A long time ago, Keith had one of those “try-out” visits that churches offer preachers. I’ve often wondered whether these things would go better if the church considered itself being “tried out” that weekend as well, but that’s another blog for another time.
We had lunch and spent the afternoon with a couple who would probably have been considered “pillars” of the church, primarily because they were better educated, had more money, and could quote more scriptures.
The church sat smack dab in the middle of farm country amid acres of melons, corn, peas, and tobacco. Most of the members lived in old frame farmhouses and had dropped out of or barely completed high school. A remark was made about the church members that gave me pause, but I was very young, wrestling with a two year old and an infant so I didn’t trust myself to have good judgment on the matter or even to have heard it well enough to comment on, so I let it pass.
I shouldn’t have. We hadn’t been there six months before the same woman told me I needed to meet the “cream of the crop” in the county. She proceeded to take me to a gathering of what she considered such women. Having grown up with parents who told me that the best people in the world were those who sat on the pew next to you on Sunday mornings, I was shocked to see who this Christian considered “elite.”
As we ate our finger sandwiches and mingled, I discovered that they all had money, judging from their dress and jewelry, and later the vehicles they left in. Most were professionals or married to one. Some of the others were farmers all right, but not hardscrabble farmers or sharecroppers. These farmers owned large farms or ranches, big business enterprises, or had inherited both the farms and the money from generations past. And notice this—she and I were the only Christians there.
Now consider David’s statement in Psalm 16:3. As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. David took delight in the saints in Israel, their social class notwithstanding.
Where do I find “social class” in that verse? The word translated “excellent” in the psalm is translated “nobles” in 2 Chron 23:20 (KJV), and they are grouped with high ranking military officers and governors. In Judges 5:15 it is translated “lordly.” Jer 25:34 calls them “principals of the flock” and Psalm 136:18 says they are “famous.” Just to make sure you know who we are talking about, Nehemiah complains in 3:5 that those “nobles” were too good to work like the common folk. Now do you know who we’re talking about?
Our culture idolizes the cult of the rich and famous—how they dress, how they talk, how they live. We call them “America’s royalty.” We do the same when we show partiality in the church based upon wealth, popularity, education, and social status. It is a tacit admission that we consider ourselves better than our brothers and sisters who do not have such “assets.” It is the opposite of “each counting the other better than himself,” Phil 2:3.
David says the true “nobles,” the “excellent ones,” are the people who fear God, who live the life they preach, with justice, fairness, kindness, goodness, and grace. These people “delight” him. Now ask yourself: who do I spend most of my time with, especially in the church? Are we as wise as David?
One of the common questions in an interview is, “Who would you like to have dinner with?” Journalists choose that question because the answer tells a whole lot more about that person than they seem to realize. The person you want to eat with is the one you want to develop a relationship with, the one who interests you, the one you might even model your life after. The answer to that question shows who you consider the aristocracy in your world.
Who is on your list?
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. Ps 84:10