The Danger of Familiarity

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  • April 6, 2009
dangerfamiliarity

“I entered into your house, and you gave Me no water for My feet…” (Luke 7:44ff).

How often do we take the presence of Jesus for granted? Our psuedo-Christian culture is profane. I speak not of the profanity of foul language, but the profanity of treating divine things with a casual, apathetic, flippant attitude. We profane holy things by making them common, ordinary, usual, mundane, and routine.

Interestingly enough, only those who know the Holy are in danger of becoming too familiar with it. Unbelievers, those who are not yet acquainted with the Holy, cannot profane what they do not understand.

The danger of familiarity is in knowing and taking for granted.

This is illustrated for us here in Luke 7. A Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner. This is not an irreligious man who invites the Lord, but a member of the strictest religious order. Jesus accepts his invitation and they sit down to have a meal.

While they are sitting at the table, a woman enters the room with an alabaster box of ointment. We know she is a sinner, because Luke says, “A woman in the city, which was a sinner…” (Luke 7:37ff). This sinner does a strange and wonderful thing. She washes the feet of Jesus with her tears, wipes them with her hair, kisses His feet, and pours the fragrant ointment out on Him.

The Pharisee, of course, is highly offended that this sinner has come uninvited to his home. He is also a bit embarrassed about this display of affection. And he thinks to himself, “If Jesus were a real prophet, He would know that this woman is a sinner!”

But in the mind of Jesus, the real issue is, “Who really loves Me, and who takes Me for granted?”

No one traveled for pleasure in those days, the way we do now. Travel at that time was universally despised as a hot, dirty ordeal to be avoided if at all possible. Most people, Jesus included, traveled on foot. So the ritual of taking care of guests followed a predictable pattern and centered around the feet. Upon entering someone’s home, the host would greet his guests with a kiss on each cheek and offer water for their tired, dirty feet. If available, some perfumed ointment would also be offered to soothe and freshen them up a bit.

But the Pharisee failed to provide Jesus with even the most basic, usual, and customary courtesies given to guests:

“You gave me no water for My feet… No kiss of greeting… No oil for My head” (Luke 7:44-46ff).

The presence of Jesus was taken for granted! Was it just a case of forgetfulness on the part of His host, or was it something else? Something deeper?

Perhaps the Pharisee was becoming too familiar with Jesus – just a little bit too casual. From a distance Jesus was pretty amazing. Now that he had Jesus sitting there at his own table, in his own house, he saw that Jesus was a man. Maybe he came to believe that Jesus was someone not too unlike himself. It’s only Jesus, so there’s no need to get all excited. Let Him get His own water and wash His own feet.

That is the danger of familiarity.

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt. In the beginning we coveted the presence of the Lord, but today perhaps we take it for granted. In the beginning we were awed by Him, but today perhaps we are not so amazed. His visits become more routine, more ordinary, more commonplace. The songs we sing become a habit. The Bible we read becomes dry and old. The testimonies of our brothers and sisters do not move us because we have seen and heard it all before.

The woman, on the other hand, maintained a quiet reverence, a godly sense of awe, a majestic sense of wonder before the Holy. She gave honor to Whom honor was due. She made up for what was lacking. When she arrived she saw that no one was ministering to the Lord, and she made Him the focus of her being there in that moment.

Few people today truly minister to the Lord Himself. They expect that the Lord will minister to them. And indeed, He does. But the nature of the Lord Jesus is such that He will never call attention to Himself. He will never say, “Why do you not minister to Me? Why do you take me for granted? Why have you not washed My feet?” He will remain silent, and wait for someone to notice Him.

Perhaps that is the reason why He is so often overlooked and taken for granted: because He never seeks anything for Himself.

When the Lord first showed me the importance of ministering to the Him, He made no demands upon me to do anything. He simply let me experience how lonely He was in the midst of a lot of religious activity. There, in the middle of our wonderful church service, I understood that we were taking Jesus for granted. We were too familiar with His Presence. When I understood the pain of the Lord, I knew immediately what needed to be done. That is when I understood that to minister to the Lord was the preeminent thing, the most important thing, and our primary purpose and reason for being.

The best waiters and waitresses are the ones who anticipate your needs and move at once to meet them – without you having to ask. They do not say, “Would you like some more tea?” They watch to see what you need, and if they see that your glass is empty, they move to fill it.

A waiter, a servant, a minister: all three have the same meaning. To wait on the Lord; to be a servant of the Lord; to minister to the Lord; all three describe the same purpose and function. The foremost thing is not to preach, or teach, or travel, or build a big ministry. We are to watch for, anticipate, and meet the Lord’s Need so that He is never taken for granted.

The Lord gives all day long. He teaches the crowds. He heals their sick. He meets their needs. At the end of the day He is tired. His feet are dirty. He needs to be refreshed. But as is often the case, the needs of Jesus are completely overlooked at we eagerly stretch out our hands to get OUR blessing.

Certainly, this woman had many needs. Yet she comes to the Lord Jesus, not to receive a blessing, but to be a blessing:

“She has washed My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair… She has not stopped kissing My feet… She has anointed My feet with ointment…” (Luke 7:44-46ff).

When Jesus enters “our house” – whether it is our place of worship, our home, our workplace, or our heart – do we take Him for granted? Is His Need being met? I pray the Lord will convict us of our profanity and deliver us from familiarity. Let us repent, and rediscover the One Who sits at the table with us.

