July 4, 2015

Human value systems

1 Samuel 8:1–9:27, James 2:1–13, Psalm 119:49–64

In the way of this world, we look for the most qualified, experienced person to fill a role. Some look for a good attitude, a person who is teachable or humble. In the days of Samuel, they seemed to be impressed by “what everyone else was doing” which is another common criteria for choices . . .

The elders of Israel came to Samuel with this, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

Samuel was not pleased. He prayed and the Lord said to him, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.(1 Samuel 8:4–9)

Samuel did warn them. He told them the king would use their offspring to build his empire, taking the best of what they had for his own endeavors. He also said they would cry out to God because of this king they had chosen, but God would not answer them when they did. (1 Samuel 8:11–18)

The narrative also mentions that Saul was taller than everyone and very handsome. So instead of asking for a wise and godly man, the people seemed more impressed with his appearance as well as their desire to be like everyone around them.

My thoughts went to the times I have tried to be friends with people who look good and impress me with externals, like their skills, popularity with others, even what they look like. I’ve since realized that this is partiality and sinful, yet even now I sometimes must make a deliberate decision to be impartial rather than selective according to such silly criteria.

Today’s NT reading contains these appropriate verses: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?” (James 2:1–7)

While I do not need any other reason than the example of Jesus Christ for being impartial, the Scriptures give many examples. As James says, the down-and-out people are often rich in faith. Those in the upper strata of society are often relying on riches instead of the Lord, and even blaspheme His name. Any worldly criteria should be given a wide berth.

Not only that, many of those from the upper echelons of society often mock and make fun of Christians, even those who are faithful to God. They did in Bible days as well, just as the psalmist says: “The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.” (Psalm 119:51)

The same author is a humble person. He can say he is obedient to God (and derided for it), but he knows that this is nothing to brag about: “This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.” (Psalm 119:56)

Life in God’s kingdom is not about keeping up appearances, or keeping up with the world around me. It is about growing in Christ-likeness and obedience. I’m not to be partial to those who may impress me, especially if they are not impressed with Jesus.

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