Thirty Sons, Thirty Donkeys, Thirty Towns
Judg. 10:3 ¶ After him came Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years.
Judg. 10:4 He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys; and they had thirty towns, which are in the land of Gilead, and are called Havvoth-jair to this day.
Judg. 10:5 Jair died, and was buried in Kamon.
Over thirty years ago now my father preached a sermon on this very text. The sermon was titled, "Thirty Sons, Thirty Donkeys, Thirty Towns: Is this any way to run a church?" It's one of those messages that has always stuck with me. The premise is that Jair becomes the judge of Israel. He is in charge and gets to be in charge for twenty-two years. He uses his son to help rule the country. He has thirty sons -- so he provides each one of them with one donkey. He also sets each one of them to rule over one town. They each go to their own location and for twenty-two years they simply take care of things. Jair dies and this is how he is remembered. Thirty sons, with thirty donkeys in thirty towns.
The question my father asked, and I must ask today is -- why just thirty? Yes, he had thirty sons, but this story reveals much of a maintenance mode. Each one went out and simply took care of his own town. The question must be asked, why not each have two towns? Why not have thirty sons, with thirty donkeys, and sixty towns? Surely, that would not have been too hard. And why were they limed to one donkey? Surely they could have worked at having more! But they were maintenance people -- satisfied with what they had -- and so they lived.
So, is this any way to run a church? I'm afraid my father's words may have been prophetic. If we look back about thirty years ago we became nicely organized and administrative. This goes all the way through the church, from top to bottom -- and through many denominations. We began to focus on form or structure -- uniformity -- rather than on movement. The movement was messy -- and we wanted to make it all look neat and clean. The result was that we may have taken what God wanted to do and placed it within our own framework of organizational structures.
So, how do you run a church? You allow a vision from God to come in and expand your horizons beyond what you have ever thought imaginable. You do not become satisfied with your one town and one donkey, but rather, ask God to help you continuously to reach beyond man-made barriers. These may be barriers to our own personal spiritual growth, or they may be barriers to the growth of Christ's church. God took twelve disciples, and changed the world. We must not be satisfied with maintenance. God is calling us to a radical obedience which can change our world. We simply must be willing to step into the stream of his movement here on this earth, fasten our seat belts, and join him in the ride!
Lord, may I not be afraid of the places where you may want to take me on this spiritual journey! Amen.