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Do you have anyone in your life that you highly respect? What marks their life? What about yourself…when was the last time you felt respected by someone? As we continue our series, “This is the Life,” Adam Tarnow teaches us how love, kindness, and humility all lead to respect.
Righteousness: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 1
Do you have anyone in your life that you highly respect? What marks their life? What about yourself…when was the last time you felt respected by someone? As we continue our series, “This is the Life,” Adam Tarnow teaches us how love, kindness, and humility all lead to respect.
Suggested Scripture study: Proverbs 11:16; Matthew 5:46-47; Proverbs 20:28; Proverbs 21:21; Proverbs 27:18; Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 18:12; Proverbs 22:4; 1 Corinthians 4:7
Sermon: Kindness: Never Random and Far Too Rare
Sermon: Put on Humility
I want to set up our time as we continue the This Is the Life series with a little bit of a story. One of the best decisions I made when I was in college was after my second year, after my sophomore year. I put all of my items into my car and headed from Clemson, South Carolina, down to Orlando, Florida, to spend a semester at Walt Disney World as a part of their college program. So I got to do that. That was a lot of fun.
I had no clue that thing even existed. I was there just going about my business in that spring semester of my sophomore year and started to see these signs pop up all over campus. This was before the Internet and social media was a big deal, so you had to use paper to communicate, especially on a college campus. So, these signs are popping up, and they just said, "Come spend a semester at The Happiest Place on Earth," and 19-year-old Adam said, "That sounds like a blast. Let's go do that."
So I went through and did the interview, and lo and behold, as an accounting major, they actually have accountants down at Walt Disney World, so I got an accounting internship down there, which was a lot of fun. I know you maybe don't think that sounds like fun, but it was really a lot of fun for me. So I went down there, and I had so much fun as a part of that internship. It was great to be an employee (what they call cast members) down there. It was great to be a cast member. Being a cast member came with some privileges.
You got to go to the parks anytime you wanted to for free. You got to have some backstage access to things. I don't know if you guys have ever heard about these secret tunnels that are under the Magic Kingdom. I have been in those secret tunnels under the Magic Kingdom. It is amazing down there. You see all kinds of wild things, like Eeyore walking around holding his head. I'm almost certain I've seen Cinderella smoke a cigarette under there. I was tempted to go smoke one with her. I thought, "This would be such a cool story." I didn't.
Anyway, so I've seen all that stuff back there behind the scenes and backstage. It was so much fun to be a part of that. For seven months I got to go do that. Now, one of the things I didn't know when I signed up that was also going to be a part of this college program was I was going to get to take classes through Disney University. Disney University is their little organization that does leadership development and some continuing education classes for their employees, for their cast members, as well as some outside groups. You can go and take classes at Disney University.
So I got to take some classes as a part of the college program. Every Monday, for 10 weeks, I got to sit in these classes and learn about how Walt Disney World thinks about running their resort, how they think about business. Now at the end of the 10 weeks, they gave people some certificates to memorialize that they went through and got this training through Disney University. I don't know if you guys know this about me or not, if this will come as a shock or you'll go, "Yeah, this is exactly what I would expect of Adam," but right now I hold a degree.
I hold a Ducktorate degree from Disney University. I don't know if you know that. Yes! That's worth clapping for. That's a big deal. I hold a Ducktorate degree in management, of all things. Just in case you're wondering, a Ducktorate degree is better than a Mousters degree. That, too, is a real thing. I don't have a Mousters degree, and I will be offended if you say I do have a Mousters degree. I have a Ducktorate degree.
Come to find out, the difference between a Mousters and a Ducktorate was the Ducktorate was given to people who went to all 10 classes, and if you missed one or two, then you got the Mousters. It's essentially perfect attendance is all that it is, but I like to make it sound like it's a much bigger deal. I have it framed, and I keep it in my office. My team members are rolling their eyes, because I often remind them… "I'll answer this question, because I have the Ducktorate degree. Clearly, I'm qualified to do this."
