Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Prejudice”

Even Tax Collectors!

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Luke 3:12-13 NIV

All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. Luke 7:29 NIV

If there ever was a despised group of people within the first century Jewish culture it was the tax collectors. They were often grouped with the ‘sinners’ – those Jews who had abandoned their Jewish faith and were living like Gentiles. Tax collectors were servants of the Roman Empire and in Palestine, they were often Jews who enforced the tax laws of the Empire upon their fellow countrymen. In addition, they were often very corrupt and oppressed their neighbors by collecting more taxes than the law required, keeping the balance for themselves. By serving the Romans and using their position for personal enrichment they became a despised group.

In His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the tax collectors as an example. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” Matthew 5:46 NIV Here again the tax collectors serve as an extreme example – even they love those who love them back. Certainly, if tax collectors can love others, you Kingdom people are called to a higher standard – to love your enemies.

Jesus selected Matthew (Levi) as one of His Twelve, the executive leadership team for His ministry. It’s hard to underestimate how radical this was for a Jewish rabbi to associate closely with a tax collector. Note that Jesus was questioned by the Jewish leaders as to why He would socialize with “tax collectors and sinners?” “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17 NIV

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. … When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-2, 5-10 NIV

I wonder who the despised, “tax collectors and sinners” are today? Who are the sick that desperately need the healing touch of the Gospel? Who are those who the religious people would question why Kingdom leaders are associating with them?

As a Kingdom leader, are you nervous about what other leaders think?

Do you have a reputation you’re trying to protect?

Discrimination and the Kingdom

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.           Acts 2:42-46     NIV 1984

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.   Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them  and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  This proposal pleased the whole group.        Acts 6:1-5a   NIV 1984

Bias is simply personal preference.  Prejudice is a prejudgment of a person or group.  Today it is often negative or critical, and is usually based upon stereotypes.  Prejudice is a strong bias or an opinion formed before encountering the facts.  If ones prejudice manifests itself in actions, it becomes discrimination.

You’ll note that the apostles encountered a situation among their community of regular discrimination.  The Greek speaking Jewish widows (now converts to Christ) were not being given their daily portion of food.  They were ‘overlooked’ by the Hebrew speaking Jewish believers who were responsible for the daily food distribution from the common ‘pot.’  This was not an oversight – ‘were being’ implies a continual action – day after day – intentional neglect.  This was pure discrimination!

Note that this happened in a community of believers who were sitting under the teaching of the apostles and experiencing many wonders and miraculous signs.  But even this amazing environment was not enough to overcome their long-held prejudice and enmity between Jew and Gentile.  Something else was needed to bring about the Kingdom change where all would be treated equitably.

Leadership (the Twelve) got involved in bringing about a needed correction.  They instructed the community to select seven men ‘full of the Spirit and wisdom’ to manage this daily distribution of food.  And note that the seven who were nominated and then finally approved by the Twelve, were all Greeks (at least they all had Greek names).  With these seven in charge the problem was solved.

Discrimination due to race, class, or culture is not of the Kingdom.  When Kingdom leaders encounter it, they must act to correct it.

As you think about your leadership, is there any sign of discrimination that needs your engagement?

Prejudice and the Kingdom

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”  Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.  Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”  “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.  Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”                            John 1:43-49   (NIV 1984)

You’ll note from the above passage Nathanael’s response when Phillip says, “We have found the one..”  Nathanael’s prejudice is verbalized in his reply, “Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?”  In other words, those Nazarenes are not worth much in my opinion – especially considering that you are asking me, Phillip, to believe that the Messiah is from Nazareth!

Prejudice is a prejudgment of a person or group, usually based upon stereotypes.  It is a strong bias or an opinion formed before encountering the facts.  If ones prejudice manifests itself in actions it becomes discrimination.

Nathanael expresses his prejudice against the Nazarenes and is then confronted by a choice.  Phillip simply says to him, “Come and see.”  Fortunately, Nathanael does not allow his prejudice to overcome him.  He’s willing to investigate this one whom Phillip is so excited about.

When meeting Jesus face to face, Nathanael is told by Jesus that He saw him under the fig tree when Phillip invited him.  Immediately Nathanael’s prejudice is changed as he responds, ” Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

All of us have our own prejudices, some being more obvious than others.  If these prejudices are negative or critical towards others what hope is there for lasting change?  For Kingdom citizens we have the hope of a personal encounter with Jesus.

Just as Nathanael had his prejudice removed when he personally met Jesus, we too can have our own prejudices removed and permanently transformed.  There is hope for those of the Kingdom and that hope is found in meeting the Messiah.  He will reveal to us our true selves and with that will come the power, through the Holy Spirit, to put off our old self and put on the new.

Perhaps it may prove helpful to ask the Lord to show you any prejudices that you may be harboring.  And once revealed, ask Him to change you-removing the old and putting on the new Christlike one that He desires for you to be.

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