Silverstein had been a baker all his life, as had his father and grandfather before him. But when his son was about to enter the business world, unlike his mishpochah he had no desire to continue in the family business. Despite his father’s entreaties the youth insisted on becoming a tailor, so he went to another town and set up shop.
A few years later, while visiting his father, the son reminded the elder Silverstein of their initial argument.
Papa Silverstein shook his head sadly. I still think you should have been a baker like the rest of the family.”
“Papa, believe me, I should thank God three times a day for refusing to become a baker.”
“Why is that?”
“Because in the bakery business I would have starved to death. Do you realize that in the three years since I opened my tailor shop, not a single customer ever asked me to make even one loaf of bread?”
For many people the idea that a family should be in business together is outdated. People don’t need absurd excuses like Silverstein Junior gave; it is expected that children will grow up to choose their own vocation. On the other hand, our attitudes about spiritual matters are much more important and should not change with the times. If we look at the idea of being God’s family in the Jewish context, we see Jesus as our older brother who came to take us into the family business.
We get a glimpse of the importance of our spiritual family business in Matthew 12:46-50. Yeshua’s mother and brothers had come while he was speaking to the multitude. Yeshua had been so busy that he had not even been able to stop to eat a meal (compare with Mark 3:20). What Jewish mother wouldn’t feel that it was her right—and in fact, her responsibility—to come and insist that her son eat at least a little something?
Actually, the fact that Yeshua’s mother and brothers came because they thought he needed them to take care of him shows that they did not yet understand who he was (Mark 3:21). We don’t know if they were standing outside the house because it was too crowded to get in, or because they really were not comfortable with what was going on inside. But they were interrupting what he was doing so they could talk to him.
For Yeshua, that interruption was ill-timed and inappropriate.
One of the closer people politely informed Jesus that his mother and brothers were outside wanting to speak to him, and in reply Yeshua made a startling comment about family. He gestured to the crowd—which the Scripture refers to as his disciples—and he made this incredible declaration:
“Here are my mother and my brothers!” he said, indicating those around him (verse 49).
The Lord of the Universe, who chose to come and dwell among us and redeem us—he who is supremely righteous—informed that crowd of ordinary people with the sweep of his holy hand that they were his intimate family! Then, just so no one should be confused, he explained it: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (verse 50).
When we are redeemed, we become God’s sons and daughters. But we enter into a special relationship with Jesus when we do the will of the Father, when we make it our spiritual business to obey him. Obedience is as much an occupation as being a baker or tailor. We are to be full-time obeyers. That is our “family business.”
What’s Our Line?
If the name of the business is “The Will of the Father,” what is the purpose of the business? What does doing the will of the Father produce? Like any business, ours has a singular focus that doesn’t change from day to day. And if we know what Yeshua’s purpose was in coming to die for us, we have a pretty good idea of the purpose of our family business. Some will say his purpose was that he loves us and wants to save us, therefore our purpose is to bring that salvation to others. And that’s true. But that purpose is under the umbrella of a greater, ultimate, all-encompassing purpose.
Jesus revealed his ultimate purpose about a week before that last Passover seder he celebrated with his disciples. Not only did Yeshua state it, but the heavenly Father corroborated it. Yeshua was talking about his impending suffering and he said:
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say, ‘Father save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
“Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.'”
Do we need a voice from heaven to tell us what our family business is? Well, mishpochah, a voice from heaven did. That voice confirmed what Yeshua said about his purpose, and about ours.
The heavens declare the glory of God. The earth is filled with his glory. God is concerned with glorifying himself. What do you think we’re here for? The purpose of our family business is to glorify the Father!
This does not come as news to most of us. We’ve seen in Scriptures and we’ve heard it said that we exist to glorify the Father. Yet we often forget it, and frankly, when we remember, it can be difficult to accept. If you feel uncomfortable about the fact that you exist in order to glorify God, and that he created a whole universe to revolve around himself, you are not alone. In fact, be encouraged! Your very discomfort is what can help you understand the importance of glorifying God.