Anyway, I went through these classes, and I still remember (this was over 20 years ago) a lot of the things they taught me during those classes about how Disney thinks about running business. One of the ones that at the time when I heard it was so counterintuitive and so novel to me was this. Walt Disney World is a for-profit company. They're a for-profit organization, so they like profit. They want to earn a profit.
One of the things that's different, though, or that was counterintuitive to me was the way they go about trying to earn a profit is different than what I would have expected. The way they try to earn a profit is not to focus on a profit. The way they've found for them to become profitable is they focus on guest experience, on customer service.
They don't try to sit there and make every decision from a spreadsheet decision to think about, "How can we cut costs or raise revenues to become more profitable?" One of the number-one decisions they think about is, "How can we increase the guest experience?" What they've found is that the cleaner the parks are, the more amazing and excellent the attractions are, the better the food is, and the better the cast members treat the guests, the more people will go and tell their friends, and then they'll come back and continue to visit the park year after year.
Oftentimes, when they visit the park, they wear tee shirts like this. It says, "Most financially irresponsible day ever." If you've been to the parks, you know that is true. When you walk in there, you gladly hand over your money for that experience, and it's a lot of money that you hand over. Disney has figured out the way for them to be profitable is to treat people differently, not just to focus on being profitable, and it has worked out really well for them for years.
I start with all that for this reason. Come to find out, that little counterintuitive principle isn't so special after all. In fact, they weren't the ones to come up with that idea. The idea really has its roots in Scripture, especially related to the topic we're going to talk about today. What's true for Disney is also true in our lives, and it's especially true in our lives around this topic we're going to cover today. Today, we're going to talk about Respect. That's where we are in the This Is the Life series.
Now, let me define what this word is, because this is one of those words we use on a regular basis, but we maybe haven't taken the time to sit back and go, "What do I mean when I say respect? If I say I respect somebody or 'You are respectful,' what am I really saying?" When I use this word for the rest of our time together today, here's what I mean: it is a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, their qualities, or their achievements.
That's what respect is. It is a deep feeling of admiration for someone or something based on the things they've done, the qualities they have, what they've achieved or accomplished in life. Similar to how Disney wants to be profitable, I bet when you hear that definition, every single one of us in this room today would say, "I want to be respected." There's probably not one person in here who reads that definition and goes, "No. You know what? I'm okay if people don't have a deep feeling of admiration toward me." Every single one of us in here wants to be respected by other people.
Similarly to how Disney goes about that in a very counterintuitive way, the same thing is going to be true for us. You and I are not going to become respectable people by focusing on respect. You and I are going to grow to become respectable people if we, too, focus on the way we treat others. We're going to see that time and time again as we read through the Proverbs today and think about this idea of how we can become respectable.
We're going to look at three different ways we can become respectable people, three different ways we can treat others that will bring about this deep feeling of admiration for us. I think this is a really important message for all of us. One of the reasons I think this is an important message is there's a prevailing mindset out there when it comes to respect right now, and it's not helpful. This prevailing mindset with respect, for many of us, is not going to yield for us the results we want. It's not going to make us more respectable people.
The prevailing mindset I see out there in my life and others I talk to is that I feel like I am entitled to your respect. All of us in here feel like we're entitled to respect, yet we feel like others need to earn our respect. All of us in here want to be respected, and we feel like we're entitled to it, and one of the evidences that we feel like we're entitled to it is how easily offended we are as we go through our day and go through our life.
All of us are so easily offended if somebody drives a way that we don't approve of or they do something on the road we think is disrespectful. We get so offended by that, because we think we're worthy of respect. If anybody gives us the slightest bit of criticism or speaks a little bit critically into our lives, we get so offended by them. We say, "No, no, no. You don't understand. I deserve to be treated with respect. You can't criticize me."
If our waiter gets our order wrong at lunch today after church, we're going to be offended by that, because we feel like that's disrespectful. All of us feel like we are entitled to respect, yet everybody else has to earn it. If you're sitting there going, "Adam, I don't know if I believe that," just wait about 35 or 40 minutes, and see how you feel when you try to leave this campus and you get in your car and try to get out of the parking garage or out of the west lot. I think you're going to realize, "Yeah, I do feel entitled to respect right now, and others need to earn it."
