Saturday, March 21, 2015

Living For Others

Est 5:1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, in front of the king's quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. Est 5:2 And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight…

Rom 14:7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.

As I am going through Esther right now, I actually made a connection between these two passages.  Let me try to explain.  Esther needed something very important from her husband the king.  In this case it was the deliverance of the Jewish people throughout his kingdom who were about to be slaughtered.  So she dresses up in such a way that would hopefully gain his favor so he would let her approach him.  We might say she knew how to work him to get what she wants which can have a bad connotation.

We call this manipulation and as a husband I am all too familiar with it.  Not because my wife does it but because of my own sinful tendency to be especially nice to her when I want something from her.  We are all born quite adept at doing this and children exhibit it at an extremely early age.  When our interactions with others are mostly defined by what we can get from them and not what we can do for them, this is manipulation and it is sin.

I think we can say that what Esther is doing is a form of manipulation but the circumstances are dire and so she does whatever she can to gain access to the king and I certainly wouldn’t see this as sinful.  But what it did make me think of was that there is a sense in which we are to do what we can to please each other and it isn’t manipulation.  If I dress in such a way that pleases my wife, or go shopping with her when I would rather do something else, it doesn’t have to be because she is manipulating me or that I am manipulating her.  It could be and should be that I love her and so I do what I can to please her with no thoughts of getting something in return.  In fact, that is the very definition of love. 

As Americans we sometimes buy into the idea that I do what I want, when I want; I dress how I want, eat what I want because no one can tell me what to do.  It is my right to not be controlled by someone else’s desires for me; no one can tell me what to do and on and on it goes.  The times when we stop and consider what someone might want us to do are rare and usually we consider it only if we want something from them.

But if you think about it, this is starting to get us to the point of Romans 14:7.  As Christians we are given life not to just use others for our ends but we are here to live for others and this begins with Christ.  So not only is there nothing wrong with me doing things to please my wife just because it pleases her or helps her out; this is actually what I have been called to do.  It is good for us to consider how others think about us; what are the things they think I should do because I have been put here on the same earth or in the same church or family and so I have to get along with them and work with them.  I cannot go around seeking only those things I want.  And letting others sometimes influence the things I do is not being manipulated; it is working together to build relationships and be profitable in the Kingdom of God.

When Esther got up that morning she had a plan and she dressed in such a way that would aid her in carrying out that plan.  She could have thought like we tend to and say, “I am going to dress how I want to because it shouldn’t matter how I dress. He should listen to what I have to say because it is important.”  She could have rushed into the throne room rashly but instead she thought things through and used her God given wisdom to figure out how best to work with her husband.
It was an important plan that would affect the people of God and her own future.  And this is my point.  As Christians we cannot afford to waltz through life without a plan.  There should be a reason for everything we do.  We have a purpose for life and so we are to figure out the best way to fulfill that purpose according to the Word of God. 

Countless lives have been ruined because they refused to take the time to consider the consequences of what they were about to do.  They were living in the moment -- what feels good now -- and didn’t think ahead.  They had no sense of purposeful living and they just did whatever they wanted to do that day with no thought of what Jesus wanted and no thought of how it might affect those around them.  This is pretty much living like an animal.

Oh, we have cleaned such living up by calling it, “being spontaneous”, “living in the moment”, “not getting tied down to routines”, etc.  But very often it is just masking the fact that we want to be free to live for ourselves and not be tied down to the responsibility that no one lives only to himself or dies only to himself.

I am all for spontaneity by the way.  But as Christians, life is too serious for us to be consumed with just living in the moment.  If you are saved you have a carefully laid out plan for your life and it is our duty to be students of the Word and figure out how to be wise as serpents in this present evil age.  Part of that is living to please and help each other.  It doesn’t mean we are to be controlled by others but that we are in the Lord’s army, we have common goals and no soldier can just decide he will fight the enemy on his own or in his own way.  We must live with others in mind.

We are to live with purpose, with planning and every decision we make must be made with more thought than just what happens to be in front of our noses at the time.  This is how a two year old lives, not mature adults.  This is why Paul could say, 1Co 9:26  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 1Co 9:27  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified

While some might want to think of this as hindering their lives, yet for the saint it is wonderful to know that we have purpose and meaning in everything we do.  And the little freedom we might give up in this life will give rise to unimaginable glory in the life to come.

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