In thinking about our infinite God, we finite creatures have a tendency to anthropomorphize, or to mistakenly think of God in human terms. We each know that the world does not revolve around any of us. We have a built-in instinct that tells us so; beneath all our sin and distorted notions of who we are, there is a part of us that knows we are created beings. Even people who claim not to believe in God or creation sense deep down that there is something greater than ourselves. Unbelievers may speak of it as the preservation of the human race or the planet, or whatever cause they have come to embrace. Raw, absolute self-centeredness and self-glorification repulses the unbeliever almost as much as it does the believer.
The problem is we can unknowingly imagine that God is wrongly self-centered. What is true for us is not true for God. Those who don’t know God might not understand that self-centeredness is repulsive to us because it is only appropriate for God.
As believers, we know why such glory is not for us. It is un-human. It is an attribute of deity and rests on God in splendor. But when we try to clothe ourselves in spiritual splendor, it is not only unbecoming but makes our appearance hideous.
I sensed this for the first time in London, several years ago. Like many tourists, I went to see the crown jewels. I didn’t expect to be impressed, but I was wrong. If you are ever in London, go to the Tower to see those jewels. It is worth it! Even through a glass case, they are—and this is the word that came to mind—glorious. I cringed as I thought of them being placed on the head of any human being, as I thought to myself, That glory belongs only to God.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong for people to wear jewelry! I’m sure God’s glory makes the crown jewels look like something from the five and dime. He probably doesn’t mind people wearing what must be, to him, such little trinkets. But can you see, God gives us the instinct to know that the glory that clothes him is beautiful and right, whereas if we seek to take the glory that is his, it is an abomination.
And yet, how often do we grab glory for ourselves that rightly belongs to God? How often do we make it our business to seek a showcase for our own cleverness, our own talents, or even our own reputation? How often do we work at producing a crown for ourselves instead of quietly laying our crowns up in heaven, that we may present them to our God?
Did you ever say that the Lord gave you wisdom and then present that wisdom in such a way that you would be admired? Suppose you had something very appropriate to say: it just came into your mind and you listened as your mouth uttered the words. A listener said, “Oh that’s so true—just what I needed to hear!” If you prefaced the declared wisdom with “The Lord showed me…” (even if he did) you assumed not only the air of divine authority but the mantle of his glory.
On the other hand, if you just spoke the words as they came to you, upon hearing such words of profound acceptance, you could rightly say, “Then it must be of the Lord.” In that case, you have renounced any status you might have received and placed the glory where it belongs.
If you say that God has told you to do something, you demonstrate the validity of that statement by your willingness to be crucified for it. The crown you wear doesn’t make you believable. The cross that wears you does!
Have you ever made a snide or even falsely pious remark about someone else because by doing so, you would appear in a better light? I know I have! These are things that ought to sicken our hearts. Whether we use sarcasm or sanctimonious speeches, any time we deny others to elevate self we are mugging a brother or sister to grab glory that belongs to God. We should be minding our family business, which means when we see a desire for glory in ourselves, we need to repent and repair any harm we may have done.
When we observe glory-seeking in others, we ought humbly to pray for that person (are we really any better than they are?) and if the relationship warrants it, confront them in love. In what way do our petty divisions glorify God?
We need to devote ourselves to making God the center of our hopes and dreams. It will help if we understand the wonder of God’s self-centeredness.
God loves goodness. And he is the source of all goodness. God loves beauty. And he is the source of all that is truly beautiful. God loves creativity. And he is the Creator. God loves consistency, dependability, faithfulness, mercy, justice, righteousness, truth, wisdom, humor. God enjoys all these things. And since he is the source and perfection of all these things, is it any wonder that God must love himself? God loves what is highest and best and in fact is what is highest and best!
God doesn’t only love himself, he enjoys himself. His own perfections are a source of tremendous ontological joy. And he wants us to enjoy him, too. He made us with the capacity of enjoying all of his perfections. How do we enjoy his perfections? By being preoccupied with them, by singing about them and talking about them and submitting ourselves obediently to them. In short, by glorifying God.
