Michael Jackson, Stingy Hosts And Your Identity

Michael Jackson’s 1987 hit song “Man In The Mirror” contains its fair share of awesomeness: silky keyboard intro, a brilliant vocal performance (including several signature Jacko-isms), rousing choruses, feel-good gospel harmonies, that key-change...

It also contains this sagely piece of advice:

If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself then make a change

In a lyric not dissimilar to a common (mis)quote of Ghandi, Michael Jackson exhorts us to first change ourselves in order to change the world around us.

Now, we are aware that phrases or quotes like this lyric get thrown about pretty loosely and often. So much so, not only is the bumper sticker industry kept in business, but it is easy to write such sentiments off as cliché. However, simpleness or repetition does not make them any less meaningful or true.

It actually makes sense. If we change, then we will change the environment around us.

So, how exactly do we make that change, and where do we start?

Hold that question.

Approximately 2977 years before Michael Jackson released his song-sermon to the world, a very different songwriter and fellow guidance-giver was born. King Solomon, considered the wisest person to have ever lived, wrote 3000 proverbs. That’s a lot of proverbs. Tucked away in his book full of them** is this unusual piece of wisdom:

Do not eat the food of a begrudging host,
    do not crave his delicacies;
for he is the kind of person
    who is always thinking about the cost.
“Eat and drink,” he says to you,
    but his heart is not with you.
(Proverbs 23:6-7)

Now, we know you are probably saying, “that’s great, I’ll keep that in mind for next time, but what does that have to do with making a change, so I can make the world a better place?”

We are glad you asked. As it turns out, some translations have the third and fourth line as:

 “for as he thinks within himself, so he is”

In fact, The Passion Translation puts the whole thing like this:

Be sensible when you dine with a stingy man
    and don’t eat more than you should.
For as he thinks within himself, so is he.
    He will grudgingly say, “Go ahead and eat all you want,”
    but in his heart he resents the fact that he has to pay for your meal.

For as he thinks within himself, so is he.

Putting aside the rather bizarre circumstances of this proverb for just a moment, it is interesting to note what this proverb is telling us: As the host thinks within himself, so is he.

Meaning, what he thinks about himself, he is.
Or, what you think about yourself, you are.
How we perceive ourselves is the way we are.

Let that sink in for a moment. The way you view yourself will impact how you present yourself, which in turn will affect how others see you.

Have you noticed that when a confident person enters a room, the whole room notices, but a shy person will slip in virtually unseen? They both carry that identity with them, and it impacts on the people and atmosphere around them.

The stingy host has one problem. He thinks he is stingy. As a direct consequence, he is stingy, and likely no fun to be around. It’s all he feels he amounts to, so why bother doing anything to try to change? (He needs to listen to some MJ).

We would suggest the first place to make the change that Michael Jackson sang about is in your thinking. Don’t allow your own negative thinking to stop you from being all you can be. In fact, don’t even allow negative thinking! The moment a negative thought enters your head, take it captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Get into the habit of replacing those thoughts with whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8-9). It might take some practise, but that’s ok. Keep trying until it becomes your immediate response. Remember, you were created special. God has put a purpose in you and you are destined for greatness. Don’t believe any lie that tells you anything else, even if it comes from your own thoughts.

If you want to make the world a better place, don’t just look at yourself and change.
Change how you look at yourself.

**note: in the same way that Michael Jackson did not actually write “Man In The Mirror”, Solomon did not write this particular proverb.