Mind Your Own Business!
Song of Solomon 1: 6: " They made me keeper of the vineyards;
but, my own vineyard I have not kept!"
The one who talked about the "little foxes" was convicted of the fact
that he had allowed one of the most common and most destructive of those little foxes
to slip into his own garden.
There he was -- a busy man, entrusted with public and civic responsibilities
which he discharged with great success, administering a kingdom with brilliant efficiency.
Yet, when he surveyed his own private garden, he found it overrun, neglected,
and generally, a mess.
" Alas," he cried, "they made me a keeper of the vineyards;
but, my own vineyard I have not kept!"
Have you ever had someone to tell you to "mind your own business?"
"Mind your own business" is a common English saying
which asks for a respect of other people's privacy.
It can also mean that a person should stop meddling in what does not concern that person,
and look after your own personal affairs.
Wouldn't it be great if everybody would mind their own business?
Wouldn't it be great if everybody did what he or she was supposed to do?
Wouldn't it be great if there weren't so many busybodies who are more concerned
about your business than their own?
That is such a human failing.
It is the failure to mind one's own business, and we see evidences all around us.
Like Solomon, many a man is wiser for others that he is for himself.
The temptation to neglect one's own little garden seems to be fairly common among wise men;
among intellectuals and members of the learned professions.
One noted seminary professor once declared that he lost all his children
because he was so busy with the Lord's work.
Haven't you ever noticed that it is the automobile mechanic's car that always needs repairing.
But there is just enough truth in the old saying to make it stick.
Fathers who devote much of their time to counseling others, such as pastors, psychiatrists,
physicians, etc., are often so emotionally spent when they come home each night
that they have so little to give of themselves.
This is also true of many businessmen.
A man who expends endless thought and planning and running a large business organization
may showed no imagination or interest in securing the harmony and well being of his family.
He knows that in a large business people must be treated as human beings
-- encouraged, recognized, appreciated, humored -- otherwise he is going to lose most of them.
But when he is at home, many a top executive would lose his secretary in a week
if he treated her in the same casual way as he treats his wife.
Many a salesman who has the Dale Carnegie course in his memory when dealing
with clients and colleagues fails to realize that his closest colleagues are his own children.
But in his vineyard, he is often so unintentionally careless as to be brutal.
There is a verse in proverbs which says, "The eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth."
With that verse in mind, let me remind you of a character in Dickens' Bleak House,
named Mrs. Jellaby.
When she wasn't helping the missionaries by sewing red flannel petticoats for the maidens
of the South Seas, she was endlessly engaged in writing letters to reform this and that.
She was the busiest woman in England.
But her own home was a pigsty, and her children were the biggest little savages in the street.
She could see everything at a distance of 2,000 miles, but that which was immediately
under her feet, she was totally blind.
Many of us are like that.
We mind everybody's business except our own.
Evidently, we concur with Mark Twain that, "To do right is wonderful.
To teach others to do right is even more wonderful -- and much easier!"
Now I realize that in preaching this sermon on minding your own business,
I am aware that I'm treading on very dangerous ground.
Many people need no such advice.
They are already doing that, and nothing else.
Like one Christian lady, who said very virtuously, "I try to be a Christian; to keep myself to myself."
Such people need no encouragement from us.
They need to be reminded that Christianity does not mean being respectably aloof,
but it does mean becoming involved.
The real Christian is the original tightrope walker.
His life is lived precariously balanced between minding his own business
and minding other people's business.
For he realizes that he cannot do the one without the other.
Is not this the point of one of the sayings of Jesus that is often misunderstood when He said,
"A man ought to love his neighbor as himself?"
Some outgoing, activist Christians try to behave as though Jesus had said,
"You must love your neighbor better than yourself."
Or even that "You shall love your neighbor and hate yourself."
But, in fact, that is impossible.
A man who hates himself is incapable of loving others.
A Christian educator once said, "You cannot teach children to love others
out of insecurity and fear.
Only the child who is loved is capable of loving others.
Only the child who respects himself can show respect to others."
And the same is true of adults.
Show me the man who is full of bitterness toward others, who hates his fellowman,
and I will show you a man who hates himself.
This is the reason, and the only reason, why a man should love himself,
and that is so he might be capable of loving others.
For the man who does not respect himself, and find himself enjoyable to be with,
is not going to enjoy other people.
With this in mind, let us look at the condition of our own vineyards.
Many years ago, Christopher Morley wrote a book with the title,
"The Man Who Made Friends With Himself."
This is where we must begin.
For the blunt truth is that many of us are our own worst enemies.
To put it in Christina Rossetti's words:
"Myself, arch traitor to myself,
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever way I go."
When I look back over my own life, I discover that I have done more harm to myself
that anyone else has ever done to me, or is ever likely to do to me.
So, how does a man make friends with himself?
First of all, he does it by being realistic about himself.
I am certainly not a friend to myself if I habitually pull the wool over my own eyes.
Yet, a lot of us do just that.
If we flatter ourselves that we are easygoing, when in fact, we are just plain lazy.
We like to characterize ourselves as people with strong convictions,
when, in fact, we're simply pig-headed and stubborn.
We maintain that we are terribly busy, when all the world knows
that we are just undisciplined in the use of our time.
In New York, where you can find about anything, there used to be an office where,
for a small fee, a person could go for a criticism session.
With complete objectivity, the staff would criticize the client about his slumped posture,
his slurred speech, his ungainly walk, the style of his hair, and the kind of clothes he wore.
It was said that they did quite a business; but, of course, it was all on a superficial level.
One of the main values of public worship is that week by week -- for an equally modest fee
-- one may be exposed to much more radical and searching criticism.
Who can attend a church regularly without being compelled to listen to truths
that many are anxious to avoid?
If a man will open his life to inspection by the living God in Jesus Christ,
he will be left in no doubt as to his real self.
The words of Jesus will sear his soul.
Paul's hymn of love in 1 Corinthians 13 will reveal the shallowness
of what he has come to accept as a standard of relationship.
The other ingredient in the recipe for making friends with yourself is the humble decision
to accept God's punishment, if that is what is needed.
So many people are spoiling their life by trying to punish themselves.
And very often, they are the least religious people among us.
Eric Hoffer, the longshoremen-philosopher of California says that,
"When modern man throws aside his belief in a Savior, he is compelled
to respond 24 hours a day trying to be his own savior.
When he discards his belief in the atonement, he tries to make his own atonement.
And even those who believe theoretically in the atoning work of Christ are often guilty of this.
They never make the wonderful discovery that forgiveness is a fact;
and that God is far more anxious to restore us than to punish us;
and that He is far more anxious to renew us in grace than to keep us groveling in subjection."
It was said of Nietzche that he took Jacobs words at Peniel,
"I will not let thee go, except thou bless me," and twisted them
into "I will not let thee go, except thou curse me."
When one watches some people at their religious exercises, one gets the same impression.
They do indeed "wrestle with God," but not to their enlargement and enlightenment.
They seem bent on not hearing the good news of liberation,
but the bad news of deprivation and diminution.
They use religion to restrain and inhibit.
They seem to value it for the threat it holds over them.
If a man is to keep the little foxes out of his vineyard, he has to learn
to let the Lord of the vineyard do the pruning and the sifting.
And this He will assuredly an sure-handedly do, since He knows what to preserve
and what to destroy.
The Man who made friends with himself, and with all the world knew this well.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away and every branch
that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." (John 15: 1f)
Sermon adapted by Dr. Harold L. White