I used to help organize an event featuring a major Christian recording artist. Every year I would have many people pleading with me for special access to this famous individual. When I would explain that was not possible, as the artist’s contract was very specific on such matters, I heard all sorts of rationales about why I should make an exception. People were quick to remind me about previous favors they had done me, the amount of hours they had volunteered, their various leadership roles, a specific difficulty they had in life, etc. Everyone, it seemed, had a reason for why they deserved special treatment. We are often like this in life. We think that because we have worked so hard, accomplished certain things, suffered through certain situations, and the life that we deserve to be rewarded in some way. But, is that really how things work?
One day a group of people approached Jesus. They sought Jesus help for a local Centurion (a solider in charge of 100 other soldiers), whose son was in grave condition. The individuals, who were community leaders themselves, tried to convince Jesus of the worthiness of the Centurion. They mentioned his love for Israel, his work rebuilding the Temple, and his position of authority. Jesus followed the leaders to the Centurion’s house, but before he arrived the Centurion sent messengers telling Jesus:
Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Luke 7:6-8
Here are two big learnings from this scripture:
Faith matters more than titles and accomplishments: What impressed Jesus was not the Centurion’s rank, accomplishments, or popularity, it was his faith in the power and love of Jesus. What is interesting is that throughout history other religions have made their gods the gods of the rich and powerful. The more power and prestigious you had the more access you had to divine benefits. Jesus is saying that God does not care about all of that, what God cares about is our sincere love and faith towards him.
God’s accomplishments, not ours: Here is this Centurion, who has every right to think he deserves special treatment, approaching Jesus in humility. You see, the Centurion understood that when it comes to the miraculous it is God that provides, not us. It is God that graciously gives us salvation, not us that earn it. It is God who bestows our gifts, talents, and blessings, things that he planned out before we were born. For this reason we see Jesus recruiting tax collectors, fishermen, notorious sinners, and the like to his inner circle. What matters most to God is not our worldly accomplishments, but our faith and willingness to truly follow Him.