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The Rabbi and the Roman Guard: A Two-Part Look at Your Purpose

purpose word written on wood block. purpose text on table, concept.

What will be your story about this C-19 time as you go about the rest of your life? Will it be about toilet paper or transformation?

Today I want to share a short story with you about a rabbi and his encounter with a Roman soldier.[i]

It seems our rabbi takes the wrong fork in a road on his way home one night, and soon thereafter he is startled by a shout: “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

The rabbi realizes he has stumbled upon a Roman outpost and for a moment he freezes in his steps. Again the Roman soldier roars, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

The rabbi pauses for a moment, and then he calls out, “How much do you get paid a day?” Perplexed by the rabbi’s response, the solder replies, “I get paid two denarii a day, Jew. Why?”

The rabbi responds, “Because I will double your wage if you come to my house every morning and ask me those same two questions.”

Oh my.

So I ask you, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

These two questions are tightly linked together, because the way you answer the second answers the first. Put another way, how I set my path each day, my to-do list, my order of priorities, my purpose, becomes the roadmap to who I am.

It becomes my story.

So how would you answer these two questions? Or more poignantly, how would others?

“He/she is … a successful lawyer, doctor, business person, teacher. Really smart. Really driven. Drinks a little too much. A fun friend. A really good golfer, tennis player, hunter, fisherman, poker player, designer. A huge Clemson or Carolina fan.”

Or, “He/she made a difference in my life.” – “He/she knows Jesus.” – “There is something different, deeper, about him/her.”

The rabbi wants the soldier to come each morning to remind him to think deeply about his answers before he starts his day, because he understands that each day becomes each month, becomes each year, become his life.

And thus his life … story.

And thus who he is.

Who are you?
What are you doing here?

I wants to be intentional about my daily purpose, so my story is not mostly about the temporal, but instead more about the eternal.

Dallas Willard put it bluntly: “If what you are doing is not eternally significant, then it is eternally insignificant.”

That stings, doesn’t it?

But if you can answer the second question: “What are you doing here?” with matters of eternal significance, if even just for a part of each day – making a positive difference in someone’s life – showing them Jesus in you – then the answer for the, “Who are you?” question will be,

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21)

[i] Make Your Mark by Brad Gray

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