“Not by Human Standards”

Pentecost 3

June 14, 2015


Text: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17; Mark 4:26-34


          I am about to read to you a piece that has been in circulation for quite a while. It imagines what a human resources professional would have to say about Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus, Son of Joseph
Woodcrafters Carpenter Shop
Nazareth 25922

Jordan Management Consultants
Jerusalem 26544

Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them.

As part of our service and for your guidance, we make some general comment, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation and comes without any additional fee.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
– Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.
– Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership.
– The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty.
– Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.
– We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau.
– James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of great ability and resourcefulness, interacts with people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Sincerely yours,
Jordan Management Consultants


          This piece serves as a reminder to us that God does not choose people by human standards, choosing the people we would often least expect. Jesus’ disciples were not chosen from the cream of the crop. The people who ultimately would continue Jesus’ work included commercial fishermen, a tax collector, at least one revolutionary, and several people about whom we know next to nothing. And the one who perhaps had the best credentials from an earthly standpoint was the one who betrayed Jesus.

          The idea that God does not choose by human standards, often choosing the one who is unexpected, shows up in our lesson from 1 Samuel. God had recently rejected Saul as Israel’s king for flagrantly disobeying God. God sent the prophet Samuel to Bethlehem, telling him he would anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the new king of Israel. At God’s instruction, Samuel took with him a heifer to sacrifice, and invited Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. When Jesse and his sons arrived, the sons were presented to Samuel in the order of their birth. The first son was the eldest, Eliab. Now back then the eldest son was thought to be the most important, so Samuel already figured this was God’s choice to be the new king, and he also noticed Eliab was tall and handsome. “Not so fast,” God told him. “Just because he’s tall and good looking doesn’t mean I have chosen him—and in fact he’s not the one. I don’t see like humans do. Humans look on the outward appearance, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

          So more of Jesse’s sons were passed before Samuel, a total of seven. In each case, Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one.” After the last one had passed, Samuel said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen any of these. Are all your boys here?” Jesse said, “Well, there is the youngest, but he’s out taking care of the sheep.” Samuel told Jesse to send for him. When the youngest arrived, he turned out to be a handsome young man with beautiful eyes and ruddy complexion. God told Samuel, “This is the one—anoint him as king.” So Samuel anointed David right then and there to be God’s choice as the next king of Israel.

          God did not choose David because he was handsome. God chose David on the basis of what was in his heart. David would be the king regarded as a man after God’s own heart. He was chosen even though he was the youngest son in the family, the runt of the litter, so to speak, considered so unimportant that he wasn’t even invited to the sacrifice because he was needed to take care of the sheep.

          God does not choose people for specific tasks based on outward appearances or the outward circumstances of their lives. God knows what is in each of our hearts, and that is the basis God uses in making such choices.

          Now sometimes we judge that what is in a person’s heart isn’t large enough or good enough for God to use. Sometimes we even make that judgment about ourselves. But let us remember one of the comparisons Jesus used to describe the kingdom of God. Jesus could have chosen to compare God’s rule on earth to a majestic mountain or a vast sea or a massive oak tree. But instead, he said the kingdom of God is like a teeny, tiny mustard seed, a seed smaller than the head of a pin that grows into a substantial plant, large enough that birds can nest in the shade of its branches. God often does his greatest work through the tiniest of things, through people and events that seem insignificant or unimportant.

          It is often easy for us to think we aren’t enough and don’t have enough to make a difference in the world. Let us remember that in Christ we are a new creation, because Christ died for all, whether great or small, so that we might live for him instead of for ourselves. Now we might be tempted to think that we are not much for God to work with. But a little, even something as small as a mustard seed, is still something. The God who created the universe out of nothing has no difficulty using the something we judge to be little and insignificant to do great things.

          Joseph Ratzinger, who eventually became Pope Benedict XVI, is reported to have once said, “I have a mustard seed, and I’m not afraid to use it!” Behind this bit of humor lies an important truth: God uses whatever we are and whatever we have, even though we may judge that to be insignificant, to accomplish his purposes, to share his love with others, to bring about justice and reconciliation, to make differences in the world that bring it closer to being what God intends it to be. Each of us has a mustard seed of some sort. Each of us can, in some way, offer what we have, even though it may not seem like much, to God, and God can do great things with it to accomplish his purposes. Let us be faithful in using our mustard seeds, and trust God with the results.


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