Excuse Me, God

November 9th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“Do you have any questions for me?” I asked the applicant for a position in my organization.  “Yes,” she responded.  “How many vacation and sick days do I get each year?”  Needless to say, she got none from me.

There is a right way and many wrong ways to interview for a job.  The right way involves demonstrating that you are a giver rather than a taker.  The job seeker should thoroughly research her prospective employer, learning about the industry, its challenges and its opportunities.  Ideally, she would even learn the details of the department in which she’d be working.  Finally and most importantly, she’d know exactly how she could help and add value. 

That is how the good Lord designed human economic interaction. “I truly wish to serve you,” is the tacit message that you should communicate by your words and actions.  And if you serve God’s other children it shouldn’t surprise you that a good and loving God rewards you with the blessing of financial success. 

To take it a stage further, ancient Jewish wisdom insists that serving other people is one path to serving God.

Here is one portion of the Torah in which this vital lesson is communicated.

1)    And God appeared to him [Abraham]…while he was sitting
at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day.
2)    And he lifted his eyes and saw three men standing by him…
3)    And he said, ‘My Master, if I find favor in your (singular) eyes,
do not move (singular) away from your servant.’
4)    Let some water be brought and wash your (plural) feet
and recline (plural) beneath the tree.
(Genesis 18:1-4)

In English, the phrase “your eyes,” “do not move,” “your feet” and “recline” can be addressing one person or many people. In the original Hebrew, we know whether they are meant as singular or plural.  Furthermore, in the Bible, God is addressed by many names. Some of these are unique to God, while others portray attributes of God that can apply to people as well. So, God can be addressed as, “my Master” but three visitors could be addressed with the same word. (Don’t be confused by the connotation the word master had in the pre-Civil War South. Think of a master chef or master carpenter, suggesting a respectful recognition of the person’s standing.)

English translations often mistakenly suggest that when Abraham says, “My Master” in verse 3, he is addressing the three men he saw standing near him, asking them not to pass by but to visit.

Ancient Jewish wisdom records that in reality Abraham is addressing God, saying, “I know you’ve just appeared to me but I have to take care of some visitors. Please don’t leave me while I am thus engaged.  I’ll be back with You shortly.”

The singular usage in verse 3 indicates this quite clearly. Having excused himself from God, Abraham addresses the three travellers in verse 4 using the plural form since he is now speaking to three individuals.

In verse 13, God, who had patiently waited until Abraham had taken care of his guests, re-enters the conversation. Clearly, God expresses no anger at all upon being kept waiting while Abraham hospitably welcomed his guests.

Through this seemingly simple story in Genesis, we learn this vital lesson.  We need to have a relationship with God and we need to have relationships with other people.  They complement each other rather than conflict with one another.

Acknowledging God’s role in Creation leads to acknowledging that all other human beings are made in His image. Focusing on their needs, in your business, communal or personal life is one way of serving God. God might even happily wait, watch, smile, and yes, bless you.


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