Today's Lectionary Text
On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, opposite the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne inside the palace opposite the entrance to the palace. As soon as the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won his favor and he held out to her the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the top of the scepter. The king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” Then Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to a banquet that I have prepared for the king.” Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther desires.” So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared. While they were drinking wine, the king said to Esther, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Esther said, “This is my petition and request: If I have won the king’s favor, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet that I will prepare for them, and then I will do as the king has said.”
Haman went out that day happy and in good spirits. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and observed that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was infuriated with Mordecai; nevertheless Haman restrained himself and went home. Then he sent and called for his friends and his wife Zeresh, and Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the ministers of the king. Haman added, “Even Queen Esther let no one but myself come with the king to the banquet that she prepared. Tomorrow also I am invited by her, together with the king. Yet all this does me no good so long as I see the Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.” Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; then go with the king to the banquet in good spirits.” This advice pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.
The story told in the book of Esther is about role reversals that happen because of low morality and high self-importance.
Haman becomes the right-hand man of the king. We’re given the impression that he was quite full of himself after he received his promotion “above all the officials who were with him” (3:1). Because Mordecai refused to bow down before him along with the royal servants, Haman despised him and plotted to destroy the Jews as a people so that he didn’t dirty his hands by laying his own hands on Mordecai. It is this mounting hatred that finally leads to his downfall as the story progresses.
In the reading for today, Haman brags to his friends and his wife about all that he has – his wealth, his sons, his position of power and influence, the dinner invitations (given only to him) to dine with the king and queen. And yet, he feels demeaned and infuriated because Mordecai ignores and disrespects him. Isn’t it interesting that a person with so much can be brought so low because of one person?
Haman was given the opportunity to be a leader and he let it go to his head. Humility was not in his repertoire of leadership skills. Of course, he was in an environment (royalty and the palace) where arrogance, pride, and self-importance were a daily diet so we can hardly blame him. Yet, it is good for us to stop and ponder where we ourselves might have fallen into the trap of pride and self-importance and so easily disregard others who don’t agree with us or think everyone should see how great we are.
Kenneth Carder and Laceye Warner in Grace to Lead say that leadership not grounded in Christian beliefs and practices can evolve into “elitism and arrogance rather than solidarity and humility, personal achievement instead of faith formed by grace, manipulation rather than service, and competitiveness that fractures rather than nurtures.” These words inspire me to stay connected to God and be better disciplined in spiritual practices. How about you?
-Rev. Nancy Lambert
*Devotion originally published 7/29/2019
Prayer for Reflection
Loving God, help me to see where my ego gets in the way of ministry to others. Open my eyes to the hidden places within me where I harbor pride, jealousy, envy, and rejection of others so that I may become ever more loving. When I get full of myself, draw me back to you and teach me more about the love you have for each of us. Amen.
A new sign up for August-September devotions is now available here! We'd love for you to share your story!
This Week's Lectionary
This Week's Liturgical Color