In last week’s Torah passage, Korach and his followers rebelled against Moshe and Aharon. Rebellion is nothing new. People in our society in general don’t care for any authority, so to rebel against it is fairly commonplace these days.
What I found interesting about the rebellion of Korach were several factors. First, the people who were rebelling were not low-level people who felt dis-empowered. Numbers 16:2 describes the situation: “they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown.” These were mostly respected leaders. They felt they didn’t have enough say in how things were going, and challenged Moshe’s authority, claiming his leadership was no more than a power-grab. From what we know of Moshe, he was a humble man, and did not seek to put himself over others. Apparently, that didn’t matter. People are not very different today. People may find themselves in a place of leadership, but often they are looking to reach the next level. It’s a good thing to desire to serve, but not at the expense of tearing down others who serve.
When someone challenges the authority of others, facts don’t matter much. People make all kinds of accusations to justify themselves. Sometimes they blame God, and claim he wanted them to do the rebelling, and act like what they are doing is a holy thing. Other times, they complain about the behavior of the leader they are challenging because he isn’t perfect. Of course we know no one is perfect, so it makes the leader an easy mark.
In Numbers 16:3, it says “They gathered together against Moshe and Aharon, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?”
They accused Moshe and Aharon of taking power, and used the excuse that “we are all holy,” to justify their challenge to authority. I have heard people complain more often than I would like, that “we are all the same.” It’s like they are trying to level the playing field by the fact that we are all followers of God. The fact is, if someone is in God’s service, it doesn’t mean they are perfect, or they are better than someone else, but because they are in that service, It is God they are serving, and God who will judge their service. In the mean time, they deserve respect for the office they are holding.
Saying we are all the same is a verbal attempt to drag a leader down to everyone else’s level. It sounds very democratic, but a person can’t lead from the middle. He has to be out in front. It also belittles the sacrifice a servant of God makes to be serving, and in that sense it is very wrong. We can all read the Bible and give our opinions, but the serious scholar who has spent hundreds and thousands of hours doing serious study, has a more insightful opinion than someone who throws his two cents in at a Bible study. Yes I know the Ruach of God shows us all truth, but at the same time, if we are the parchment on which the God writes, and the Ruach is the pen, we still need to have ink in the inkwell, and that is our study.
In whatever service we engage ourselves, we are to do our service as faithfully as possible. When we put down the service of others to “level the playing field,” we are putting down all the work and service they did just to make ourselves feel more empowered. We are in that sense, stealing the blessings of others.
I believe what God intended was for each one of us to use the gifts He gave us, and serve one another as to the Lord, and benefit from each other’s service. When someone wants to “level the playing” field by saying we are all the same, it makes me wonder why I ever bothered to prepare myself for service. A level playing field gives at best mediocre performance. We are not all the same, we do not all have the same gifting, and some people just do certain things better than others. If everyone’s service in everything were judged the same, we would only have bland results. This is why Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 12:29 “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?” The point is, we need to respect the gifting of others and let them exercise their gifts, and they need to respect when we exercise our gifts.
According to the passage in Numbers, God affirmed Moshe and Aharon by opening the earth and swallowing those who challenged them. It would be a good thing for all of us to respect one another’s gifting and service, lest God grows weary with us and become’s nostalgic.