I don’t get starstruck. In fact, I have been known to assume that someone is “just another guest at an event” when in fact the person is hosting it. Like the time I made small talk with a woman at a charity dinner without realizing that the man standing next to her was the governor of Nebraska and she was his wife. Or the time I tagged along with Bill to a conference in California and “befriended” the wife of another conference attendee after assuming that she was feeling out-of-place, like I was. I later learned that the woman was the wife of the partner in charge of every auditor in the room (and the company’s national practice).
That’s me: Oblivious to and unimpressed by earthly accomplishments. I learned years ago that it’s not what we do, but who we are that matters. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the penny when he said that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who paid his workers the same amount of money, regardless of the hours worked. This equal-pay-for-unequal-work philosophy that was laid out in Matthew 20 didn’t set well with the laborers who were in the field the longest. When they wanted more than the workers who were hired later in the day, Jesus held his ground as he said: “I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
Knowing that everyone is of equal worth is not enough. We have to act like it by seeing similarities, instead of differences, in others. Years ago, I was visiting with someone from our church who had recently moved into a new neighborhood. When I asked if she had gotten to know the people who lived in the large house at the end of her street, she immediately tensed up and said: “Oh no, I could never be friends with them.”
“Why?” I asked her.
“Because their home is much nicer than ours.”
Her reply reminds me of these lyrics from the song “People Are People” by Depeche Mode:
People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get
Along so awfully
So we’re different colours
And we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me
Though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never ever met you so what could I have done
The neighbor in the nice house did nothing to merit the conclusion that the woman I was visiting had drawn. And by putting someone on a pedestal that no man was meant to stand on she created, not just a pain in her neck, but a problem within her heart. Self-deprecation is a form of pride. And pride, according to Proverbs 16:18, always leads to our downfall.
We can’t believe that the bible is the inerrant word of God and discount it whenever it suits us. Instead, we are to recognize everyone’s worth and remember that no matter how well-known we become in our corner of the world, there will always be someone who doesn’t know who we are.
Earlier this week, I was once again this “someone” when Bill sent me a picture that a coworker had taken of him and another man during their lunch.
“Don’t you know who that was?” Bill asked when he called to see if I had received it.
“Not a clue,” I replied.
“Thib-a-what?” I asked.
“Coach Thibodeau,” he said.
“The coach of the Chicago Bulls,” Bill added when I still didn’t have a clue. “You know, the NBA Coach of the Year.”
Turns out that person Bill had his picture taken with was more important that I realized and … so are you.