An employee came about 15 minutes late to work one day, walking in on a meeting that started promptly at 9am, in which she had a large role to play. After the meeting so as not to embarrass her in front of everyone, her boss pulled her aside and said "You were late today. We really got off to a rocky start because of you." Her response was "Couldn't be helped. There was construction on the way here that had traffic backed up for miles." Was she answering out of righteousness?
The truth is that she knew full and well about the construction because it had been there for weeks, narrowing traffic to 1 lane and causing back ups every morning in every one's commute to work. She knew that yet hadn't adjusted her schedule that morning for this very important meeting. She didn't esteem the meeting properly in her and her boss's eyes, and knowingly put everyone else in a difficult and embarrassing situation forcing them to make excuses for her. Then she blamed it on the road construction. Her boss said, 'Sorry for the long commute, but don't let it happen again." She told a white lie as they say, and got away with it, but a lie nonetheless. Not righteousness.
She side-stepped the truth though her boss knew that route and knew there was construction, and didn't appreciate her not taking responsibility for her life. In his eyes she fell a couple of places because she didn't take responsibility. What eventually happened was that she was passed over for a promotion, and at first blamed God because in her estimation she worked harder than the rest and didn't know what God had against her, when others less hard working and dishonest at that, were promoted.
When she eventually asked her boss why she was passed over and what she could do to improve for the next opportunity, he told her about that meeting. He said it was a pattern in her life of not being truthful, and complaining - not taking responsibility for her life. He needed someone in that position who told him the straight truth no matter what - and she didn't. It wasn't God's fault after all, surprise, she had done it to herself by not dealing with the unrighteousness in her heart.
This is the nitty gritty of growth in Christ, people. Owning up to our lives, not blaming the construction for arriving late. Not blaming the friend who responded to the fake news email. Not telling your wife you cleaned them for her. But being meek, lowly of heart, teachable and willing to correct our motives way down inside where only Jesus sees.
When King Saul lost the kingdom - he lost it in his heart first, before losing it in the natural
In I Samuel 13:1-14 the prophet Samuel had told King Saul to wait 7 days for him and then they would make a sacrifice to the Lord before Saul went into battle with the dreaded Philistines. When Samuel was late Saul made the sacrifice himself, usurping the role of Samuel. When Samuel arrived he told King Saul that God had decided to give the kingdom to someone else as a result of his actions. What did Saul have to say for himself when Samuel finally did arrive?
"Because the people were leaving me, and you didn't come when you said you would, and the Philistines were gathered for battle, lest they come to battle before I had sacrificed to the Lord, I forced myself and made the offering myself." v11-12
Notice that all Saul said to Samuel was true. But the instructions were to wait for the prophet, to have enough faith in the Lord's overall guidance and timing to allow things to be done properly. Instead, he forced the situation and then had the nerve to blame everyone but himself. He lost the kingdom because of lack of maturity. He in that position was expected to own up to his mistakes.
Saul did not lose the kingdom because of failure in battle any more than the woman above would lost the promotion because she was late to that meeting. But because she would not take ownership of coming in late for the meeting, she was passed over. She lost the promotion in her heart first, before her actions.
We too lose a little of the kingdom of God, the Kingship of Jesus, in our hearts little by little when we first blame someone else for whatever trouble is before us. We deflect the truth to make ourselves look better, as Saul did with Samuel. As the woman did with her boss. As I would have done with the blinds (last week). Jesus said to take the construction beam out of our eyes first before trying to get the speck of saw dust out of our neighbor's eye. Always go first to self - how can I grow, is what I believe to be true, actually true? Are my motives pure? How do you want me to grow in this Lord? How can I grow in this?
Righteous or right?
A lawyer had some clients who were also friends - a couple in a neighborhood applying for an exception to their HOA's rules. An HOA is a Home Owners Association in the US, in which a neighborhood will set up a legal organization (HOA) to implement a series of rules meant to keep the neighborhood neat, attractive, and well maintained. Some rules might be like 'Cars that are broken down cannot be parked at the curb longer than 30 days', or 'You may plant no more than 2 trees in your front yard', or in this case, 'You may not build any structure in the back yard higher than the privacy fence'. (The privacy fences in that neighborhood were about 6' (1.8m) tall.)
The client couple wanted to build a larger/taller play structure for their 2 children and needed to make an application for exemption to the HOA, which was at first denied. So they hired a lawyer to present an appeal which was an offer to compromise with the HOA, one that would be higher, but smaller and shorter than the original plans.
The lawyer answered his phone that day to yelling and screaming that because of him their application had missed a deadline and all their plans and expense were for nothing. They had said they sent him an email that answered his final question and he never responded in time to complete the form they needed so the appeal was denied. He was fired, he lost his friends.
When he checked his computer, the last place he checked was his spam folder. Sure enough, their email was in his spam folder, but why did his internet service provider (ISP) read it as spam? When he opened it he found they had not started their email with any greeting. No 'Dear _____', no mention of his name at the start or his law firm, nothing at all at the start. Then the answer they gave was not a proper sentence. And they didn't close with a 'sincerely' nor or close, nor did they even write their names.
All that explained why his ISP read it as spam - it wasn't properly formatted, which wasn't his fault at all, nor should he have been expected to look for their improperly formatted email in his spam file. When he apologized to them and explained what happened, the couple still were furious with him and his attitude and took no responsibility for their lack of formatting the email which caused the whole thing. No apology for their part in it. Just anger at the lawyer and the end of their relationship.
In each case the person who was wronged was the one doing the apologizing. The people in the wrong either side-stepped their responsibility or masked their sudden realization they were in the wrong and had a part to play by wrath and anger so they wouldn't be caught, wouldn't have to apologize. They wanted to be right more than they wanted righteousness. These same people, all of them, are charismatic, hand raising, tongue talking, how I love Jesus Christians - but they are mere babes as people and Christians. Sad. They may have known the Lord 30 years, but they are still in spiritual diapers. That's not my assessment - it is Paul's and Peter's. That's next week.
It is always a thing of amazement to me how quickly Christians fall in with the accuser of the brethren (the devil from Revelation 12:10), masking the refusal to take responsibility with anger and the ending of relationships - because like the accuser, if he admitted he was wrong he would have to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. Church people are infamous for the behavior outlined in these few examples. But these same people who are so quick to end or severely limit their relationships with brothers and sister in Christ, which relationships they will have for all eternity, willingly put up with co-workers who do things like this because they need the paycheck, neighbors because their kids play with the neighbor's kids, relatives because they see them at all the family functions - but let another Christian do that which is wrong in their eyes, giving them an excuse not to put on big boy pants and own up to their own attitude and actions - and they have lost sight of the fact they are acting as the Accuser of our brethren, hand in hand with him.
More nitty gritty next week....the human heart is so....complicated...but there is a solution - and we'll see that next week.
Until then, blessings,