I spend a lot of time worrying about things that don’t matter.
I could probably fill an entire library with a catalog of these things: trivial things, like pop culture. Irrelevant things like worries for the future that won’t come to pass. Unimportant things, that arise out of my own brokeness and insecurity.
I am thinking this morning about that last category. I am thinking about the unimportant things that I worry about because I am broken. Let’s call them the UTTIWABIB. The world we live in preys on our uttiwabibs. Our particular society makes some of them worse. Consider, for example, the quest for power and prestige.
Modern-day America creates a hierarchy, a power pyramid. No matter how we dress it up, no matter how we justify it or rationalize it, there will always be more losers than winners in the power game. This is the whole point, really, of the pyramid. It does not matter how catchy Adam Ant’s attempt at a comeback was; no matter how prettily he sings “There is always/room at the top” it simply isn’t true.
And even if it was true? Even if there was room for all of us?
I don’t think it’s necessary for me to say much about the ways we can sell our soul. Like so many things, we can all see that pretty easily when we consider others. I suspect it is a little less obvious, the ways we do all this ourselves.
Every time we consider the appearance over a reality, every time we worry about what people will think, every time we think about spin doctoring things… whether it is in our relationships or our work place, our friendships or family connections… every single time we do this, we are selling out.
Let me say that in a way that is more difficult, but much more important:
Every time I do that, I sell out.
I was reading in the book of Mark, this morning. There is this pair of events. The way they follow back-to-back is not an accident, I suspect.
The first thing that happens is that two of Jesus’ followers approach him. They tell him that they want to sit at his right hand.
“You don’t know what you are asking.” Jesus says. Put differently: You think this is about power and prestige. You are grabbing after power. Shortly thereafter, the other followers become “indignant.” A funny word, indignant. It seems like the other followers aren’t any better than the first couple. It seems like perhaps they are upset because others gaining power and prestige would be at their own expense.
Because Jesus comes at them all, and explains that this is not how he operates. His own followers are playing politics, they are grasping after power. This is the way of the world they all left behind; Jesus seems to be asking what the point is, of following him, if things just go back to the way they have always been.
And then the second thing happens. They are out and about. And a blind man asks that Jesus would have mercy on him. The followers try to shut the man down, but he calls out, and Jesus hears him, and Jesus heals him.
It’s not really clear how much time has elapsed between these two events. But they happen back-to-back. And it is an interesting contrast:
His followers, the guys who are supposed to know what is going on, they say: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” And the blind man, he says ““Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
There are a handful of interesting implications in this contrast.
Jesus followers are supposed to know who he is. And yet they adress him as teacher. The blind man calls to him by name, and recognizes Jesus’ lineage.
The followers are looking for more than they need, more than others have. They are looking for an extra rebate, a bonus. The blind man just wants to see.
When Jesus’ followers are given what they ask for, it is almost a dark parody; it carries this sinister underside that they have never intended. Basically, they are told that that sitting at Jesus’ right hand means suffering and death; this is what they have asked for, this is what they will get.
The blind man is healed. He follows Jesus.
Perhaps the bottom line is just this: we ought to ask for the things we need. But we ought to be careful of acting entitled to more than what we need. Healing? That’s a good thing. But power and prestige? That comes with a pretty hefty price tag.