Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Call Dibs!

Last weekend I was at a birthday party for a friend.  As part of conversation, I jokingly referenced someone calling "dibs" on a chair.  There was some more innocent jesting and it ended up me saying that maybe I would do a post on the concept of calling "dibs."  It was a joke, but a seed was planted and it the idea of mulled around in my mind for the past few days.  The seed sprouted to some extent and God brought to mind that, while "dibs" being a childish thing, the idea behind it never really goes away.  The idea is that we want what we want, or what we think we deserve.  We all want "what's coming to us." It is a celebration of self and has no place in the church today.  God then brought to mind a case in the Bible where (though the word was not used), "dibs" was called. 
Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom."  Matthew 20:21-21 NKJV
Did you get that?  The mother of Zebedee's sons and basically tried to call dibs for her sons to sit on the right and the left hand of Jesus.  She offered no justification.  She did not offer any kind of qualification as to why they should sit there.  She really just "called" it.  Maybe she thought because she asked first, it would work. Either way, it is apparent that her sons were behind the question. 
But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said to Him, "We are able."   Mathew 20:22 NKJV
Note that Jesus does not even address mom, he goes right to the sons.  Jesus knows that it is her sons who put her up to it.  Jesus tells them that they have no idea what they are asking for.  Jesus tells them that they will have to partake in His suffering, something to which they readily agree.  Still, I really doubt they have any idea what they were even agreeing to.  If they had to hide behind their mother to ask this question, surely they did not honestly believe they were ready to face the persecution that awaited them. 
So He said to them, "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but [it is for those] for whom it is prepared by My Father."  Matthew 20:23 NKJV
That almost does not seem fair, does it?  They agreed to what Jesus had said, Jesus said they will get what they agreed to, but then said it is not even up to Him where they sit.  In fact, Jesus tells them it was already decided.  Those seats are prepared for someone specific and Jesus does not say whether it is them or not.  There is a strange irony about us Christians asking for what we deserve.  That irony is that we are Christian because we accepted the payment of Jesus for our sins so we do not get what we deserve.  Remember, on our own, we deserve eternal judgement. We do not like to think about that, but only think of what we deserve in terms of good things.  We like to think that as children of God, we deserve riches.  We like to think that we give to the poor so we deserve immediate repayment by God on our terms here and now.  We like to think we deserve some pat on the back for service we do for God.  We want all the good things we think we deserve, but we do not want the bad things we also deserve.  Every time you sin, you deserve death.  Every time we disobey God, we deserve chastisement as His children.  We do not ask for those things though do we?  How about even things in this world.  We want the promotion we feel we deserve but we do not want the reprimand for a mistake we made.  We complain if we get the speeding ticket we get for speeding, again something we deserve.  We want the tax refund we think we deserve, even though we do not want the penalty should they ever audit us and find the corners we cut in making that refund.  Just as Jesus said to the two brothers, when we ask to get what we deserve, we really have no idea what we are asking for.
And when the ten heard [it], they were greatly displeased with the two brothers.  Matthew 20:24 NKJV
Speaking of envy, here come the rest of the apostles. Considering they are recorded as to have repeatedly argued about which one of them is the greatest, I am sure they were not displeased by the moral implications of what the brothers had asked.  They were envious.  Even though their ploy did not work as well as they had hoped, the rest of the apostles recognized that they asked first.  They called dibs on the prime seats in heaven.  They were only upset because they wanted those seats as much as they did. 
But Jesus called them to [Himself] and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."  Matthew 20:25-28 NKJV
Jesus now gives his apostles a little lesson on humility.  He tells them that those in the world look for authority and power and use that authority and power to lord it over others.  He tells them that they need to be different.  For us, we are not to aspire for power and authority but to live as a servant.  We are called bond servants of Christ and in that we are also servants to man.  I know that grates on a lot of pride.  I know we do not like to think of ourselves as servants, but the fact is that we are.  Remember the Sermon?  If someone asks us to lug their stuff for a mile, we are to go two.  If someone strikes us, we are to turn the other cheek. If someone sues us, we are to give them more than they are even asking for.  That is the life of a Christian.  That is what we are called to be.  

The grand irony of it all is that if you want to be a leader, you have to be a servant.  Many pastors need to be reminded of that.  So many pastors like to emphasize their leadership and not being a servant as well.  It really gets under my skin every time I go to a church and the first spot closest to the church doors features a big saying saying "Reserved for pastor."  I mean, speaking of calling dibs!  Some are even worse and offer a second spot for the pastor's wife.  Even in the world, it is not that bad.  I remember in high school and working for a discount department store, that all of us employees (including management) were forbidden from parking in spots close to the store entrance.  Sadly, too many churches fail even in that.  I realize that pastors have the call to lead their churches and there is that level of authority, but too many forget that they are also servants.  So many forget that even their Lord performed the lowest of duties in washing his apostles' feet.  If a pastor thinks that he is above any kind of menial task in the church, that pastor is the wrong man for the job.  He fails at the first principles of Christian leadership. 

If you want to be a leader, you have to be a servant.  If you want to be greatest, you have to be least.  If you want to be exalted, you have to humble yourself.  So how is this a lesson on the concept of "dibs"?  Simple, dibs is a construct of envy.  We begin as children and call it for whatever we want and do not want others to have over us.  When we are adults, it become more complex but is still of the same root of envy.  In fact, it is the worst kind of envy because even more than wanting what someone else has, we want it before they can even have it and so they will never get it.  The sons of Zebedee wanted those seats near Christ realizing that no one else would have it.  The pastor has his spot reserved even when he does not need it as the sign is always there.  We want that promotion knowing that means someone else will not get it.  We want the police officer to pull someone else over so we do not get the ticket.  We want the authority because we do not want others to have it over us.  It is a envy in the worst way and something that remains in the church today.  Even in the church, there are those who try to rise to the top on the ladder of knives in the backs of others they betrayed to get there.  Even today, one will put another down just so they can leapfrog over them in stature and authority.

What should we do?  This again goes back to the first step of discipleship.  We must deny ourselves.  Those desires that spring from our flesh need to be starved.  Feeding them only makes them stronger.  We will never satisfy ourselves by catering to the flesh. We need to stop calling dibs on everything we think we deserve or want.  Instead of calling dibs on a chair, why not offer it to someone else?  Instead of the sign saying "reserved for pastor," why not "reserved for visitor?"  Instead of ordering someone to do something, why not offer to do it yourself?  Instead of stepping on someone's back to get a promotion, why not help that other person get it?  Is your self satisfaction more important than your witness to others?  Is it worth more than their souls?  Do you trust yourself to go out and grab your own reward or do you rest in the faith that the Lord who sees what you do in secret will reward you openly?  We are called to be meek and part of that is deferring to others instead of claiming our own.  A great example of this is Abraham.  When him and Lot were going to part company, Abraham did not call dibs on the best land but let his brother decide.  In return, God gave Abraham and his descendents forever the Promised Land.  Why lay claim to something of our own desires when God has waiting for us something so much better than we could have imagined to begin with? 
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11 NKJV

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