It was on this day that Jeroboam, leader of the Northern Kingdom, prevented the tribes of the Northern Kingdom from traveling to Jerusalem to worship during the Feasts:
“Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. He made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.” (1 Kings 12:28-31)
There are several things to take note of here. First, Jeroboam’s motivation was a fear that his people would worship in Jerusalem and then be inclined to serve his rival, Rehoboam, king of Judah. In a word, his motivation was jealousy; another word we could use is competition. Jealousy and competition is what led to the false altars, golden calves and the declaration that, “These are your gods, O Israel” – a throwback to Israel’s sin at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Considering what happened to the people then, you would think that Jeroboam would have avoided that mistake.
Jealousy and competition eventually led the people of God into sin. It provoked the king to make substitutions for the things of God, and legitimize practices that were not lawful. In order to keep “his people,” he encouraged a mixture of things that were holy with things that were not holy. Jeroboam’s attitude toward worship has, unfortunately, been repeated throughout history, and its still with us today.
Have you ever heard a minister say something like, “I’m the only one who is teaching the truth” or, “I don’t want my people going over there and listening to that other guy”? Might it be, at least in some cases, the reason they don’t want “their people” going somewhere else is because their people might actually get involved in something that God is doing? So in order to keep their people, they will do whatever they need to do to keep “their” people. It’s one thing to want to protect those who have been given into your care, in fact, it is expected that leaders would do so. However, it’s a different thing entirely when someone tries to keep people under their spell just to satisfy a need for affirmation and self-gratification. Besides, they’re not “my people” – they’re God’s people. Jealousy and competition is not indicative of the fruit of the Spirit. Paul had something to say about competition among the brethren:
“When one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:4-8)
Every minister of the Good News has something to bring to the table. Our Father has created each of us with certain talents and gifts that He wants us to use for His purpose. Therefore, we should not consider ourselves to be in competition with one another just because one’s talent is different or their following is larger. Each of us have a role to play and when we work together without jealousy and competition, a lot more will be accomplished for the Kingdom. In the end, the One that really matters is the One who gave us talents and gifts to use for Him. If we choose to behave like Jeroboam, we might end up like Jeroboam.