Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
- Matthew 5:5
One of the rites of passage for children moving into the youth group at our church is getting to become a helper at the annual Summer Musical Activity for Kids, or S.M.A.K. As a child in S.M.A.K., you spend a week learning a Bible-based musical, working hard to memorize your speaking part or nail your solo. But as a teenager, you get your first look behind the curtain, working alongside the adults to teach the kids, make the props, and still enjoy all the fun S.M.A.K. has to offer.
For several summers, the job I was entrusted with as a teenager on S.M.A.K. week was running the spotlight during rehearsals and at the performance. The church’s spotlight was a heavy, bulky instrument (this was long before the days of digitally operated lighting), and it was my job to hold it as steadily as I could, shining it on the stars of the show during their speaking parts and solos.
But one rehearsal, my hand slipped for a moment and the spotlight’s beam dropped down instantly. No longer was it aimed at the main characters onstage—now it was shining right on the volunteers on the front row, who had been sitting in the anonymity of darkness. Previously hidden, these workers were now in the spotlight.
During Jesus’s ministry, he made it a habit of putting the figurative spotlight—not by accident, but by intention—on those accustomed to life in the shadows. Whether it was by welcoming children, working alongside women, conversing with Samaritans, or touching lepers, Jesus had a way of bringing the marginalized out of the darkness and into the light. By contrast, his harshest words were for the religious leaders of his day, those used to attention and respect. Jesus moved the spotlight off those accustomed to it and pointed it toward those who’d never felt its glow.
In our own day, we know who the spotlight typically shines upon: the popular, the wealthy, and the talented are all used to its glow, as are the attractive, the provocative, and the exciting. Even in the church, we know the spotlight has a way of finding those who fit the world’s criteria of worthiness.
But Jesus’s words and his ministry remind us that his followers have a responsibility not to cater to the strong, but to lift up the weak. Servants of the crucified Savior ought to know better than anyone that in God’s kingdom it is humility, not worldly glory, that exalts you before God. With that understanding, believers ought to not only remember but spotlight those in the shadows.
In a world where attention tends to rest on the ‘worthy,’ we can offer hope to the ‘unworthy,’ bringing them out of the shadows and extolling their value before God and his people. We can proclaim the truth that in God’s kingdom the meek are called blessed and will receive glory and honor. We can follow Jesus’s lead and look with respect and love to those unaccustomed to either—because in God’s eyes, the stars aren’t the only ones who get spotlighted.