to enhance?