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Home Improvement: Mistakes Mothers Must Not Make

Matthew 20:20-28

Ten men and one woman were hanging on to a rope extending down from a helicopter. The weight of eleven people was too much for the rope. So the group declared that one person was going to have to jump off. No one could make the choice of who should go until finally the woman volunteered. She gave a very moving speech saying that she was a mother and she would sacrifice her life to save the others because mothers were used to giving up things for their husbands and their children. When she finished speaking, all the men started clapping…

Well, that’s good for a laugh, but you know there is some truth at the center of that little story. Aside from the fact that it is true that men are basically dummies, it is most certainly true that mothers are used to giving up things for their husbands and their children. Today, however, I want to focus on a mother in the Bible who tried to get things for her children. Big mistake! The woman’s name was Salome. She was Jesus’ aunt. Salome and Jesus’ mother, Mary, were sisters. Salome must have been a woman of some affluence because the Bible tells us that she gave money to support the ministry of Jesus, but she also gave Jesus two of her sons, James and John. They became disciples of Jesus, and probably because they were Jesus’ first cousins, they became part of the inner circle of the disciples. Now the name “Salome” is the feminine form of the Hebrew name “Solomon.” Unfortunately, Salome did not seem to possess the wisdom of the one for whom she was named. At one point, she came to Jesus and demanded, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “Aunt Salome, you do not know what you are asking.” You see Jesus realized that Salome had a misdirected ambition, morality and faith. She was in the process of making mistakes mothers must not make. Now there’s some heavy stuff in this story which all of us, especially mothers, ought to take to heart.

Salome was making the mistake of a misdirected ambition.

Salome, understandably I suppose, wanted her boys to have successful lives. In fact, I guess you could say that she was “a first century soccer mom.” She believed that success in life was to be found in getting the best for her children. She believed that positions of power and prominence were essential, and so she demanded the top spots in the kingdom for her boys, James and John. Now of course, Jesus understood that power and prestige are not the secrets to success in life. If they were, then why are there more suicides amongst the rich than amongst the poor? Why are there more mental and emotional breakdowns in mansions than in the middle class? Why are there more alcoholics in executive suites than on ghetto streets? We are living in a society which relentlessly trumpets money, power, possessions and prominence as the marks of a successful life, and we don’t seem to see the incredible damage being done by that misdirected ambition.

Some months back, a young man sat in my office and proceeded to tell me about his deep commitment to Jesus Christ and his desire to serve Christ in his life. He said that he wanted to go into full-time service for Christ maybe even on the mission field. However, he said that when he shared that thought with his parents, they responded with anger saying, “Son, you can’t do that. We are not going to support it. It’s foolish. You’ve got great ability, and you need to be doing something which will build your security and enable you to enjoy the good things in life.” Those parents didn’t know what they were asking of their son. You see, Jesus never pursued power or riches. Jesus often visited the homes of the rich and the powerful. He frequently ministered to the movers and the shakers, but He never desired any of that for himself. Yet, whose life, I ask, ever made a greater difference in this world than did the life of Jesus?

Salome, on the other hand, thought success meant power and position. So she demanded that for her sons, and in the face of that, Jesus said to her, “Aunt Salome, you do not know what you are asking.”

And Salome was making the mistake of a misdirected morality.

Now why did Salome want her boys in the top spots? Was it out of moral concern for the building of the kingdom? Up to a point, I suppose. I mean she was a typical mother and she believed that her sons could lead the kingdom better than anyone else. That much is understandable. However, what Salome was actually doing when she approached Jesus was demanding that Jesus set aside His will in order to accept hers. She felt that she knew better than Jesus did what the kingdom needed. In other words, she was using her sons to achieve her own selfish ends. It’s sad to see someone try to gain something for him or herself by using someone else. It’s especially sad when it involves a parent. An elementary school student was asked to define the word “transparent.” He said, “Transparent is a parent you can see through.” Well, you can always see through parents who are trying to use their children to gain things for themselves.