If that's our mindset, that is not going to cause us to become respectable people. God wants us to become respectable people. That's what we're going to see out of Proverbs today. The reason he wants you and me to become respectable people is not so that we'll feel better about ourselves and so we'll feel good that people have a deep feeling of admiration for us. The reason God wants you and me to become respectable people is because we are his plan A.
For some reason, God, in his infinite wisdom, has decided he's going to use his people to be his marketing and PR department. He's going to use us to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. He's going to use us to love other people and tell them about himself and tell others about Jesus. What we also know is true is that people usually like Christians before they like Christ. They typically respect a Christian first before they go and respect Jesus.
So God wants you and me to become respectable people, and it's not just so we can feel better about ourselves; it's so that more people can make much of him. So a lot is at stake with this. We're going to jump into Proverbs, and we're going to look through eight different proverbs today as we look at this and study what it has to say about how we can become respectable people.
Just a word of warning before we jump in and start to read through these proverbs. Our English translations don't use the word respect in the book of Proverbs very often. That's not the word they use to talk about this deep feeling of admiration for other people. The word that's used in most of our English translations is the word honor. So as I read through these eight proverbs today, that's the word we're going to see and hear over and over again.
You're not going to hear the word respect, but when you the hear the word honor, we can think respect. When I say the word honor, I mean respect. When I say the word respect, I mean honor. These are going to be used interchangeably today. As we read through these eight proverbs, I'm going to put them into three broad categories, three different behaviors, three different ways we can treat people that will cause our lives to become more and more respectable.
The three ways are…if we treat people with kindness, if we treat them with love, and if we treat them with humility, we become more respectable. Here we go. Let's jump in. The first proverb we're going to look at is Proverbs 11:16. "A kindhearted woman gains honor…" There's our word. "…but ruthless men gain only wealth." I love these proverbs that have this compare and contrast. You could spend all day in these.
Usually, when the proverbs have a compare and contrast like this, they're trying to say that one thing is definitely better than the other. What we have here in this proverb is two people with two different behaviors and two different outcomes. The two people we have is a woman and men, and the two different behaviors they have is the woman is kindhearted and the men are ruthless, and the two different outcomes is the kindhearted woman gains something. She gains honor. She gains respect from others when she treats people kindly.
The men who are ruthless gain something too, but the verse says they gain only wealth. I love that word only in there. It's very, very clear that the author of this proverb, that what God is communicating to us is that honor is better than wealth. It's only wealth, but you gain honor. So when you are kindhearted toward other people, you will gain something that is more valuable than money. You will gain respect. You will gain honor when you are kind toward others.
I know what you're probably sitting there thinking. "Well, Adam, that's great, but I don't think kindness is going to pay my mortgage." I'll concede that point, and then I'll offer one little counterpoint. I agree that kindness alone is not going to pay your mortgage, but if you default on your mortgage and lose your home, if you're kind, chances are very high that another person is going to take you into their home. So I think it's all going to work out for you just fine. You're going to have a roof over your head as long as you're kind to people.
When you treat people with kindness, you gain something. You gain honor from them. So, that's our first behavior, our first characteristic, the first way we treat people. If we want to become people of respect, then we need to treat people with kindness. I think this message is so important, this reminder is so important, because I think you guys are probably seeing the same thing I'm seeing out there in the culture right now.
Our culture has lost the art of respectful disagreement. Right now, everybody is drawing lines, and you're saying, "Here's who I am. Here's what I believe. Here's what my worldview is. This is what I believe is true about life, and if you don't believe everything I believe in the exact same way I believe it, then I don't have to treat you kindly. I get to treat you like an enemy, and I can be mad at you. You don't deserve my respect."
The culture is out there, and we're losing this art of respectful disagreement and saying, "It's okay if we're different. We can still be kind to one another. We can still be friendly with one another. We can still be friends even though we have disagreements on some major things in our lives, even though we view the world a different way." This is what's going on in our culture, which seems to go against what Proverbs is saying.
It's also the reason an event that happened here in Dallas just a couple of weeks ago made national news. A couple of weeks ago, Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, invited some people to come watch the Cowboys/Packers game over there at Cowboys Stadium. Two of the people he happened to invite to be a part of his party and some of his guests for this particular game were George W. Bush and Ellen DeGeneres.