When we glorify God, we are not only doing something for him, but we are doing something for ourselves. We are becoming more human. If God created us to glorify him, then when we do, we are doing what is healthy and right for a human being to do. Putting ourselves at the center of the universe has a de-humanizing effect. When we put God at the center of our lives and seek to glorify him, we begin to live up to our human potential. Things like wisdom and mercy and grace begin to take shape in us when we seek to glorify him. When we are filled with appreciation for his beauty and truth our spiritual complexion begins to change; our heart for God grows stronger and we become more and more equipped for success in the business that God has entrusted to us.
This principle is illustrated in a delightful children’s story entitled The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The two main characters, Mary and Colin, are pasty, frail, disagreeable children. Mary is an orphan and Colin, whose mother is dead, is an invalid. Neither of them have had the proper kind of attention and both are completely self-centered. But Mary discovers a garden and it awakens something in her. She loves the garden and begins to work and give herself to caring for the plants. As she lays aside her self-pity and devotes herself to the task, something happens. Not only does the garden begin to bloom, but Mary begins to bloom. Her complexion is no longer sallow, but it takes on a healthy, pink glow. She becomes stronger in body and healthier in spirit. She then brings Colin into the garden, at first in a wheelchair. He, too, gets caught up in the joy of the garden and as he learns to give himself to a task outside himself he, too, becomes stronger, until…well, you can read the book for yourself if you like.
The point is, we don’t really know who we are and what we can be until we give ourselves to the task of glorifying God. If you can grasp deep down in the innermost part of your soul the “rightness” of glorifying God—not as opposed to wrongness, but rightness in that it just clicks into place and makes everything work—if you can grasp the rightness of glorifying God you will have begun to understand what might be the most profound reality in the universe. Even when we do things for one another, we are doing those things for God. Helping people because of mere kindness is humane, but helping people because to do so glorifies God makes us more human. Every day, it must be our business to decide what we will do to be a person, a mensch, to glorify God.
How to Mind our Own Business
Having discussed what the family business is and why it is, we need to remember three specific branches of our family business:
- We glorify the Father in our relationship to him.
- We glorify the Father in our relationship to one another.
- We glorify the Father as we seek to bring those who do not know him to a knowledge of the Father…through the Son.
Though we listed them as three ways, it really is not possible to isolate them. The only reason to mention them separately is that we haven’t yet discovered a way to write (or read) about three things simultaneously! We cannot decide that we can excel in one or maybe two of those things and neglect the other(s). Here is why:
Imagine a husband who is absolutely, superbly romantically, completely in love with his wife. To him, she truly is absolutely the most wondrous being on earth. He treats her like a queen. He really does all he can to please her. She appreciates his kindness so he works at being kind. She values honesty so he never would speak untruth. And he is careful to set aside plenty of time each day to talk to her, get to know her even better and express his love and appreciation.
Now imagine that when he’s away from her, spending time with his brother and sister, not only does he never mention his wife, but he doesn’t talk or act as though he is married at all. Obviously, it can’t be! If his love and admiration are so boundless, his family should feel the effects of it. Yet I have met believers who act as though the Lord doesn’t exist when it comes to their behavior among family in Christ. Yeshua is not a topic of conversation, and their attitude and actions toward fellow believers reflect none of the changes that a close relationship with the Savior would effect.
Now imagine that this same hypothetical husband, when he goes out to work, slips off his wedding ring, puts it in his pocket and does not mention his wife to anyone he meets. He never smiles and recalls some witty thing she told him, never finds an occasion to tell anyone about the wonderful birthday dinner she cooked him. And if any of the women at work flirt with him, he won’t offend them by saying, “I’m married.” Of course, if someone happens to comment on how kind he is, he may tell them, “Well, a lot of that is due to my wife’s influence.” Or if one of the women happens to show off her wedding band he’ll pull his ring out of his pocket and say, “Me too.”
