“Is not this the carpenter?” (Mark 6:3)
As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at our response when we encounter disdain from others. I believe there are some valuable lessons to be learned as we notice what Raymond V. Edman has to say about this discipline and how it is illustrated by David and by Jesus.
Edman says regarding the words of Mark 6:3, “These quiet and inconspicuous words do not convey the caustic and causeless criticism contained therein. It was in no complimentary sense that our Lord’s fellow countrymen spoke of their neighbor in Nazareth as ‘the carpenter’; rather it was in consummate and contemptuous disdain that they thus depicted Him. They knew Him as a carpenter; ‘From whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands (Mark 6:2) was their query. A carpenter, indeed! (Edman, p. 181)
As many of us might attest, “The discipline of disdain tries our mettle as do few searchings of the soul. We may be able to defy intrigue, to disregard innuendo, to deny insinuation; but we find it difficult to endure invective. We dislike to be despised. We cringe at contumely; we become quarrelsome when under contempt” (Edman, p. 181)
As we stated earlier, both David and Jesus “illustrate admirably the discipline of disdain. David met the test many times; and his reactions were not identical in each case. The differences may be accounted for by the occasion or the personalities involved, or possibly by the age at which he endured the discipline. Like him, we all face the cutting contempt that quickens the pulse and kindles the spirit, and by the same token creates the opportunity to show a quiet and Christlike calm (Edman, pp. 181-182).
Please consider with me the first example from the life of David …
David Defied the Disdain of the Giant (1st Samuel 17:41-46)
David had come from the solitude of the sheepfold, and from the struggle with the lion and the bear. He was an inconspicuous nobody, unknown and unheralded, with no reputation to maintain nor reward to gain. The text says, “Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy…” (vv. 41-42, NLT), and then he said, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with a stick? Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” (vv 43,44, NLT).
David replied to the ridicule with a statement of reliance upon God (v. 45). He had no fear because he knew God would enable him to defeat the giant! Edman says regarding David’s stand against the giant and what it teaches us, “Disregard for despising, disinclination to defend self, dependence upon divine aid, this is the discipline of disdain…. Out of disdain comes distinction to him that endures its discipline ” (Edman, p. 183)
Next, consider from the life of David …
David Nearly Succumbed to the Cynical Disdain of Nabal (1st Samuel 25:2-13)
The text describes the arrogance of Nabal, “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is?” (v. 10). Nabal compared him to a runaway slave. At this reception, David lost his temper became embittered and was about to send his army to attack Nabal (vv. 12-13). But God Met the Embittered David in the Person of Abigail (1st Samuel 25:23-31).
What are the lessons to be learned from this Bible account? “Would that we might remember in the fire of the injury and the fury of the insult that it is foolish to answer the fool according to his own folly. Therein we become ‘like unto him’ (Prov. 26:4).” The fool passes away, his foolishness fades, his sneers cease. By disregarding his disdain and doing our own duty we are masters of ourselves and mindful of tomorrow. David’s son could say, ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that a city’ (Prov. 16:32). Yielding to disdain can destroy us; disdaining to yield can delight us” (Edman, p. 184).
And then a third example illustrating David response to the disdain of his own wife…
David Met the Disdain of Michal (2nd Samuel 6:20-23)
“He led them to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God… from Abinadab’s house (v2-3). After the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and the Lord in his anger struck Uzzah so that he died, David decided not to move the Ark of the Lord into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. After 3 months, he retrieved the ark from the house of Obed-edom and, amongst much rejoicing and celebrating, he brought the ark to the City of David.
“Perhaps he was overly exuberant, unduly excited. Perhaps he needed some restraint in his rejoicing. A smile of approval would have pleased him, a word of kindness would have cautioned him, a note of gratitude to God would have gladdened his heart; instead there was the measured and miserable meanness of Michal’s mimicry,” (Edman p.185) “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” (v. 20, NLT)
Nothing hurts like that which comes from one’s own family. David could have expected sympathy, assurance, expressions of love. Instead he was greeted with cynicism and sarcasm. And David, wounded in spirit, responded, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” (vv.21-22).
As much as David was subjected to the disdain and responded in an honorable way, he did not hold a candle to the way our Lord was disdained and ridiculed and despised but responded in a way to leave us the perfect example. Consider that …
Jesus Knew, Above All Others, the Deep Discipline of Disdain
“He went everywhere doing good unto all, and in that ministry of mercy He came to His native village of Nazareth” (Mark 6:1-6)(Edman, p. 186). “There also He offered to be helpful with words of wisdom and healing touch. His efforts were ineffectual, for his hearers would non of Him; rather ‘they were offended at him’ (v. 3) (Edman, P. 186). “They summed up their scorn in the caustic query, ‘Is this not the carpenter? (v. 3). To them He was a carpenter, not the Christ; the son of Joseph, not Jesus the Lord. And who can measure the depth of wound caused by the contempt of countrymen and kinsfolk, the known and loved whom He would fain help? (Edman, p. 186).
“Disdain that damages or destroys – unless we determine to dominate our spirit, and to follow in the footsteps of the Saviour. He could reply with gentleness of spirit, ‘A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house’ (v. 4) (Edman, p. 187). “No censure nor sarcasm in return – only civility and sweetness. He did what good He was allowed by their antagonism, but no might deed (v.5)” (Edman, p. 187). “Their unbelief filled Him with astonishment; but He went onward (v.6). There were others to help, the hungry, the helpless, the heartsick in other villages” (Edman, p. 187)
“That is enduring the discipline of disdain: no harsh reply, no self-justification, no rendering evil for evil. Rather it is by gentleness, goodness, graciousness under provocation, that we prove ourselves true apprentices of the Master Carpenter” (Edman, p. 187).
Maybe you have been the object of someone’s disdain and ridicule and it has hurt you deeply. We definitely live in a time where much of that spirit is alive and well. I hope these thoughts might help you to respond appropriately if and when that happens.
Thanks for reading …
(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 181 – 188)