Tuesday, June 07, 2011

If You're Not Famous...Be Thankful

Rare is the person who can handle success, prominence, or fame. Fame often leads to a sense of entitlement and invincibility. Fame isn't good for a person's soul.

These lessons have been made clear as I, along with the folks of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church, as part of our Read the Bible in a Year project, have been recently reading about Israel's first king, Saul, in 1 Samuel.

Saul was, by turns, diligent in his duties one moment and arrogant in the abuse of power the next.

Saul never seemed to fully understand that, through his anointing as king, he had been made a servant of God and of Israel, not just of himself.

This lack of understanding once led him to quake among the baggage when his people needed him to command them in war. It also led him to disobey God, employing his own faulty judgment instead of depending on God, all in a gambit to win the favor of those he led.

In time, Saul came to view his fame not only as an entitlement, but as an extension of himself and his personal identity. That, in turn, fed a paranoia that--among other things--caused him to seek the murder of his best and most loyal military leader, David, and to treat the members of his own family as chess pieces to be moved around for his purposes.

As I watched an excerpt of the tearful press conference of Representative Anthony Weiner yesterday, I thought of Saul. Maybe if Weiner weren't a six term congressperson from New York, he wouldn't have done the things to which he admitted yesterday. But fame and prominence, even the smallest whiffs of it, can make the most stable and sober of us think that we're "all that."

A sense of entitlement--an idea that whatever might be vices in others really aren't vices in us--can actually come to any of us at any time, even if our name is known to only a handful of people.

Narcissism, total self-interested self-regard,  is something with which we are all born and which it's the job of every parent to wean out of their children.

This inborn trait is what the Bible is talking about when it teaches that we are all born in sin, sin being a condition of self-will over against loving consideration of God or others. (By the way, that's why Jesus says the Great Commandment is to love God and love others. And it's because we can't conquer the condition of sin that leads us to do all manner of stupid, hurtful things, that Jesus calls all people to turn from sin--or repent--and believe in, entrust their lives to, Him. Jesus can erase the power of sin over our lives and help us, in this lifetime, to be recovering narcissists, and in eternity, be utterly free to be the people God originally willed us to be.)

So, if you're not famous, be thankful. It can create such false notions of invincibility, power, and entitlement that it can close your conscience to heeding what's right or correctly identifying what's wrong at any moment in your life.

And if, like me, you're just another ordinary member of the human race, I hope that you can be honest enough to say that, even without fame, you've acted like a person of entitlement who treated God and others with contempt, as though they were bit players in the more important production of your life. If you can muster that level of honesty with God and with yourself, you'll be onto something. You'll be close to surrendering to Christ and His better will for your life.

Finally, if you're prone to join the late night talk show comics in laughing at Anthony Weiner, please don't. His actions are admittedly wrong, even childishly so. But what he needs more than our derision is prayer.

So do we all.

That, of course, doesn't mean that the people for whom we pray shouldn't be held accountable, if their actions are illegal or violate the ethics rules of their professions.

But we can pray for Anthony Weiner or any political leader of either party facing similar humiliation in the face of their own revealed bad judgments and hubris. In 1 Timothy, the first century evangelist Paul writes to a young pastor named Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions...
That's what I try to do for all political leaders on a regular bases. If you're skeptical about including leaders in government in your prayers, consider this: It can't hurt!

And while you're praying for them, you can also thank God that you're not famous.


Alison Bolen said...

Thank God, indeed that we're not famous. You're right: I did enjoy this one. My fav line is here:
I hope that you can be honest enough to say that, even without fame, you've acted like a person of entitlement who treated the God and others with contempt, as bit players in the more important production of your life.

Mark Daniels said...

Thanks, Alison.

I've gone back and cleaned up some of the errors in the original post, by the way.

God bless!

Geoff said...

Great article Mark,

I have written similar things in this seven sentence blog entry here http://wp.me/p1xtdt-VX

Fame is an interesting thing, because it can be global or local. You could be famous within your family, or your church, or your small group of friends don't you think?

It's really the raising up of a person against another. So I guess a class of people or a group of people could also be "famous"

I think this is why I love to hang with people who are without houses and who currently on the street. Often they teach me things, simple things that humble me.

Thanks for the great blog