About Chip Brogden

Chip Brogden is an international best-selling author, teacher and founder of TheSchoolOfChrist.Org. His writings reach more than 135 nations with a simple, consistent, Christ-centered message. Connect with Chip on Twitter or Facebook.

14 Comments

  • Toney says:

    Thanks for reminding me about seeing, hearing Him and His needs. Pray w/ me concerning Him. Don’t want to take Him for granted.

    • theodocia flynn says:

      thanks for the reminder, Chip! recently our pastor in our small gathering, quoted President Kennedy’s “its what can YOU do for your country?” and qualified it by saying “its not what you can GET out of church but what can you GIVE to the gathering to help WORSHIP and Lord [and look for His needs] Many thanks.
      Theodocia , Tasmania, Australia.

  • Joyce Klawitter says:

    Thank you for bringing back to me the sweetest times of ministering to the desires of my beloved Lord. I have heard too little of that from the ministers and too much of selves. It really is His Kingdom that we are most happily included in, is it not?

    Joyce

  • Sharon says:

    Hi guys,
    Will say this as gently as I can, as we are all guilty of being too familiar with the Lord.
    I had ordered a cd from you, and a friend had gotten a cd on the same subject from a special speaker at a church.
    We agreed to swap cd’s.
    In the cd I had borrowed from my friend, the special speaker used profanity.
    The message on your cd and his were pretty similiar, but the delivery of the message was completely different. After listening to the first cd with the profanity (from that special speaker), I didn’t want to listen to the second cd which was the completion of his message.
    Then I printed up this article.
    Although there may be truth in a message, how the message is presented is also extremely important.
    It gave me a greater appreciation for the fact that not only do you write and speak with such clarity, but also with the honor due to the Lord.

  • Claire Gidman says:

    As I was reading this, I remembered the verse in the OT that says “Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” The word “wait” struck me and I wondered if we have misinterpreted that verse entirely. I have always been taught that “wait” meant to “bide your time… be patient (don’t fret)… wait for God to act…”….but now I wonder if “wait” means to “serve the Lord” in this case. As we focus on serving the Lord, our strength is renewed, we run with Him, and we are lifted up again. Is this a correct interpretation of that verse?

    • LeAnn says:

      Claire, I have a friend who has broken her back and is in constent pain. She finds that when the Lord brings someone along who needs ministering to that as she ministers the word to them her strength is renewed. She says the Lord exchanges His strength for hers. She soon forgets the pain she is in! I definately think you are on to the right interpretation of the scripture!!

      • Claire says:

        LeAnn,

        Thanks so much for your encouraging word! I believe that my interpretation is true… I know that we are to be patient in giving God time to work out his plans for us, but I do not think we are to be stagnant during that time. We are to use the time wisely and continue doing those things that God calls us to do each day…that is “waiting” on the Lord as a waiter waits on tables, serving those whom he has be hired to care for. That involves active ministry to those needs we see around us. As we remain faithful in serving others, God is working and we are strengthened and the time goes by and then we see God’s answers unfolding in our lives. Blessings to you, my dear sister!

  • Jeff says:

    It is very interesting that this woman who is recognized as a “sinner” is the one who shows our savior the most adoration.She washes Jesus feet with her tears,then dries them with her long hair which leaves me speechless.Considering the fact that their was alot of livestock droppings on the roads in those days which Jesus had to of stepped in, due to the numerous amount of animals on the roads that people needed to conduct their lives in those days.That is some serious love for Jesus!

  • Donna says:

    I thank my precious Lord Jesus…cuz He shows me I have absolutely nothing of worth to offer Him…cuz it all comes from Him…what prayer, sacrifice, thought, deed, anything could possibly be of anything good & holy compared to almighty God…so I humbly cry out & thank Him…lovely Jesus…Holy God…He never leaves or forsakes…He is soooo precious & Holy…thank You Lord Jesus <3<3<3

  • Glenda says:

    This is when we need not call attention to ourselves and let Jesus shine through us, so he will be noticed through our works for Him.

  • eve says:

    When one learns that the presence of the Lord is always with you, you start to realise just how much time and love and attention the Lord is giving to you.

    I personally am amazed that the Lord would be so interested in me that I wish to give to him my time and my hands, or skills to do something for him.

    As Sharon says, we can hear messages given but in the wrong heart attitude, and she is right. I too like Chip have sat in church only to find that church is having a ball but Jesus’s needs have been forgotten.

    Ministering to the Lord is such a precious privilege and I for one pray that I am always aware of His desires.

    Eve UK x

  • James Mal says:

    Yes Jeff, what you say is highly agreeable. We need to wash each others feet. Jesus offered to wash Peter’s feet, Peter said. No you can’t wash my feet. Jesus said. If I can’t wash your feet you are not with me.” What I am doing you do not know now but afterwards you will understand.” John13:7. Peter said. In that case wash my whole body, Jesus said. Your body is been well washed except feet. Why feet only to be washed? When we go to somebody’s house we shake the dust of our feet outside the house. We do not want to take the dust in their house. The dust of This World have to be washed. Jesus said. He who receive you receive me and he who rejects you rejects me when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.

  • Angelo Bright says:

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  • Terry Vincent says:

    I am so grateful that I found information on the spirit of familiarity. I am a worshipper and I cannot understand how people just take our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for granted. This spirit is another one of the enemies tactics and you can only recognize it through discernment of the Holy Spirit. Yes we serve him by committing our talents, time and treasure. We show adoration through our praise and worship!

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