Ever hear of them? You surely have, even if you didn’t think of them individually. The Tates represent just about every aspect of human behavior. Actually, they are you and me. Some we want to send away, others we want to keep.
When we meet them, we want to be sure to give each one his or her proper name. If any get misnamed, we might be calling evil “good” and good “evil,” which the Bible strictly forbids, and which works against us. Isaiah said:
Isaiah 5:20 20Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Let’s invite some of them in, and as we look at each one. We are sure to notice some reflection of them in ourselves and in Scripture.
These behavior traits are, shall I say, too common? No, because some of them need to become even more common. Associate with them, and we are sure to become more like them. We gain or lose by the company we keep.
1 Corinthians 15:33 33Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
Or as worded in the New English Bible,
1 Corinthians 15:33 33Make no mistake: ‘Bad company is the ruin of a good character.’
Take it seriously, and be discriminating. The friends we choose are the friends we will imitate (there is a TATE already coming to visit!)
There are TATES to love, and TATES to despise. How discerning are we?
Let’s start with the most superior: POTEN-Tate. What do we say to him, or offer to do for him? We don’t have much to offer, because POTEN-Tate is already at the TOP of his world, and he was put down in Jesus’ company long ago.
When Jesus met with His disciples for their Last Supper together, do you recall what they were talking about? No secret from Jesus.
Luke 22:24–25 24Now there was also a dispute among [the disciples], as to which of them should be considered the greatest.
What was Jesus’ reply to their this-world seeking?
25And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’
Jesus says, you know how the POTEN-Tates are. And they make out that they are benefactors, benefiting the people. What did Jesus say about such conduct among His disciples?
Luke 22:26 26But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.
Whatever your position of service, said Jesus, don’t let it affect you on the inside. You are NOT above the others. You are still learning. You are still the younger; you are still as one who serves.
What did Jesus tell them about Himself and His own position among them?
Luke 22:27 27For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.
Who are the ones honored at the table? It is the guests, not those doing the serving. And Jesus said He had been there as one who SERVED. Yet He was inviting them to be there when He returns as GUESTS at His table in His kingdom, guests whom HE would be serving!
Who in the TATE family follows POTEN-Tate? Probably DIC-Tate.
DIC-Tate is an old uncle in the clan, and always trying to get close to others—so he can tell them a few things. Maybe he means well by his “helpfulness”? But it doesn’t come across to others that way.
Come to observe awhile, you will find DIC-Tate has some response to just about everything anyone mentions. Even if he doesn’t KNOW, he still SAYS something!
Paul spoke about this type of person to the Romans. He took an example from several areas of their experience to make his point.
Romans 2:17–20 17Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law,
With regard to your religion, Paul says, you know it all! He goes on with other walks of life:
19and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.
You have the confidence, Paul says.
He says to these well educated Romans, You talk up easy whether you are philosophers or fools! You help the blind, the ignorant, the young the old
But Paul turns it right around. He said, Look to yourself!
Romans 2:21–23 21You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?
As J. B. Philips translates it, “You teach others… do you ever teach yourself anything?”
Paul clearly does not endorse DIC-Tate’s one-way instruction. He says, you need to listen as well as talk; learn as well as teach.
The problem is, DIC-Tate doesn’t see himself, or guide himself, or improve himself. He doesn’t see what DIC-Tate needs to learn because he is so busy instructing everybody else. He has that silent air about him that says, “Little one, you still have a lot to learn.”
There are a number of Proverbs that speak exactly to this. We have to be ready to bow down our ear, and open our heart to instruction. It is not all about GIVING instruction, there is much more about RECEIVING it.
Proverbs 19:20 20Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.
There are some very instructive proverbs about being wise.
Proverbs 8:5, 6, 10 5O you simple ones, understand prudence, And you fools, be of an understanding heart. 6Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, And from the opening of my lips will come right things; 10Receive my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choice gold;
DIC-Tate needs to listen and LEARN.
Proverbs 15:32 32He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.
Proverbs 13:18 18Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, But he who regards a rebuke will be honored.
Then the warning,
Proverbs 29:1 1He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
Now comes uncle, a kindly fellow named RO-Tate. He has turned around so many times in his life that he never minds one more turn, as long as he is turning in the right direction.
