By Louis J. Sharp
On an unusual August morning in Little Rock, partly cloudy and cool, I turned into the local barber shop for a hair-cut. Luckily, the barber was not busy, and jovially said: “Come in reverend!” Being in a cheerful frame of mind myself, I replied: “I’m not ‘reverend,’ but I will come in.” Of course, I quoted Psalms 111:9, “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.”
This is an ongoing struggle with people outside the body of Christ, i.e., to give reverence to God rather than men. I feel confident that most of them intend no disrespect for God, but rather appeal to the “pride of life” in seeking the favor of men. Due to their ignorance of God’s word, mistakenly they “reverence” men.
Soon after the barber shop episode on this same morning, after arriving at my study, the telephone rang. On the other end of the line came a voice that I recognized. It was the voice of a lady who had called on several occasions just to air her views on various and sundry topics. Usually, I would quietly lay the receiver down and let her talk until she ran out of steam. On this morning, she asked: “Is the reverend there?” Still feeling good and somewhat mischievous, I responded: “We don’t have any reverends here. ” Unabashedly, she came back: “Isn’t this a church?” To which I replied: “This is the church of Christ.” Rather disgruntled, she said: “I don’t want the church of Christ.” Pleasantly, I stated: “You have the wrong number.” And then hung up the receiver. (Thus far, she hasn’t called back.)
These are not unusual incidents in the life of a gospel preacher. All of us can relate similar experiences. During his public ministry, our Lord dealt with this kind of problem in Matthew 23. Speaking of the religious leaders among the Jews who greatly loved the praise of men, he said:
. . . The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on man’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make board their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven (vv. 2-9).
In this passage, our Lord condemns an attitude or feeling of superiority on the part of his servants. Unless we achieve the place of an humble servant, we will be unsuccessful as followers of Christ. Jesus Christ thundered the necessity of humility, both in teaching and example. “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4). “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:12).
Those desirous of preeminence universally are condemned! Diotrephes is an excellent example. “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church” (3 Jn. 9-10). In our time, perhaps we have not been militant enough in challenging this egotistical spirit of pride and self-esteem. Lord, help us to be humble!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 22, p. 682
November 19, 1992