1 Samuel 2
I encourage you to read this post before moving forward.
I’ve discussed reputation a number of times, particularly how a lot of Christians are really ruining our rep in this world. I’m not talking about conservative leanings or hatred for homosexuals, so don’t get all crazy. Oh yeah, we’re not supposed to be “of this world”, and holiness should always supersede good standing, but we should avoid having a dispensational attitude about how people perceive us.
Because it matters.
If you checked out that link (which you probably didn’t), I wrote of a New Testament example in the centurion of what a good reputation does for Christians and the church at large. Jesus also had a good reputation among men, especially the lowly in character — why do you think the centurion found Jesus so approachable? Are you approachable too?
But in the OT, we see a fine example of reputation in Samuel, and quite the opposite in Eli’s sons.
Samuel did it right, even as a kid. This isn’t terribly surprising; kids are usually cool with Jesus until they hit about 15, and, statistically, many tend to leave church around that time. But seeing kids serve God is good for the face of church, especially when it’s not because an adult told them to show up.
Furthermore, we like to put off serving God until we’re older, because maybe we’ll be better Christians later, or we just want to have a good time right now while we’re still young. But why not start today?
Samuel grew in favor with God and men. If it were important just to grow in favor with God, the text would’ve left off the “and men” part. But it seems to be important. It wasn’t left off elsewhere either:
And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. (Genesis 39:4)
So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” ( 1 Samuel 16:21-22)
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)
I’m sure there are other examples, but I couldn’t find them at the moment. But you get the idea, right? Good.
Eli is punished because of his kids. Yeah, your kids are going to do stupid things. But if it starts to have an effect on how you look as a man of God (especially in Eli’s case — as a priest), you should take a hard look at what you’re doing. With the exception of Eli’s flippant commentary in chapter 1, Eli is shown to have a fair devotion to God, but he doesn’t exercise this in his lax approach to disciplining his kids early on.
Being a youth pastor, I know a lot of parents that have kids that don’t really care about church or God or what their parents think. If you fall into this category, I want you to understand that you haven’t failed as a parent. It becomes the responsibility of the adult to make a decision as to whether or not they will serve God.
The difference is that these two sons dwelt in the same household as Eli, and he seemingly delayed action and turned a blind eye to it, only reprimanding them when it was already too late.
Eli’s sons ruin God’s reputation among men. When Eli finally gets around to verbally spanking his offspring (who are likely adults at this point, so a physical spanking would have looked more like this: http://youtu.be/6IPmDYw3lGI), he points out that their behavior is causing others to sin. Jesus and Paul also warn people of this. If you’re inclined to say, “It’s my life; I’m not hurting anyone else,” you probably are actually messing it up for other people.
So, if you’ve read both posts, congratulations. Hopefully you always remember that what you do in front of others is secondary to what you do before God, but man, it’s still important, and what people think about you counts.