He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. Judges 16:20
Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
It’s an awesome thing, being used by God to further His work in this world. I am sure you would agree that the empowerment by God to accomplish things bigger and greater than anything we could do on our own is a true blessing. That is true for individuals and it is true for churches as well. The problem, of course, with being gifted and blessed is that it can start to go to our heads and we can lose site of any sense of humility. We can grow so accustomed to the giftedness and blessing, we can forget where it comes from and whose bidding it is for. That, it seems to me, was Samson’s problem.
By pretty much anyone’s standards, Samson “had it going on”. Having taken the Nazarite vows and having committed himself to God’s service, he was empowered with almost super-hero-like abilities. He became a powerful leader among God’s people and actually served as one of Israel’s more famous leaders (one of the “judges”) for some twenty years. What was his “super power”? Uncommon strength. That giftedness propelled him to great acclaim among the people.
But Samson had a lifelong struggle with self-control and instant gratification. He had, it seems, a virtually unquenchable appetite for pleasing himself, even if it meant being disobedient to God or to his Nazarite vows. He worshiped God. He loved God. He had great faith in God. He was remembered by the writer of Hebrews as one of the heroes of the faith in God’s story (Hebrews 11). But he was seriously flawed with regard to his self-absorbed attitude and notions of entitlement. And there were consequences to that attitude…dire ones in the end.
With great giftedness and blessings come great responsibility and humility. That was a reality which seems to have often escaped Samson. I see it in particularly gifted churches as well. When a church becomes the popular place to be and enjoys season after season of growth and esteem, and as it becomes more and more effective in its efforts to impact the world around it, its people (and dare I say its leadership) can get a little prideful or even haughty. I’ve seen churches who were particularly blessed act a little bullet-proof. I think we are all capable of treating our “successful” church as there to satisfy MY immediate needs and comfort as opposed to humbly thanking God for this season of blessing and turning it all outward to help others.
In short, Samson’s story paints an ugly picture of what arrogance and entitlement look like, even in one of the heroes of God’s story. I wonder which of our churches today are painting similar pictures in God’s eyes?