As we make it to the end of week two of this study of the book of Luke, I want to look at a small detail about the early life of Jesus. The Bible tells us a great story about Jesus when he was twelve years old. His parents accidentally leave him behind in a city, and when they come back looking for him they find him three days later. It’s delightful to me where they find him.
Luke 2:46-47 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Little man was already showing a great aptitude for religious things, which obviously makes sense. But he was still a long way away from starting his ministry (that happens when he’s around 30 years old). So he goes back home with his parents, and as chapter 2 closes out we’re given what feels like a very simple and basic sentence.
Luke 2:52 Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
For all it’s potential simplicity, this verse really spoke to me. I’ve studied at length and long meditated on how Jesus was perceived during his ministry, but never before did I think about how he was perceived before his ministry began. To be honest, it never even really occurred to me that it mattered much what Jesus’ reputation was prior to him moving into his ministry. That’s the Jesus we all think about, anyway, right? You spend a few days each year around Christmas thinking about baby Jesus, and from there you generally think about grown man Jesus who has embarked on his ministry and the many miracles and great things he performed there. But what about in between Jesus? Teenager Jesus, and carpenter Jesus? Here, Luke is telling us something about Jesus from that time in his life. He was growing in wisdom, but the part that really captured my focus was that he grew in stature and in favor not just with God, but with “all the people”.
Why does this matter? Well, when you combine it with some later writings in the Bible, it speaks to something that seems to be very important. Let’s look.
1 Timothy 3:2 So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach.
A few verses later it says this.
1 Timothy 3:7 Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap.
Before I dig into this a little more, I want to encourage you not to write these verses off just because you aren’t currently a leader in the church. A wise person in my life pointed out recently that 1 Timothy doesn’t set standards just for leaders, it just calls leaders to be examples and live the way that all believers should. I’ll add onto that and say that wherever you’re at, you may be as much “church” as the people around you are ever gonna get. If you get told by Jesus to go and minister to a group of people at work, guess what, church is in session and you’re the leader! The last thing I’ll say on this is that if you asked me two years ago if I’d ever be in a position of church leadership I would’ve bet you every penny I’d ever make in my life that it would never happen. Now I sit here as a proud leader within my church. Very quickly the verses in 1 Timothy go from “having nothing to do with me” to being “uh oh, I better study these and get my life to align with them real quick.”
So, the point is this. What people think of you matters. Should we obsess about it? No, of course not. Ultimately, what God thinks of us is most important. But, the impression others have of us, inside AND outside of the church, also matters. Here’s why. Let’s look at my own life and my unlikely move into church leadership.
When I was asked to lead the young adult men’s small group at church and to become part of the leadership team of the young adult ministry, I was received well. That’s because I’d built a reputation at the church. At the risk of sounding braggy, I think it’s safe to say that people thought of me as a kind-hearted, genuine guy who loves studying the Bible and is easy to talk to. All in all, it’s a pretty decent reputation for someone who’s taking over to be a Bible teacher to have. While the guy I took over for was very well loved and had a very different style than I do, there weren’t any (or at least not many) complaints as I stepped into the role because the people I would be teaching knew me either directly or by my reputation.
But this verse in Luke and these from 1 Timothy aren’t just about how we’re viewed within the church, it’s about our reputations outside of it. And why that matters is very simple. We are Jesus’ ambassadors to the world. If I’m known as a wild, angry, lying, deceitful guy who will do anything to get ahead at work, and then one day I invited a co-worker to church, how’s that gonna go over? Or if I tell them “Jesus loves you very much and can transform your life the way he’s transformed mine” while I look like a complete walking dumpster fire of a human, what is that gonna do? It’s going to drive them AWAY from God.
I have personal experience with stories of Christians acting like angry fools while declaring that they are a Christian, or wearing a shirt for the local church they attend. A friend told me about almost getting rammed off the road by a driver who then flipped them off and screamed obscenities at them. The car had a Jesus fish and several Christian bumper stickers on the back. My friend wasn’t particularly feeling the Christian love that I tell them so much about in that moment. It’s not only important for us to be well thought of and to carry good reputations, I’d go a step further and say that it’s our responsibility. When you take on the position of ambassador of Jesus the most high God, then guess what, you take on the responsibility to keep his reputation properly perceived.
Jesus wasn’t just a teenager, he was a good one. He wasn’t just a carpenter, he was a well thought of one. Imagine if he’d been a jerk of a businessman, and then one day in his ministry he came across someone who he’d wronged back during his carpentry days. It would’ve negatively impacted his ministry. I know sometimes we want to live however we want, that we want to give people a piece of our mind or “what they deserve”, but God’s called us to live at a higher level. A level that earns you a favorable reputation, even outside the walls of the church.
Well, that’s it for this week. I’m having a lot of fun with the book of Luke, there’s just so much depth and wisdom to the Bible if you take the time to really dig into it. I love all of you, I hope everyone had a good week and that the soon to arrive weekend contains some fun and relaxation for you. If you have any prayer requests or just wanna talk about something, you’re always welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be my pleasure to speak with you. See you guys on Monday!