It’s Better to Be Useful

thornbush

So this is a post from my early days of blogging, i.e. the days when I started a blog and then didn’t post anything for 6 months.  So I’m reposting it here because the lesson I learned from writing this post still applies to me now.  It’s better to be useful then to be made popular.  This also really applies to the church’s need to remember that holding on to the Gospel is the only way to stay useful in growing the Kingdom.  So here you go, a throwback:

Today in my Bible reading, I was in the book of Judges, specifically chapter 9.  As I read God revealed something very useful to me about service, work, and life in general.  It’s amazing to me, because it is so juxtaposed to the way that our hearts, and the hearts of culture are naturally inclined.  I am by no means a Biblical scholar, but I sincerely hope that my attempt to expound on what is contained in the passage will allow God to work on an area in your life He needs to reach.

In Judges 9, we find the story of Abimelek, one of Gideon’s sons.  If you don’t know the story of Gideon, you can find it in Judges 6-8.  God used Gideon delivered the nation of Israel from the nation of Midian, who had been forcefully occupying Israel for 7 years.  Once that was over, however, Gideon’s story takes a darker and more violent turn.  I’m not going to go into the story of what happened to Gideon after his great victory, as that is a different story entirely, but let’s just say that he had wife issues.  (As in, he had too many of them.  One wife, guys.  One girlfriend, too!)  Well in the middle of his wife issues, Gideon became the father of Abimelek by a concubine.  (Guys, that’s a prostitute.  Also a HUGE mistake!)  Gideon also had 70 other sons by his wives.  You can see where some sibling rivalry would come into play here.  This would be enough family drama by itself but there’s so much more to this story.  The Bible says in Judges 8:32 that “Gidoen son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash…”  This is where our reading picks up in Judges 9.

So after Gideon’s death, Abimelek travels to his mom’s family and begins to campaign to become their sole leader and King instead of all of his brothers.  His mom’s kin had no problem following the son of an Israelite judge so they quickly pledged their loyalty.  And then Abimelek went crazy.  He sealed the deal for his throne by traveling back home to dad’s house and slaughtering all of his brother except his youngest brother.  (Talk about messed up, right?)  Once the deed was done, Abimelek went to his coronation ceremony, where his mom’s family, also known as the people of Shechem, were making him king.  After this, his youngest brother, the last surviving brother, Jotham, climbed up on a mountain, in view of everyone and told a little story.  That story is where the lesson I found came from today.  The passage is as follows:

8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

9 “But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

10 “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

11 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

13 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’

14 “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’

15 “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’

This story was confusing to me at first, but after I thought it out, it has an amazing lesson.  The olive tree, fig tree, and vine are Gideon’s sons, and the thornbush is Abimelek.   This is where the lesson really comes together.  All of the trees listed, except the thornbush, are useful and serve a purpose.  And these trees, with the heart of a servant, being fulfilled by the completion of their task, declined the opportunity to be exalted over the other trees.

Now this may seem, odd.  Wouldn’t the trees still be able to serve their purpose if they were a “king tree” and over all the other trees?  Well think about this: when a soldier, who is extremely useful in the field, is promoted in rank high enough, they eventually will end up in an office, behind a desk.  Their usefulness in the field, the very thing that probably got them the promotion, is gone.  They aren’t able to be fully utilized for their purpose anymore.  Now that is stretching that analogy a bit, but go with me on this.  An olive tree, is intended for an ultimate purpose in life: to make olives and as a by product, olive oil.  If it is taken away from that task, then it is no longer completely fulfilled, nor is it as useful.  It simply “waives above the other trees.”

I am a firm believer that all of us have a specific intended purpose, where we are, given by God, that will completely fulfill us in our work.  We will love to do it.  We will not want to stop doing it.  And, best of all, we are being useful to God, and glorifying him, when we are fulfilling this purpose.   But, if we choose the exaltation of man, the chance to be in a place of prominence, instead of a place of usefulness, we will loose not only our usefulness, but also our personal fulfillment.  Does that mean it will always be easy?  No!  But it does mean that when you’re serving God the way He made you to, you will be able to stop in the middle of the stress and the storms that are sure to come and say: “there’s nothing else in this world I’d rather be doing!”

So, what is the main point I’m getting at?  Today, work on finding what God’s purpose is for you where you’re at, and then, when you find it, never sacrifice it to be praised above someone else by man.  Stay useful to God, and you will be fulfilled!

Alright, there’s my throwback for Tuesday (maybe I should’ve waited until Thursday?).  Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think!

-AJ*

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2 responses to “It’s Better to Be Useful

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