As luck would have it, during that football game, Ellen and George sat right next to each other. There could not be two more different people sitting right next to each other there at the game. As often will happen during these games… The cameramen know the section where the Jones family's guests are, and they'll, every once in a while, go pan over there and look at who is sitting in the Jones section for the game, because there are often some celebrities up there. They'll do that in between plays, some filler.
This particular game, they struck gold. They said, "Look at this. We have George and Ellen sitting right next to each other. Let's see what kind of fireworks go off here with these two people who are so different." As the game went on, what happened is that George and Ellen sat there and watched the game, and they had a delightful time. They got along with each other. They were talking, and they were laughing with one another, and they were so kind to each other.
As America was watching this, some people started to get offended. They're sitting there and watching Ellen, and they're going, "Doesn't Ellen know who she's sitting next to right now? Why is she being kind to that man?" They handled it in a very mature way. They said, "Let's go to social media and bash her."
So they go out to social media and start to say, "Why is Ellen being kind to that man? Doesn't she know who she's sitting next to? Doesn't she know what that man believes? They're different. Why is she being kind?" Ellen obviously heard about this, and some short time later, she used her platform of her television show, the monologue at the very beginning of her show, to address this social media firestorm that happened, the criticism she received for being kind to somebody who was different than her.
This is what she said just a short time later. This is a quote from her. "They thought, 'Why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?' When I say, 'Be kind to one another,' I don't only mean the people that think the same way you do; I mean be kind to everyone." I didn't get to watch this happen live, but I saw it on YouTube later, and I'm just sitting there going, "This is amazing."
Supposedly, what Ellen is doing is at the end of her show… I don't get to watch her show very often because it's on during the day and I'm working during the day, so I can't go and watch the end, but supposedly, she ends her show with the same sign-off every day. Do you guys remember growing up watching The Price Is Right? Bob Barker had his sign-off. "Spay and neuter your pets." She has a little better one. She says, "Be kind to everybody." A little better than Bob's right there. She ends her show every day saying, "Be kind to one another."
What she's basically saying is, "Listen. I don't just say that because it makes me look good. I actually believe it." She went on in that monologue to talk about how she has a lot of friends who are different than her, and she doesn't expect everybody to think the same way she does, and that doesn't mean she should treat them disrespectfully. I'm watching this, and my respect for her is going up. I think that's a wonderful view. I respect her views on all of that.
At the same time, I'm hearing all this, and I'm going, "She's quoting Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount." Jesus said the same thing 2,000 years ago, and we learned it this summer. Matthew 5:46-47. Here's what Jesus says: "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"
Jesus is saying if you're just kind to people who think the same way you do, act the same way you do, have the same interests you do, don't expect anybody to be impressed by that kindness. That's easy. That's not worthy of respect. If you want to see some behavior that's worthy of respect, then be kind to the people who are different than you.
This thing is just crazy. The Bushes then released a statement as they watched this whole social media firestorm and they watched her go and defend her actions. The Bushes released a statement that said, "President and Mrs. George Bush really enjoyed being with Ellen and Portia. They appreciated Ellen's comments about respecting one another. They respect her." So we got to watch George and Ellen just be kind to each other, and our respect for both of them goes way up.
Think about how insane this is and what an indictment this is on our culture that two people who are obviously very different are kind to one another, and they have to use public platforms to defend kindness. That is ridiculous! That is crazy! Imagine if we parented that way, those of you who have kids in the room. Say you have a son and a daughter, and you happen to catch your older son being nice to his kid sister today.
Imagine if you saw that and you were like, "Jimmy, get in here! What did you do by being respectful to her and kind to her and letting her get her own way? Don't you know she's a girl and different than you? Don't you know she is to be your rival right now? Don't you know you're not supposed to be her friend until you go to college?" Our kids would be like, "What? I've got to defend kindness?"
That's kind of what they had to do here. Our culture is starving for this, and it's so abnormal. Our respect for both of these people goes up. Regardless if we agree with them or not, our respect goes up for them because they're kind. What Jesus is reminding us of here, what the proverbs are reminding us of here is that we… Let me just talk to Christians in the room right now, those of you who proclaim to follow Jesus. We are to be kind to everyone…everyone.
The reason we are to be kind to everyone is because every single life is a miracle. Every single person has been made by God, and they are worthy of our dignity and our respect, and we are to be kind to them. This doesn't mean we have to insulate our lives and protect ourselves from people who are different than us. It is okay to be kind to people and to be friendly with people at your workplace who have different views on marriage and sexuality than you have.
It is okay to be friends with or to be friendly with and be kind to people at your kid's school who have different views of Jesus and the Bible and God and salvation. That's okay to do that. We are to be kind to everyone, because when we're kind to them… "The kindhearted woman gains honor." What's so convicting to me in this is that I am an expert at being kind to Christian baseball fans who have graduated from Clemson. There's nobody better at being kind to those people than me. That's not respectable.
If we want to live the life, if we want to be respectable people, then we need to treat people a different way. We need to treat them with kindness. Let's move on and look at the second one: love. Three proverbs here with love. Proverbs 20:28: "Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure." Do you know what kings and leaders like? They like to remain being a king. They want to remain being a leader.
If you have been a student of history or even just observing leaders today in our world, what we know is the tactics most leaders and kings go through in order to make sure they can remain being king are often coercion, manipulation, exploiting people, and military force. Those are usually the tactics, and that's usually the way kings treat people so they can remain king.
What God is saying here is, "If you're a king, if you're a leader, if you want the respect of your people so they keep you in your position, don't do it by manipulation, coercion, and extorting people. Here's something to do: just love them. Consider their interests above your own. Seek the best for them. Love and faithfulness keep that king secure. Through love your throne and your position is not going to go away."
We see this idea that loving people, treating them a different way is where you're going to gain respect and become respectable to them. Proverbs 21:21: "Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor." If you seek to live a life of living rightly and seeking the best in other people and loving them, you find something. You find life, you find the prosperity that comes from rich relationships, and you find honor, you find respect.
Proverbs 27:18: "The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit, and whoever protects their master will be honored." If you take an interest in something that is very close to somebody else, if you protect your master, you will be honored. We put these three proverbs together and we see our second behavior: if you treat people with love, you will become more respectable.
My wife and I have seen this in our own lives over the last couple of years. Our whole family has developed a great friendship with a young lady here on staff. This relationship started with us inviting her over to our home to babysit our kids. We had heard this young lady was a great babysitter. We had a night where we were going to go out on a date and needed to have a babysitter, so we asked her if she could come over. She had an opening on her schedule, and it worked out.
My wife and I have two young boys, an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old. The second this young lady came into our house and started to engage with my kids, I could just tell something is a little different about her. The way she started to talk to them and interact with them and the way they were responding to her, I was like, "Okay. I see why people like having her as a babysitter. She's pretty good with the kids right now."
So we gave her the rundown on this first night of the way the home works, what time we want them to go to bed, and all that stuff, and we left and went out on the date. Probably 30 to 45 minutes later, we start getting text messages from her with these pictures of her having so much fun with our boys. Not text messages going, "Where's this again? And what time do they go to bed?" It was like, "Look at how much fun we're having."
My wife and I are like, "This is amazing. Let's go get two desserts. Let's go see a movie. It sounds like they're having a blast over there. They don't need us to go home." It brought such comfort to us to see how much fun she was having with our kids. We get home, and the kids were asleep. Parents, can we just be honest? That's what we're paying for, really. I'm just paying for one night to not have to do the bedtime routine. So when I come home and they're asleep, I'm like, "Oh my gosh! I'll pay you double, whatever it is. That's amazing."
The kids are asleep, and we say, "How did it go?" and she goes on and on and on telling stories about what they did and little character qualities she saw and the way they loved one another. I'm almost like, "Did you watch my kids? These stories are amazing." Then right there on the table are two sheets of paper with handwritten letters she has written to our kids, talking about things they've done, character things she saw in them, so they can read them in the morning. I know you guys want to know her name, and I'm not telling you.
This was the first time, and every time we've had her come over, she has done this. Every single time. Here's what has happened. My wife and I have so much respect for this young lady. She has become a part of our family. We would do anything for her. And do you know what she did? She just took an interest in something Jackie and I care very deeply about. She took an interest in my kids. She's easily my favorite person on staff. Easily. She has won me over by loving my kids. I'm just easy like that.
I think what we see from the proverbs here and what we see from my friend's behavior is that an easy way to love people is to take an interest in something or someone others care deeply about. Just take an interest in something they care very deeply about. We can all do this. Every single one of us can do this.
You can do this as you're driving home today, as you wake up tomorrow. Whatever you do in your life, just get alone with your thoughts and think and just run through the various relationships in your life and ask yourself, "Do I know what these people care deeply about, and how can I take an interest in something they care deeply about?"
Here's the thing. Every single person has a relationship they care deeply about, a hobby they care deeply about, or a cause they care deeply about. I don't think the Proverbs are calling us to care as deeply about these things as the other person does, but I think what we're being called to do here is to just take an interest in these things.
The challenge for me in this, as my wife and I think about parenting our kids… Our approach to parenting our two boys is probably very similar to the approach a lot of you parents take in this. One of the goals we have in parenting is that we want to parent with the end in mind. We're trying to parent with the end in mind. That means that we want one day, when our kids no longer have to be around us, that they want to be around us.
When they no longer have to be in our home and have to spend time with us, we want to parent in a way that they choose to spend time with us. I know if they're going to be at a point in their lives where they're adults and they want to choose to spend time with me that respect is going to have to be a part of that equation. They're going to have to respect me and respect Jackie if they're going to choose to spend time with us.
One of the things I can control in this situation… I go, "Okay. One of my goals is I want to have an adult relationship with my kids, so what I'm going to do now is I'm going to get in the habit of trying to take an interest in things they take an interest in and things they care deeply about." So if you were to be in my house right now and watch me interact with my boys, the conversations on topics about things that, candidly, I really don't care that much about.
I know more about sneakers right now than I've ever known about sneakers, because for some reason, my boys are into sneakers, and their friends are into sneakers, so we talk about sneakers a lot in our house. I know all of the different types of Nikes out there, and the Jordans, and we have this Eastbay catalog. Whenever that shows up in the mail, we're going to pore over that and look at the new LeBrons, and all this kind of stuff. I do that just to take an interest in something they take an interest in.
You would also hear conversations about cars. My boys are at that age where cars are cool, and living in Dallas, they can see cool cars out on the road. Where I was growing up in Manassas, Virginia, the only time I saw a Lamborghini is when it was on the folder in my Trapper Keeper. That was the only time I saw exotic cars. Living here in Dallas, my boys can see exotic cars all the time. We look for them when we're out on the road, and we talk about them.
Then I do this ridiculous thing. If you ever see me do this, I'm so sorry. When I walk through parking lots and I see nice cars, I take pictures of them. So if you ever see me take a picture of your car, just take it as an act of respect. It's because I want to show my boys, "Look at this cool car I saw." It just gives me something to connect on with them, just to take an interest in something they take an interest in.
The music we listen to, the countless conversations we're having right now about Harry Potter… Harry Potter gives me such tired head. I don't understand it. It's such a complicated story to me. I don't want to read the books, I don't want to watch the movies, but my kids are into it, so I want to take an interest in things they take an interest in. You can do this. I can do this. When we do this, it communicates love, and when we love people, that's living the life. That's becoming more respectable.
So, the first way we can treat others is to treat them with kindness. The second is to treat them with love. Let's look at this last one: to treat people with humility. The last four proverbs. Proverbs 15:33: "Wisdom's instruction is to fear the Lord , and humility comes before honor." Proverbs 18:12:"Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor."
Our culture… Regardless of what you believe about God, we know that. Pride comes before the fall. We know that part of the proverb, but we don't often quote the second part of the proverb. Humility is what comes before honor. Proverbs 22:4: "Humility is the fear of the Lord ; its wages…" Here's what you earn when you're humble."…are riches and honor and life." Proverbs 29:23:"Pride brings a person low…" But that's okay when you're low, because look at what it says here."…but the lowly in spirit gain honor."
You put these four proverbs together, and we see our third thing here. Treat people with kindness, treat people with love, and treat people with humility. When you're humble toward others, you become, your life becomes more respectable. What the proverbs seem to indicate here is that when we lower our self-importance, others will then lift us up. When we treat them with humility, we become more respectable.
I also understand that that is way easier said than done, just to say, "Hey, lower your self-importance. Treat people humbly. Make it more about them than it is about you." The reason that's such a temptation for us or why that seems so counterintuitive for us to do is because it seems like this world is massive and there are millions or billions of people here, and everybody seems to be boasting and bragging about their accomplishments and their abilities and their qualities, and we don't want to be left out, because we think we're kind of special too, just like everybody else.
Candidly, we all think we're kind of a big deal. We have a little Ron Burgundy in us. We think we're a big deal. People should know us. We want to be respected for our many leather-bound books and our homes that smell of rich mahogany. We want people to respect our Ducktorate degree. It's such a temptation to want to go out there and boast and brag about these things, to try to make much of us, to try to get people to pay attention to us.
We're not the only people who have ever struggled with this. The church in Corinth struggled with this almost 2,000 years ago, and Paul, loving that church well, shared this with them in 1 Corinthians 4:7: "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?"
Paul is just reminding the church in Corinth and reminding us today, "Hey, what do you have that you think is so worthy of attention and bragging and boasting about? What do you have that you didn't receive? Anything that's great in your life that's worth bragging about, you didn't do anything to get it; that was a gift, because we worship a benevolent and gracious and giving heavenly Father."
Anything great about any of us has been given to us by God. It's not our own doing that's worth bragging about. What the proverbs are reminding us of here and what Paul is reminding us of here is that, basically, we're all pinch runners in a baseball game. Baseball playoffs are going on right now. Baseball is on my mind. Baseball is one of those interesting sports that when a guy gets up and gets a hit…
Say he hits a double, and he's standing on second base. The manager can choose to take that man who just hit the double out of the game and put somebody else in the game to run in his place. This usually happens at the end of the game when the score is tied or it's really close. Let's say the guy who hit the double is slow and you want to put a faster runner in there so if the next guy gets a base hit he'll be able to score from second.
You'll see this strategic move made often at the end of a game. They'll take the slower runner out and put the faster runner in. In all of my years of watching and playing baseball, here's one thing I have never seen when a pinch runner goes to second base. I have never seen the pinch runner sit there and start to brag and boast about what he just did. There's never a pinch runner who gets to second base and looks at the pitcher and is like, "What else do you have? I'll hit another fast ball. Throw me a curve ball. I don't care. I'll hit it the other direction."
He never sits there and starts tipping his hat to the crowd, going, "Yeah. How about that hit?" Do you know why? Because the pinch runner knows he didn't hit the double. The other guy hit the double. He's just humbly out there playing his role, being the pinch runner. He's not trying to bring any attention to himself right now.
What Paul is telling us and what we all need to remember here is every single one of us is a pinch runner. Anything that's worthy of bragging about is just a gift that has been given to us by our heavenly Father. Here's what this means. We don't have to spend our time going around trying to get everybody else's attention. We can humbly take our attention and focus it on other people for an extended period of time.
I hope you guys know this. You know this, right? One of the most valuable things you have in your life right now is your attention. Companies spend millions and millions of dollars every year to try to get your attention. And why are they spending that much money? Because it's worth it. Your attention is valuable.
When you understand you're a pinch runner, that what you have you've been given by the Lord, then here's what this means: you can now humble yourself, and you can take that attention, that precious, valuable attention, and focus that on other people. When you do that, pride will go away. When you humbly focus on others, what ends up happening is that you receive back from those other people you're focusing on honor, respect. They respect you.
I was trying to pressure-test this idea and even think about my own life and the men God has brought into my life who have had such an impact on my life who I have the utmost respect for. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to write a list of names down, going all the way back to middle school, and think about these men and try to think about what they all have in common. These are some of the men in my life who I respect the most.
Back in middle school, it was Garfield Lindo, and then it was Adam Landrum, and then John Reeves and Bob Strickland and Bill Willits and John McGee and Blake Holmes and Robbie Rice and Clark Stevens and Randy Marshall and Jeff Strese. I think about all of these men, these 11 men who I have the utmost respect for, and the one thing all of these men have in common… Do you want to know what it is? They all took their attention and focused it on me for an extended period of time.
They listened to me, and they prayed for me, and they counseled me, and they coached me, and they helped me. For an extended period of time at different moments over my life, those men said, "There are a whole bunch of places and different areas where I could pay attention, and I'm going to focus it on you, Adam." That has had such a profound impact in my life, and I have so much respect for these men. They got honor. Their humility… They received honor. I respect them.
So my question for you is…Whose list are you on? Think about who you have been focusing your attention on for an extended period of time where they would go, "I have the utmost respect for that person, because just for a few moments, they shut everything else out in the world and focused on me." When we do that, when we're humbled, when we treat people with humility, we gain honor.
So if we want to live the life, if we want to be respectable people, we don't do it by focusing on respect or feeling like we're entitled to respect. We flip that prevailing mindset around. We believe that others are entitled to it, yet we have to go earn it. See, you are entitled to my respect and my kindness and my love and my humility because you've been made by God and you are worthy of it, but I don't want you just to give it to me; I want to treat you in a way that you almost have no option but to respect me.
God wants us to become respectable, because we're his plan A. He's going to use us to tell the world how amazing Jesus Christ is. We'll just close with this one last thought. The greatest expression of respect the world has ever seen is not us in our lives. The greatest expression of respect the world has ever seen is Jesus. It's great that Ellen and George, even though they are different, were kind to each other, but Ellen and George's behavior is nowhere close to the behavior of Jesus Christ as you read through the Gospels.
Jesus surrounded himself with people who were different than him. He had enemies who insulted him and hit him and spit on him, and he treated all of his enemies and all of the people who were so different than him with kindness. He treated them with respect. It's great that this friendship my wife and I have with this young lady here on staff is growing. It's great that she cares about what we care deeply about, she cares about my kids, but Jesus cares not only deeply about my kids; he cares about our relationship with God.
He cares about our eternity, and he left heaven to come to earth to teach us about God and provide a way for us to get to God. It's great that I've had friends who humbly pay attention to me, but Jesus paid for our sins by hanging on the cross. The cross was not just the greatest expression of love the world has ever seen; it's also one of the greatest expressions of respect the world has ever seen. Think about that. Jesus respected you enough to go to the cross and die for your sins.
When someone pays you that kind of respect, the only appropriate response is to pay them that respect back. This is one of the things I love about this church. For 20 years, we've been calling people to do one thing, and that is to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ, because he's worth it. He has loved us and respected us so much, and we know that if you pursue after Jesus and become a fully devoted follower of Christ, then he's going to change your heart, and despite differences, you're going to be kind to people.
He's going to change your heart, and he's going to help you take the focus off yourself and put it on others, and you're going to love others by taking an interest in what they care about. He's going to change your heart, and you're going to be able to humble yourself and pay attention to other people. When we do that, people are going to respect us, but it's not going to be just to make much of us and our accomplishments. We're going to be able to point to what was accomplished on our behalf on the cross and point to Jesus. Amen? Let me pray that we'll be those kinds of people.
Lord, we thank you. We thank you for Jesus and the example he set for us. We thank you for Jesus and how kind he was to his enemies and people who were different than us and how he's kind to us. We do pray, Lord, that that kindness will lead us toward repentance. We thank you for Jesus and how he took an interest in things we care deeply about and our relationships and our relationship with you, God, and our eternity, and he came down here to die for us, and that he was so humble and paid for our sins on the cross.
So, God, I pray that we, as your followers, will be fully devoted to you, that you will continue to change our hearts and that we can be kind to others, that we can be loving to others, that we can be humble around others. We do this and we pray and we ask that our lives will become respectable, not so that people will think more highly of us and make much of us but so we can point to Jesus. We love you, and we thank you for him. It's in his name we pray, amen.