Familiarity Breeds Contempt

The proverb familiarity breeds contempt was evident in Jesus’ neighbors’ response to him when he came to teach in Nazareth’s synagogue. They were amazed at his teaching and at the reports of what he had done in other cities, but rather than listening to Jesus, they were offended by him. The question is why? They should have been honored that he had been raised in their community, that they had known him as a child and young man, but they weren’t. Rather they were filled with contempt toward him, because they had known him, because they knew his brothers and his sisters. Jesus gave an answer for their contempt. He declared that a prophet is honored everywhere but in his own hometown. It can happen that a young person leaves their hometown and is successful and maybe becomes famous. Rather than enjoying his or her success, the response in the home town can be, who is this person, they aren’t so special. Jealousy becomes the response rather than honor and enjoyment of the success the young person has achieved. This was the dramatic response that the people of Nazareth gave to Jesus.

Their example is instructive to us all, because just because we’ve become familiar with someone or something doesn’t mean we have exhausted all that we can learn from that individual or about that topic. Just because someone has followed Jesus for decades doesn’t mean that they cannot learn from someone who has just met Jesus. Just because someone is older, doesn’t mean they can’t learn something new from a younger person. We get familiar and then we can develop blind spots; we stop asking questions, because we think we have all the answers. One of the fascinating aspects of following Jesus is the reality that there is always something new to discover, an aspect about Jesus that you had never noticed before that generates great excitement in us when we discover it. Following Jesus is more than developing good disciplines and routines. Always be on the look out for something you might discover either in the midst of your routine, or when you branch out and try something new.

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