Did you hear about the fellow who walked into First Suburban Church wearing an expensive suit and a baseball cap?
After he sat down, an usher walked up discretely, introduced himself, and said, “Pardon me, but we don’t wear hats in the auditorium during worship.” The well-dressed man nodded — and left the cap in place.
A few minutes later, a deacon repeated the process — with the same outcome. Then, just before the service began, the preacher came, smiled, and shook his hand. “Sir, we are pleased to have you with us,” he said. “But we respectfully ask that you remove your cap during worship.”
“Of course!” he replied and took it off. “It’s just that I have attended this church for three and a half years and haven’t met a soul. Today I wore a dirty baseball cap and met the head usher, a deacon, and now the preacher.”
While I’m sure that story is fictitious , it sadly too often represents the failure to build relationships within the church. Relationships require work. They call for us getting out of our comfort zone. And they revolve around mutual respect and a proper esteem we should develop for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Our word of the week is esteem.
Esteem is usually thought of today as self esteem. Self respect. And self regard. It emphasizes one’s own abilities, worth, and self-confidence. However, the Bible warns against thinking too highly of one’s self (Rom. 12:3).
Instead we are encouraged to deny ourselves, give up our self interests and focus on the needs of others. The Bible says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phil. 2:3).
The Greek word translated esteem means “to lead, to go before, to rule, to command, to have authority over.” In various other passages the word is translated, account, think, suppose, rule and judge.
The ESV renders this passage, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
A life of spiritual significance sees the value in others. It is an attitude born from the spirit of humility. Meekness. And unselfishness.
Too often we find ourselves in a competitive situation with others trying to prove we’re better. More important. Of greater worth. Sadly some husbands and wives are constantly fighting to get the upper hand and gain control. Seeing only their needs and forgetting about the needs of their spouse.
Some churches are filled with brethren constantly bickering, because they haven’t learned how to get along by appreciating the value their brother adds to the Body of Christ. No fellowship can accurately reflect the attitude of Christ when each member seeks to promote himself or herself.
In relationship to our spiritual Shepherds we are commanded “to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:13).
In Philippians 2:25-30 Paul spoke of a preacher, Epaphroditus, whom he called “my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier.” He spoke in glowing terms of his ministry, commitment and love for the Lord and the brethren. He exhorted to “hold such men in esteem.”
I’m reminded of a famous quote by one of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Paine who observed regarding our freedom, “what we obtain too cheap, we esteem to lightly.” Could it be that the same challenge confronts us in our relationships? With our friends? In our homes? In our churches?
If we are not careful our quest for self-esteem, can negate our willingness to “esteem others better than ourselves.” Commentator William Barclay observed that “prestige is for many people an even greater temptation than wealth. To be admired and respected, to have a platform seat, to have one’s opinion sought, to be known by name and appearance, even to be flattered, are for many people most desirable things.”
C.S. Lewis was right when he wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” That quality will lead us to “esteem others better.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman