I have a little clipping with this quote that I keep on my desk: “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from his neck saying, ‘Make me feel important.’” It was given to me a few years ago by a church member, and it points to something about human nature and the root of our motivations. There’s a craving for significance, and a related fear of insignificance. What kind of legacy will we leave? Will my name and all of my work be forgotten in the larger span of time?
This issue came to mind as I was studying the aftermath of David’s victory over Goliath (in I Samuel 17:55-18:5). After the feat had been accomplished, the question came up about who would get the credit. The king was taking notice of who actually killed the menacing giant.
It follows an interesting sequence: King Saul couldn’t even remember David (17: 55-56,58a) in spite of all their previous interactions. David, in turn, avoided giving his name in specific when asked (17:58b), perhaps because he was fearful of what eventually happened: He was drafted into the king’s service and was not allowed to return to his family (18:2).
This reveals the danger of getting swallowed up by our accomplishments. They can take control our lives and dominate us. This is why Alexander Graham Bell once said to his wife, “I am sick of the Telephone… Don’t let me be bound hand and soul to the Telephone.” We should be careful about wanting success; it may become more than we can manage.
And this leads to another great truth: Popular acclaim isn’t always a great thing. In fact, in some cases it can be a really bad thing. (See Luke 6:26.) True significance in a legacy comes in other ways, namely…
Part of the reason for this is the collective witness that comes into play. The church is not the pastor, the building, or the piano, but the people who are gathered as followers of Christ. So the church is bigger than any one of us, and the wider church is bigger than any single congregation. And the power of God is working in and through all of us together – with the larger accomplishment being the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. So the glory all goes to God, not to any of us. And there is our significance.
God bless you.
Andrew McHenry, Pastor – First Congregational Church
The blog of Andrew McHenry, Pastor of First Congregational Church of Emporia, Kansas.