All they did was sin even more, rebel in the desert against the High God. They tried to get their own way with God, clamored for favors, for special attention. They whined like spoiled children, “Why can’t God give us a decent meal in this desert? Sure, he struck the rock and the water flowed, creeks cascaded from the rock. But how about some fresh-baked bread? How about a nice cut of meat?” [Psalm 78:17-20 (MSG)]
“You are my friend, you are special,“ sang Mr. Rogers on the children’s television show. Indeed, made in the image of God and saved by His son, I am special. None of us, however, are any more special or deserving than the other. Our recent trip to the Canadian Rockies reminded me that we often forget that simple fact.
Yesterday, I wrote of the tour director who insisted that her group was so special they should be allowed passage on a closed road. While visiting the Columbia Icefield, I witnessed another tour director much like her. His group had joined ours on an “ice explorer” vehicle that carried us across a glacial highway so we could walk on the glacier. We were allotted twenty minutes to experience the icefield firsthand. It was raining and treacherous on the ice but, even on a sunny day, twenty minutes standing on a glacier is more than ample time. This guide, however, demanded more time for his group. Our driver patiently explained that only a limited number of people are allowed on the ice at one time, other groups were waiting for their ride, and that she had a schedule to keep. The guide argued that his group was special and deserved special treatment. As departure time approached, the driver politely asked him to gather up his group but he refused and blocked the door. She had to shove her way around him to shout for them to come back.
During our tour, I had plenty of other opportunities to see people who seemed to believe they deserved special treatment. Apparently standing in line, sharing the trail, staying on the walkways, not picking wildflowers, waiting one’s turn, and prohibitions about smoking and littering did not apply to them. I heard unreasonable demands, saw a fair amount of arrogance and was shocked at how rude people can be to those serving them. My observations made me question whether I, too, tend to act more deserving than others. Like the Israelites in today’s verse, do I ever whine, complain or demand special concessions, attention or favors? Sadly, there are times I’m guilty as charged.
We should be cautious when we seek special treatment. James and John wanted special seats in Jesus’s kingdom. Aside from making the other disciples angry, they were reprimanded by Jesus who reminded them they are to be servants who serve rather than rulers who expect to be served. In Scripture, we find many references to things that are special—abilities, gifts, ministries, offerings, blessings, days, feasts, possessions and messages—but none about certain individuals being more deserving or special to God than others. Remember, it was Jesus—the only truly special man—who washed the feet of His disciples! Let His example of humility, kindness and love guide us when we deal with our brothers and sisters—all of whom are special in His sight.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. [Philippians 2:5-8 (MSG)]
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