Thoughts Before The Talk: Who Is Asking You Questions?

Karl Jacobson over at Working shared a quote from Voltaire this week that we ought to judge a person by his questions rather than his answers. I think taking it a step further would be better, we ought to judge a person by the people who ask him/her questions.

Jesus and the priests go at it with a battle of questions in Matthew 21:23-32. Jesus doesn't just ask a better question, he trumps them (and us) with a story. It isn't a big one but this only proves how effective a story can be.

The priests got pownd. Obviously, we love it. In my life in the Church, preachers and congregations have always seemed to love these texts when the religious leaders take a fall. We get to laugh at someone else and secretly say, "thank goodness that wasn't us!" Really? You think so? Let me ask ya then, who do you think this applies to today? If you don't have people around you asking good, hard, questions and telling simple engaging stories, you are sliding to back of the line.

Who is asking you questions?

This weekend I am going home. The Emerald City. Pirate Country. East of Tobacco Road. Carolina is on my mind (North Carolina, that is). Greenville. On Sunday, I am preaching at my home church as well, Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church. It has been a church which has supported me, shaped me and encouraged me. I'm nervous and excited. Not only do I have a question to pose to this church, I know there is a question coming back - maybe the very same one Jesus asked.

Four Easy Steps To Build Power and Influence in Your Own Mind

Why is it super-villians always feel they need to take over the world to fix it? Super-computers and robots are the worst about passing judgement on the whole human race. Of course, the space aliens come a pretty close second. The political party or religious group opposite of our own, comes in third...oh, wait, I was talking about super-villians wasn’t I? (BTW, can you tell we've been on an Avengers kick in the Hagler house!)

Condemnation is our default program be it super-villian, super-computer or ordinary human. Nurture it, and you too can build power and influence in your own mind. It goes something like this...

1) Inflated Ego. We’re kings and queens of our own internal world. If we can sell it to enough people, we might get somewhere. But truth be told, we condemn because when we feel powerless, it gives a sense of power - unfortunately, it is false power. We take it without earning it.

2) Responsibility. Of course, now that we have the power to condemn, we get to take responsibility for the decision. In other words, the buck stops with you. Think about the judge in the courtroom who has the authority to pass sentence - the decision rests with you.

3) Build the Prison. Once we’ve condemned we’ve got to build the prison to house the inmate(s). Since this is all internal, we’ve got to lock-up the emotions inside of us. We get to feed them, clothe them and maintain the prison. Did you know it is hard to find prison workers?

4) Hold the Key. Now you’re the warden. The person or people you condemned are now locked away (hopefully, metaphorically). Congratulations! You have a new career! Good luck with that one.

Jesus intended to upgrade our program:

Here is how this upgrade works...

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked him, "Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?" Jesus answered him, "I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven. "That is why the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to do this, a servant who owed him millions of dollars was brought to him. Because he could not pay off the debt, the master ordered him, his wife, his children, and all that he had to be sold to pay off the account. Then the servant fell at his master's feet and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will repay everything!' "The master felt sorry for his servant, freed him, and canceled his debt. But when that servant went away, he found a servant who owed him hundreds of dollars. He grabbed the servant he found and began to choke him. 'Pay what you owe!' he said. "Then that other servant fell at his feet and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will repay you.' But he refused. Instead, he turned away and had that servant put into prison until he would repay what he owed. "The other servants who worked with him saw what had happened and felt very sad. They told their master the whole story. "Then his master sent for him and said to him, 'You evil servant! I canceled your entire debt, because you begged me. Shouldn't you have treated the other servant as mercifully as I treated you?' "His master was so angry that he handed him over to the torturers until he would repay everything that he owed. That is what my Father in heaven will do to you if each of you does not sincerely forgive other believers." (Matthew 18:21-35, GW)

Do you notice the wisdom of the master to start with? He had the power and did not need to condemn - he started with forgiveness! He could have held this servant responsible from the beginning but since he forgave the debt, he had nothing to track, no prison to build or maintain. His authority and influence is shown at the end.

The true power of the manager is shown at the beginning however. Real power is in forgiving.

May I Ask: Who are you trying to hold captive? What person, place or party do you have locked up?

May I Suggest: Consider your biases this week especially in light of 9/11, as well as politics, religion and race. Read Matthew’s story again. Who is really the captive in your life? Unlock your prison.

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