Which of us would ever dream of denying a spouse that way? And yet, I have seen many believers treat the Lord exactly that way. What do we wear instead of a wedding band that identifies our relationship with Yeshua? How can we glorify the Father if we neglect to let everyone know how much our relationship with the Son means to us? Even those of us who are single can imagine how angry we would be if our family or friends said, “I know you are married but I really don’t want you to mention your spouse to me. Oh, and it embarrasses me for others to know about your marriage so I am telling all the relatives you are still single. Don’t even think of bringing your spouse to Jacky’s bar mitzvah next month.” Yet there are those who have acquiesced to such demands when it comes to their relationship with Yeshua.
A truly close personal relationship with the Lord affects what we say and what we do with brothers and sisters in Yeshua. It also affects our relationship with unbelieving family, friends and co-workers. If it doesn’t, we’re bankrupting our division of the family business!
Try reversing the scenario and imagine a wife who cannot stop singing her husband’s praises to everyone she meets. But when they are alone together the wife ignores him. She figures she knew whatever she needed to know about him when they got married; she has no interest in asking him anything about who he is and what he expects of the marriage. She talks about him incessantly, but she barely talks to him, much less asks him if he has anything to say to her. This is a particular danger to those of us in full-time ministry. What we say to others about the Lord—while helpful to them—does not mean we are glorifying God.
The business of glorifying the Father requires an enthusiasm and an admiration for God that affects our behavior when we are alone with him, as well as our behavior among believers and with unbelieving family and friends. Each area is an opportunity to glorify God or not. Moment by moment throughout the day we must be asking ourselves, “What can I do to glorify my heavenly Father?” That is our business!
Jesus told us both by example and by his words that we are to glorify God in all three of those areas. He glorified God in all that he did. Yeshua is truly the perfect big brother. He didn’t ridicule us with his superiority. He redeemed us with it. He took us into the business showing as well as explaining what we should do. No matter how many times we may have read the gospel, it is the policy manual for our family business. We should continue to refer to it—often!
In order to be successful, we must keep working at the family business of glorifying God. Any business takes perseverance, planning and positioning oneself in the place where we can get the job done. And don’t forget the power of prayer! Just as we would seek the Lord’s help in mundane matters of our daily business, God is there to answer your petitions when it comes to the business of glorifying him. And in fact, we cannot glorify the Lord without his help. It is only in the power of his Holy Spirit that we are able to do so at all, let alone continue doing so. The power of the Holy Spirit is never subject to energy conservation measures. The more you use it, the more is available for you to use!
When Business Isn’t Booming
So what are we supposed to do when we haven’t really been holding up our end of the family business? The worst thing that we can do is to make up reasons why we didn’t do what was expected. Remember the story of Silverstein Junior!
We can always come up with what we think is a good reason why we are doing what we want to do instead of what our Father wants us to, but like the junior Silverstein…who are we fooling?
We can say that we’re no good at witnessing based on the fact that no one ever asked us to lead them to the Lord.
We can excuse ourselves from treating one another with respect and point out that no one ever told us that they really experienced the grace of God through our treatment of them.
We can explain that we don’t pray or read the Bible or even think about God much because God never took out a classified ad telling us he’s been looking for us and would enjoy hearing from us.
We can reason that it would be ridiculous for us to work at being holy since it is obvious that sinning comes so much more naturally.
We can say that we had to give up the family business of glorifying God because Yeshua brought in certain brothers and sisters who we feel are mismanaging it.
We can make excuses like Silverstein, or we can admit that we do what we choose to do—not because doing things God’s way wouldn’t work for us, but because we didn’t want to invest ourselves in his business. We had our own business to attend to. God already knows it’s true.
The good news is that the Father is wanting and waiting to help us. In our weakness he is made strong. Even our weakness can glorify the Father if we turn it over to him and truly want to move ahead in his strength, not our own.
God has made it our business to glorify him. And it is a family business. The more we uphold one another in this endeavor, the more glory we will be able to offer to God. Through Yeshua, we can bring together people of every tongue and nation, inviting them to join the family, that we might glorify the Father together. What a vision, what an honor, what a holy calling!
Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and amen.