ramblings from the noisedoctor

January 30, 2008

turning down help

Filed under: Bible study, Christianity — noisedoctor @ 10:06 am

When you’re doing almost any kind of work/project and someone offers to help, it’s very natural to accept. Of course, there are exceptions there–most notably when small children are involved. But when the project is something important, particularly something you are doing for God, it’s not wise to accept help without careful consideration.

In my experience, I’ve seen problems arise time and again when help has been offered by people:

  • who aren’t really skilled in that area
  • who aren’t really dedicated to the “cause”
  • who are big on getting their way
  • etc.

Today I was reading Ezra 4, which brought this all to mind. The Jews were ordered to go and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans were opposed to this, and tried to get in on the project so they could sabotage it.

Ezra 4:1-2 (NIV)
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”

This made me think. If I were out there with this mammoth task of rebuilding the temple and folks came and offered to help, saying they were seeking God, how would I have reacted? My initial thought probably would have been “Wow. Great. More help, that’s wonderful.” I hope that I would have taken up that matter to God in some heavy-duty prayer before responding, though. I usually do in big matters like that. But, how tempting just to accept without talking it over with God?

Yet, it’s interesting that the heads of Israel didn’t even need to pray about this matter. They simply turned down the offer:

Ezra 4:3 (NIV)
But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

To me that shows that they understood their mission and knew it was their job to do it. We can speculate whether that was out of faith in God or a strict adherence to the command of King Cyrus. Either way, they were firm in their commitment to building the temple and weren’t easily swayed by an offer of help simply to lighten their work load.

This is something I want to remind myself of next time I’m involved in some work for God. I think one thing I’ve noticed as a social trait in the churches/Christian groups I’ve been involved in is that we’re afraid to turn someone down: “oh, we don’t want to hurt their feelings” or “the more the merrier” or “maybe God can actually use this person in this situation.” Yes, we need to be careful not to hurt people’s feelings or be exclusive, etc. But, just welcoming the help without consideration and prayer–that’s just unwise.

In the case of the Israelites in Ezra 4, accepting this offer of help would have hurt their work. Obviously Satan was behind the deception there as he tried to oppose the work of rebuilding the temple. I’m not suggesting that Satan is behind every offer of help we get as we do our “Kingdom work” but, we should be careful. I know I want to be careful and take these situations to God.

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