What’s your motivation?

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love-greater-than-fear

Psalm 2: 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling 12 kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.

There are two things about this psalm that get my attention this morning:

First, the writer of the psalm is counseling all kings and rulers to “serve the Lord”. One of my bible resources says this about what it means to serve the Lord:

“The kings and rulers (of God’s people) are invited to be like the “happy”/“righteous” persons of Psalm 1—open to God’s instruction, God-directed rather than self-assertive. Verse 11a puts it even more explicitly: To “serve the Lord” means to live under the rule of God, to depend on God for life.” (New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary)

When one is in charge, it’s easy to want to do things one’s own way. I suppose being a king would only amplify this tendency. Leaders often have people around them “kissing their feet” so to speak. If one is not careful, one might start to believe their own press. They start to think they really are as great as everyone says they are. Pride comes before the fall…

The psalmist reverses this image. Rather than indulge in those kissing one’s feet, a wise leader “kisses the feet” of God. It’s an image of complete humility and submission to the one who raises leaders and brings them down. This brings up some important questions for me this morning:

As the leader of a family and a church, am I submitted to God? Do I seek the counsel of God via the scriptures and prayer? Do I consult with the spiritually mature in my midst before taking action? In other words, am I more God-directed or self-assertive? I think I have some room for growth here, if I’m honest.

Secondly, I’m struck by the motivation of the psalmist in counseling kings and rulers:

11 Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling 12 kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled.

The motivation here is fear. If I don’t want to be punished by God, I’d better submit to God. This is in sharp contrast to the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, the prayer we call the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father” depending on which Christian tradition you come from. Do you remember how that prayer starts?

“Our Father who art in heaven…”

The Aramaic word Jesus used in this prayer is “Abba” which in English might be translated “daddy”. It’s a term of affection and intimacy, as a young child might refer to his/her father. Perhaps both paradigms are correct.

In one sense, we should have great respect for God – just as a child will have great respect for a devoted parent. We know that a parent will hold us accountable for us actions, not with a desire to punish, but out of a desire to see us prosper in life. Love and discipline go together.

Yet Jesus also points out the Father’s invitation to intimacy. God really does LOVE his children and wants to be part of our lives. He wants what’s best for us. He wants to provide for us. He invites us to seek him in prayer to hear his voice calling us “beloved”. Which brings up another question:

Would you describe your relationship with God more as one motivated by fear or affection?

Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, you know our tendency to do things our own way rather than your way. This morning we especially pray for leaders of every kind. Give us grace to submit ourselves to you, not out of a sense of fear, but of respect – and desire to greater intimacy with you. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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