He tells how in his youth he wanted life to go in one straight line—he had HIS idea of what he wanted to do and be, and he didn’t need anyone to tell him what to do!
Well, he soon learned that was not the best way. And it certainly was not God’s way! Better to listen to Jeremiah now:
Jeremiah 10:23–24 23O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
And he added the heartfelt prayer:
24O Lord, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing.
Better to follow another appeal of God voiced by Jeremiah the prophet:
Jeremiah 18:11 11“Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” ’ ”
The Scriptures are filled with advice about turning the directing of one’s life over to God.
Proverbs 3:5–6 5Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
What does this mean? Like many young people, he had wanted to climb the ladder of this world’s success, looking for more, more, more of this world—until someone asked him what there was up there that he really wanted.
Looking inward, he could see all he wanted was the CLIMB, not the top.
It wasn’t worth it. He started turning, and had been turning ever since.
For RO-Tate this meant keeping out of the pursuits of this world, the politics of this world, the plans people make for this world, and seeking the higher, better way—the narrow way. Why is the narrow way better? Look at the end of it:
Matthew 7:13–14 13“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
The destination—the end of it—makes the difference. The wide gate opens to DESTRUCTION, the narrow gate opens to LIFE.
When you have a choice, be like uncle RO-Tate. TURN, and head the other way—toward LIFE.
Once he made the decision it was easy. Once he accepted direction, it was one RO-Tate after another. Turn away from the evil, turn toward all that is good.
Ezekiel 18:30 30“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin.
The next verse is just as direct:
Ezekiel 18:31 31Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?
God was always appealing to his people to turn. Turn away from iniquity, turn toward goodness and righteousness. That’s all you hav to do: TURN!
Proverbs 1:23 23Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.
The New English Bible words it well:
Proverbs 1:23 23If only you would respond to my reproof, I would give you my counsel and teach you my precepts.
There is a better way if you will just heed my reproof, says the Lord!
There is another sister in this family, just a little older than RO-Tate who over and again gets irritated at her brother’s constant (it seems) rotating. In fact, she gets irritated at just about anything that doesn’t go the way SHE wants it to go.
Yes, you heard her name, it’s IRRI-Tate. She’s always sending things into a whirl. That seems to be the way she gets the most done, or so she says.
But it takes the least little thing to upset her. And once it starts, it’s a downward spiral, it gets worse and worse. If it doesn’t rub her enough, she rubs it more to anyone who happens along. She thinks people don’t regard her schedule enough. They don’t consider her, or appreciate her problem.
She may have learned but long ago forgot the advice in Philippians 2:
Philippians 2:14–15 14Do all things without complaining and disputing,
Notice “ALL THINGS”—not some but ALL. What is the goal?
15that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
Paul says, you SHINE as lights in the world, among all the perversity and crookedness around.
IRRI-Tate’s twin sister is AGI-Tate.
Now AGI-Tate is not all bad. AGI-Tate can make some VERY GOOD things happen, just by a little nudging would you say? If the subject seems important, she doesn’t drop it or stop it. She escalates it! Do what is most important FIRST.
AGI-Tate produces GOOD. What does Hebrews tell us about stirring one another up? What are we to be stirred to?
Read Hebrews 10:24-25
Hebrews 10:24–25 24And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
The Lord willing, we will meet more of the TATE family. There are at least 8 or 9 more of them, and you may think of a few others too.
Bring them together and you can see almost any human behavior trait you can think of. Then think of which ones will be able to STAY in God’s family, and which will be forced out.
DIC-tate has his own ideas he thinks everyone else should have and appreciate. The “know-it-all” is never appreciated because he doesn’t know it all. And if you warn DIC-tate that he is about to make a fatal error, he will have a better idea.
Even if DIC-tate solicits your help, he will not receive it gracefully and blame you when the project fails to meet expectations.
He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.
MEDI-tate seems always to be thinking. He loves life and meditates on whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report. He sees the good benefit in the Laws of God and if there is any virtue, or anything praiseworthy, he will be sure to meditate on these things. His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
It is evident that MEDI-tate loves the law of the Lord because he is without fault before God and man (Phil. 4:8; 1 Tim. 4:15; Ps. 119:97, Prov. 15:32; Rev. 14:5; Phil. 2:15).