Servants and Self-Importance

February 17th, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 12:9 (NLT)

9 Better to be an ordinary person with a servant
      than to be self-important but have no food.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Currently, the media is inundated with one key concept: the economy.  Crisis and fear have eclipsed the other issues of our world and have saturated our legal and political systems with gridlock and instability.  Bailouts are the topic of the day.  Astronomical figures bordering sheer ridiculousness . . . how much is $700 billion?  You might as well say a gijillion or some other imaginary number . . . either way, that much money is beyond the comprehension of most average individuals.

At the heart of this crisis is the issue of self-control.  We’d love to blame the greedy big banks for loaning obscene amounts of money to people who lack both the means to fully understand floating interest rates and the means to sustain the monthly payments.  We’ve vilified these institutions for their excess and their exploitation of the American people.  In many ways, I completely agree . . . many of the major financial institutions of our nation have behaved with irresponsibility and unbridled greed. 

However, I think it both unwise and unrealistic to let the citizens of our nation off scot-free.

No one held a gun to all of us who read the fine print (or skipped over it altogether) and signed up for these crazy loans, borrowing more money than we actually need and much more than we will ever realistically be able to pay back.  We love to be victims because it absolves us of responsibility.  We have an “either/or” mindset about right and wrong.  Either they’re right or I am . . . both cannot be true.  Likewise, either they’re wrong or I’m wrong.

For those whose personal choices have contributed to their current situation, the truth is that we’re all wrong. 

It’s about our self-control and our sense of personal responsibility.  When we feel compelled to live above our means “at all costs,” then our priorities are out of whack.  I’ve been there, especially as a young man.  I considered some luxuries to be necessities.  I diluted myself into believing that paying back money with interest in the future was easier than either doing without or saving money in the present.  I could blame the “evil” credit card company for preying upon my immaturity, but I would be remiss to glance over the issue at hand: my immaturity.

When the newest car, the most expensive pair of shoes, or the largest flat-screen television become more important than our personal well being, something is wrong.  We’re bent on appearances.  One famous financial advisor speaks of his own personal journey down this path.  He drove to his bankruptcy hearings in his new Jaguar . . . it just doesn’t make sense.

God knows this.  Why?  Because all truth is His truth.  It needn’t be exclusively religious or spiritual in nature to bleep on the radar of godly wisdom.  Just consider this passage: “Better to be an ordinary person with a servant, than to be self-important but have no food.”  The issue here really isn’t the servant.  In ancient cultures, servants were signs of affluence much like cars, houses, and boats are today.  The more servants you had, the richer you were considered to be.

This wisdom is simple: it’s better to live within your means and have a little (one servant), than to live in excessive and extravagantly greedy financial overkill and be destitute.  I love the term “self-important” here because it truly identifies the problem among those of us who dodge our portion of responsibility for our current situation.  Instead of one’s faith, family, and future being the top priorities, we are self-important . . . what I have right now is most important . . . borrow, buy, beg . . . just let me have all I can in this instant.

It’s better to live in a two-bedroom house and be able to afford the payment than to live in a mansion and be evicted in two months.  It’s better to own a five-year old car and still have grocery money than to drive a brand new Ferrari and not have money left over to afford a beef meximelt. 

Are we victims?  In some cases, absolutely.  However, God has promised to provide the earthly necessities of life, as well as His wisdom.  The catch is: we must move beyond self-importance and live in “God-importance.”  Only buy what we can afford.  Cut up cards whose interest rates will imprison us.  Let what we value in the long run eclipse short-run extravagancies and whims.

Bailouts can’t fix “self-importance” . . . that choice is ours.


~ by johndriver on February 17, 2009.

One Response to “Servants and Self-Importance”

  1. I tend to struggle with my “self-importance” because I compare myself to others. If one person has more of something then I feel like the bar has been raised, and that I must get that too. The concept of this verse reminds me of tithing. You use what you have, and God will bless you. I always hear about when people are on such a tight budget and if they were to tithe, then that would cost them a few meals. God always provides for someone. In every story I’ve ever heard there is always a good ending. I just want to be responsible, and know my limits. I have to keep in mind that not everyone will have the same boundaries as me. Some people are going to not be able to do what I can, and others will be able to do more than I can. Boundaries are important, and I want to be connected with God so I do not do something foolish.

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