People are the worst! Or, at least, they can be. Especially when they travel.
It’s one thing to be stuck next to a mother with a baby’s who’s hollering—not pleasant, but it’s the luck of the draw. Babies will be babies. And, it’s also one thing to be trapped by a nervous seatmate who keeps chatting, even though you’ve made it abundantly clear you’d rather read. It’s quite another thing, however, if your seatmate starts to clip his toenails, or the mother stuffs a dirty diaper in your seat pocket. Hard to believe but yes, this type of stuff happens.
It happens so often, in fact, that some flight attendants, disturbed by the behavior of their passengers, started snapping pictures of the worst offenders and then used them to create a website that has the sole purpose of doing what their site’s name is: PassengerShaming.com.
Since connecting to the social media outlets of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the site now allows passengers to become, as one of the T-shirts for sale on the site says, “An official photographer.”
The pictures are astounding. Piles of newspapers and other trash left behind. A male passenger sleeping without a shirt on. And then there are just so many bare feet! It just gets much, much worse from there.
If you have a weak stomach, you may not want to click on its website.
The intent of the website is to discourage such acts by showing the perpetrators and others how obnoxious and wrong they are, and thus be a deterrent for ill-mannered behavior.
Yet, in spite of all of those pictures, it appears people aren’t getting the message. Or, maybe it’s that while we’re quick to recognize bad behavior in another, we have trouble seeing it in ourselves.
It all makes me wonder… Could some of the “official photographers” of PassengerShaming.com be guilty of their own bad behavior? It certainly seems possible.
Last week I told you about the plans for a movie to be made about King David and that we can be fairly certain this movie will include his encounter with Bathsheba.
After all steamy scenes have the ability to sell a large number of tickets. The question is whether the filmmakers will include the story of our text for today—Nathan’s fascinating way of confronting David with his sin. Much like PassengerShaming.com, Nathan holds before David an unattractive picture of his behavior.
As David listens to Nathan’s story about the rich man taking the lamb from the poor man, his blood begins to boil. We read that “David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man”, and we get the sense he is ready to carry out the justice himself.
He says the perpetrator deserves to die for his crime, and even comes up with what he determines to be a just settlement—the rich man should give the poor man four lambs in exchange for the one he took.
David, who had been behaving badly by abusing his power when taking Bathsheba for his pleasure, manipulating her husband Uriah and ensuring his death on the front lines of battle, is now acting the way one would expect the King of Israel to act. He is ready to defend justice, to go to bat for the “little guy” and to stand up for the poor. He is ready to dispense serious punishment for one who has acted so selfishly. That’s when Nathan lowers the boom, and shows him the picture of himself, saying, “You are the man!”
No one reading this story needed Nathan to spell it out. We saw it all along. The parallels between the actions of the rich man taking the lamb from the poor man and David’s dealings with Bathsheba and Uriah are directly parallel. Everyone sees it. Everyone, that is, except David.
Now, before we point the finger at David for his lack of understanding, let’s remind ourselves that many, or, maybe all of us, sometimes behave in ways we do not immediately see as a problem for the people around us.
For example, we can become frustrated with those who drive while distracted by talking on the phone. Yet when we get an important phone call we, too, chat away while driving. But no doubt it gets more serious.
Some find it easy to point out the creative accounting practices of banks and mortgage lenders that crashed the economy, all the while, we may be inflating a deduction here and there while doing our taxes.
We resent government leaders who say whatever will make them popular and look good, yet somehow we miss that we do much the same thing when we embellish a little in a post to Facebook so that others will envy us.
Or maybe we “vent” to a friend about another who is such a gossip—forgetting that “venting” is just another form of gossiping!
Or how about when we get on social media to complain about all those who complain on social media.
Or, that moment when we realize we’re being judgmental of judgmental people. We’re so good at seeing the bad behavior of others but miss it in ourselves. Our hypocrisy, when we finally see it in ourselves, can be eye opening. Just like everyone saw it in David, except David—the same can sometimes be said of us.
After this dramatic revelation to David you might think Nathan would leave it at that. No so much. Nathan continues. Nathan wants to make sure David knows that not only has he been blind to his own bad behavior, he has also been blind to the blessings of God.
Through Nathan, God points out to David that he’s like the rich man in the story who doesn’t recognize just how rich he is. Remember, David’s affair with Bathsheba is not a story about forbidden love. It’s not some crazy romantic-comedy about a couple falling in love while both are married to awful people. No, this is a story about power. This is a story about David thinking he can take whatever he wants without consequence, including the wife of another man.
Through Nathan, God reminds David that it was God who made him king, who kept him safe from Saul when he tried to kill David, and who gave him all of his riches. And if that wasn’t enough, God goes on to say that if David wanted more, all he had to do was ask.
This blindness is still a common reality in people today. Married men and women with great marriages, wonderful children and a comfortable living, still risk it all when they get caught up in physical or emotional affairs.
In the moment David spotted Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop, he wasn’t thinking about already being incredibly blessed by God. He wasn’t thinking about the flocks he had, his status as king or the protection he had received. No, he was blind to all of that. All he saw, and all he was thinking about, was something he didn’t have but wanted. And he put everything he already had in jeopardy.
This way of David is not anything any of us haven’t seen before. We all know people who seemingly had it all, only to lose it all because they saw something they perceived to be bigger, better, more beautiful—then went after it, and as a result lost everything. It’s in those weak, shallow moments of wanting and desiring more that we forget what we already have and make a grab for more.
If we look again at PassengerShaming.com, we see a group of people who have forgotten what a privilege it is to fly. There was a time when people got dressed up to get on a plane. While the people at PassengerShaming.com aren’t asking to go back to those days, they’re pointing out how far things have gone the other direction—clearly some have forgotten what they have in this wonderful mode of transportation, and have lost the ability to appreciate it for what it is.
And therein lies the lesson. Have we forgotten—like David, like horrible travelers—just how good we already have it?
Now there is a small caveat that should be made here: PassengerShaming.com sells “Official Photographer” shirts, but none that say, “Official Model” because no one posts his or her own picture. They always post a picture of someone else. Proving we’re much more comfortable being Nathan than we are being David.
It’s easy to avoid casting ourselves in the role of David the sinner, David the adulterer, David the killer. After all, that would be uncomfortable. Instead, we want to be the prophet. We want to be the one who sees the sins of others, and the one whom God has charged with pointing them out. But this was not Nathan’s typical role. His role was not to advise David every time he sinned.
If it was, certainly David would have understood the story about the rich man and poor man to be about him right away. No, this was an extraordinary circumstance. So to put this caveat bluntly—you… me… we are not Nathan. There may come a time when we’re asked to take on that role, but we should dare not make a habit of it because remember, we have our own bad behavior for which we have a blind spot.
Called by God for this task, Nathan reluctantly entered the job of king-shaming David, holding before him a picture of his immorality and murderous behavior—his stinking feet, his stinking heart—in such a way that David truly saw what he had become.
We can all laugh at or be disgusted by someone else’s poor behavior. It’s so easy to see it in others. No one should take their shirt off on an airplane or put their feet in the face of the stranger sitting next to them!
Yet, when it comes to our own bad behavior, we often don’t see it.
As David needed God through Nathan to point out his sin and remind him of all he had, we, too, need to be open to the voice of God telling us about our bad behavior.
We all have sin in our lives. We, too, have forgotten what we have. May it not take some “you-shaming” or “me-shaming” for us to realize how blessed we are. Amen.