The Lord’s use of insignificance continues in the New Testament. The most outstanding example is the Lord Jesus, the Creator of all things, who came to earth as a completely helpless baby, born to a poor couple in an obscure place called Bethlehem, a small town in a little-known, weak nation that had been conquered yet once again by a very powerful one. Why would the Lord God incarnate be born, grow up, minister, die, rise from the dead, and ascend into the heavens in an obscure part of the world such as Palestine? Why was it His plan that no one outside of the immediate area would even be aware of His existence while He walked the earth?
We could also ask, who were the disciples of Jesus when Jesus called them to follow Him? In our way of thinking, it would seem unwise to choose only twelve (later eleven), very fallible men to establish His Church. What notoriety, status, or importance did any of these individuals possess when they were chosen? Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. Matthew was a despised tax collector.
Who was the only person in the Bible about whom Jesus said this? “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13). A woman who anointed Jesus for His burial. We do not even know her name.
Who were the first people to whom Jesus revealed Himself after His resurrection? Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna. Women whose testimony in that culture was almost worthless.Why would the Lord choose such inferior individuals to be the first to testify about the greatest event in the history of the world?
Paul became an apostle only after he lost all of his Pharisaical positional authority and status. The picture that is drawn for us in Scripture should be clear, and it is probable that Paul was thinking of the individuals in Scripture and drawing from his own knowledge and experience when he penned those Holy-Spirit-inspired words to the Corinthians. Regardless of how we define significance in our cultures, it is biblically evident that the Lord chooses inconsequential individuals living in inauspicious places through whom to accomplish His hard-to-comprehend purposes.
He is the God of insignificance.
However, this should not amaze us. He is the God we do not know.
Has the Lord Been Thinking Clearly?
Is it surprising that God chooses people who are foolish, weak, and despised? It should, because it seems that we require those who are intelligent, strong, and influential. The idea of selecting the weak comes from the mind of God, but these are not the kinds of people whom we would prefer to get our work done, move the vision along, and thereby influence and change the world. These are not the individuals whom the Church would endorse to spread the Gospel and represent Christ. Never. Does the Lord know what He’s doing? Absurd question, clearly, but it needs to be asked in light of the staggering dissonance between His ways and ours. The answer to the question is, of course, yes; because in comparison to what He accomplishes by His incomparable power, everything we do is foolish and weak. He told the disciples plainly that without Him they could do nothing at all (John 15:5). The problem is that we think otherwise. We embrace “leadership material”—strong, attractive, and talented men and women to be our leaders and preachers. The Church thinks that these gifted people, if we train them properly using “leadership principles,” will advance the cause of the Gospel. We want only these kinds of individuals representing us. This makes perfect sense to us. We do not choose losers. After all, who desires to be ridiculed in the eyes of the world? However, our amazing God is not necessarily looking for culturally impressive people in order to accomplish His irrational and powerful purposes. He is not put to shame at all if we are humiliated or derided. After all, He was. The prophets were. Noah, Moses, David, Micaiah, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Amos, and Jesus Himself were all scorned either by their families, the world, or religious leaders. Is this what we seek? Do we truly want to be included in that noble company? I doubt this in the extreme. We want to be cool. Attractive. Culturally clued in and appealingly humorous. We say we want to be like Jesus, but we have no idea how to deal with these words of blessing in the context of leadership:
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22–23).
We want to be enormously influential and liked, but apparently it is not our preference to be blessed or have great reward in heaven.
Instead of displaying how strong and worthy of notice we are, we should reveal how weak and unimportant we are. Instead of proclaiming our strength, we should boast of the things that show our weakness, as Paul did (2 Corinthians 11:30). Instead of contending for significance, we should contend for insignificance. This is the way our God, He who is lowly in heart, chooses to do business. When we read about those whom the Lord chose throughout Scripture, we cannot avoid this inescapable truth. We should line up on the side of the basketball court where all the wimps and losers stand. Talk about counterintuitive. This is clearly not how the world and the Church think about how to “win.” We want people with swagger.
Is it possible that the Lord could make it any easier for us to understand? In spite of a multitude of biblical examples, it just seems too difficult for us to grasp. Even if we do lay hold of this truth, all too often, as soon as He chooses us and performs something wonderful and God-glorifying through us, we too easily shift from being “nothing” to desiring to be “something.” It is just one, little, intoxicating step away.
Warhol was right. Everybody wants to be somebody and experience their fifteen minutes of fame. But that is not what the Lord wants for His people.