Ironically enough, the most tragic illustration of that in the Bible involved another woman named Salome. She was a young woman who was the step-daughter of King Herod. One night King Herod had a stag party and everybody got drunk. This young woman, Salome, danced at that party and the king and his guests were so taken by her that King Herod offered her anything she wanted up to half of his kingdom. Salome turned to her mother, Herodias, for advice in making her request. Now think what an opportunity Herodias had at that point. She could have said, “Salome, ask for the finest teachers to be brought to instruct you in the ways of God” . . . or “Ask for the chance to travel and associate with great women and men so that you will be inspired to become all that God wants you to be.” But no, Herodias had her own agenda. She hated John the Baptist. So she said to her daughter, “Salome, ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” You see, she used her daughter for her own purposes. It is indeed a desperately sad thing to see children used to fulfill the selfish desires of their mothers and fathers. Do you know that in India—and I have actually seen this—sometimes poor parents cripple their children so that the children will be more pitiable and thus more successful as beggars? Well, let me tell you that it’s possible to cripple a child’s mind just as readily as you cripple a child’s body, and the selfishness of many parents today accomplishes just exactly that.

That was Salome’s problem when she came to Jesus. She was using her sons for her own purposes. In the face of that Jesus said to her, “Aunt Salome, you do not know what you are asking.”

Also, Salome was making the mistake of a misdirected faith.

Salome obviously believed that the positions of honor in the kingdom could be had just for the asking. She believed that you rose to prominence on the wings of a quick, cheap prayer. Jesus responded to her by saying, “I myself will come to leadership in the kingdom only through terrible, costly suffering. Are your sons ready for that? I don’t think you really know what it is that you are asking.” Now let’s be quite clear at this point. I would not have you believe that Jesus wants us to be without ambition in life, that Jesus does not wish for us to pursue greatness in life. Notice, please, that Jesus did not deny that there are chief seats in the kingdom. Jesus did not hesitate to say that some in His kingdom would rule over ten cities and some over five cities. Yes, Jesus calls us to greatness in life, make no mistake about that. It’s just that greatness in Christ will be achieved through sacrifice and even suffering. In other words, the chief seats in the kingdom are not cheaply had.

I love the story of the little Italian boy who wanted to be a singer. There had never been a singer in his family, but still he had that dream. His mother took him to a noted music teacher. The teacher turned the boy away saying, “Your voice sounds like a heavy wind blowing through loose shutters.” The boy still wanted to sing so his mother then said to him, “If you’re willing to work at it, then I will work with you. If you believe that God will bring the deepest melodies out of a life which is committed to Him, and you seek His will and His gift—if you’re willing to go at it like that, then I will go with you.” The boy said, “I am.” The boy surrendered himself both to the Lord and to the discipline of study. The mother did without a lot of things. She didn’t even wear shoes so that she could save money to pay for his instruction. One night, years later, in November of 1903, that young man stepped onto the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and began to sing. The next day the newspapers were filled with the news that “the voice of the century had been heard.” The boy’s name was Enrico Caruso. He became known simply as “the Great Caruso”—and there are those who say that his like has never been heard since. You see, Enrico Caruso’s mother never prayed that he might be given the Metropolitan Opera. She prayed instead that he would be given a disciplined spirit and a committed life, and out of that discipline and commitment would come whatever God wished to give. Hers was a rightly directed faith.

Salome, on the other hand, came to Jesus with her demands because she believed that the chief seats in the kingdom are cheaply had, and in the face of that Jesus said, “Aunt Salome, you don’t know what you are asking.”

Well, let me finish like this …

Napoleon once said, “The future of France lies with her mothers.” That is true of America, as well. When Dean Wicks was abroad with American forces in World War II, he looked for the power that kept those young men going in the face of fear, anarchy, and death. So many of them replied, “The faith my mother gave me.” That’s real power. The old saying is absolutely true, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Mothers and Grandmothers, that power is yours. So let me ask you today: Are you using that power for Jesus Christ?

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