What do you do when you feel unappreciated?
Have you ever felt your talents and abilities were underutilized on a project you were working on? People just don’t seem to appreciate how much you have to offer at work, at church, or wherever? You just don’t get the recognition, or the leadership opportunities you deserve?
I have felt that way many times over the years. And along with those feelings would come the little voice in my head, “If I were in charge, I would do things differently”, or “I could do such a much better job than they are.”
The story of Absalom
Now to be honest, I haven’t had those feelings for many years, but I’m reminded of them every time I read the story of Absalom, one of King David’s sons.
The Bible doesn’t tell us a whole lot about Absalom, but we do get some insights into his character in the way he responds to various events.
When his sister Tamar is raped by his half-brother, Amnon, Absalom did not respond or show his hatred for Amnon publicly. But he quietly plotted for two years before taking his revenge, by having his servants kill Amnon.
You can read that part of Absalom’s story in 2 Samuel, chapter 13.
What I see here is that Absalom is a man of action and takes things into his own hands. In and of itself, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that.
Absalom’s approach to justice
But the actions he took in avenging his sister were based on personal pride and honor. It was his own personal solution.
Unlike his father, King David, who often would ask for God’s guidance in a particular situation, the Bible narrative gives no hint that Absalom asked God what to do in this case. Nor did he seek justice from the King. In fact, he told Tamar,
Her brother Absalom saw her and asked, “Is it true that Amnon has been with you? Well, my sister, keep quiet for now, since he’s your brother. Don’t you worry about it.” So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house. When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister. 2 Samuel 13:30-32 NLT
It’s amazing to me that even back thousands of years ago, the victim of sexual abuse was told to keep quiet. The one big difference here is that Absalom was not trying to let Amnon off the hook. He was actually plotting revenge. But that didn’t help Tamar much.
So, instead of seeking justice through the proper channels, or asking God to show him what to do, or trusting God to bring justice, Absalom took it upon himself to bring his personal brand of justice to the situation.
As I said, this gives us a glimpse into Absalom’s character.
Just imagine if you had been born into the royal family of King David. It was a place of honor. There must have been a certain prestige you would have felt, knowing you were a child of the King. You might think you could do whatever you wanted to.
All too often today, as well as in Bible times, when someone is born into privilege, it can sometimes bring a sense of self-importance and self-entitlement, and an expectation to fill an important role. Is this what Absalom was feeling? Did he perhaps think he should be king some day?
As it turns out, that’s exactly what happens, which I’ll get to in just a minute.
We have to evaluate Absalom by the fruit he bore, by the actions he took.
After Amnon’s death, Absalom fled and isolated himself from the king for three years. Even when David finally agreed to have his son return to Jerusalem, he refused to see him.
Again, try to put yourself in Absalom’s situation. He was banished from the king.
Have you ever been banished? Maybe that’s a bit too strong. Have you or your ideas ever been treated as unimportant by those in authority? The people you wanted to talk to won’t give you the time of day? It happens all the time, right?
Absalom was in Jerusalem two years without seeing the king.
Absalom and David
When David finally agreed to see Absalom face to face, it was perhaps a tense but tender reunion. Absalom bowed his face to the ground in respect and King David kissed his son. We have no idea what they talked about. Or the tone of that conversation.
But it had an effect on Absalom. He immediately began acting as if he had great authority.
After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe. Then Absalom would say, “You’ve really got a strong case here! It’s too bad the king doesn’t have anyone to hear it. I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!” 2 Samuel 15:1-4 NLT
The gate was actually a place where people talked about and found solutions to their problems. It was a place where they came looking for justice in small matters, since there was no official judicial system.
Absalom flatters the people
Absalom would stand there and flatter the people. He would ask personal questions about where they were from and tell them their grievances were valid.
Over time people began to come to him to pay homage. And this is where we get a clear glimpse of what’s going on in Absalom’s heart.
Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:5, 6 NIV
If you were one of those folks and the king’s son seemed to take a personal interest in you and your situation, reached out to embrace and kiss you, how would you feel?
This went on for four years. Some ancient texts say 40 years, but that’s not really possible if you look at the rest of the chronology.
Absalom gathered his followers and solidified his influence with the people during these four years.
Then one day he requests permission from King David to go worship God in Hebron. How could his father refuse?
But it turns out only to be a pretense to amass his power.
Absalom wants to be king
Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’ ” 2 Samuel 15:10 NIV
David ruffianly realizes too late that Absalom is a serious threat to his throne. The future of the kingdom swings in the balance and David flees Jerusalem.
There’s a lot more to the story with plot twists and what we would call a double agent. You can read it in chapters 15-18 of 2 Samuel. It’s quite a story.
Absalom’s story comes to an end when he is riding through the woods on a donkey to get away from David’s army.
The irony is that it is one of the things he was most proud of, his hair, is his undoing. His thick hair gets caught in the low branches of a tree but the donkey keeps running and Absalom is left hanging by his hair.
When David’s soldiers find Absalom, even though David had told everyone to be gentle with his son, they killed him.
David was undoubtedly relieved that Absalom’s threat to his reign was squelched. But he was nevertheless overcome with grief, not just over the death of his son, but the direction Absalom’s life had taken.
This is a sad ending to a young man’s life that could have taken a very different turn.
Let’s go back to those times when Absalom felt isolated, undervalued, and underappreciated for his talents.
What if his father had recognized his potential and nurtured him in a way only a father can? What if David had given him a position of authority, in which Absalom could learn from experience how to be a true leader?
Of course, perhaps David saw in this son, some of the characteristics that come out in his behavior later, and for that very reason did not give him a position of authority or power.
Ultimately, Absalom is responsible for his own behavior, just as we are, regardless of how his father treated him.
What if he had gone to the King for justice when Amnon raped Tamar? What if he had turned to God for help and guidance? There would have easily been a very different outcome.
Have you ever felt your abilities were underutilized?
Every time I read Absalom’s heartfelt plea, “I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!” I feel a certain kinship with him.
There have been times in my life when I have been passed over for promotion, my ideas have been rejected, and what I had to offer was not seen, valued, or appreciated.
Let me just say, this is a very hard thing to deal with. You feel rejected. You feel unworthy. It can unleash a whole army of negative thoughts in your heart.
Whenever this has happened to me, it has caused me to turn to God for support and comfort, for direction and guidance. This has made all the difference in the way I am then able to go forward with grace and follow where God leads, instead of getting all bent out of shape and trying to make something happen through human will and ego. Of course, that has happened sometimes too.
What were Absalom’s motives?
Absalom longed to be in a position of authority. Was this a yearning of the human heart to fulfill a sense of a God-ordained purpose to bless the people of Israel? Or was it the human ego looking for ways to be in control? Or was it a mixture of these two motives, one choking out the other over time?
Again, we really don’t know. I believe everyone has a God-given purpose and Absalom may have sensed that to some degree, but from the way events unfolded, it seems clear that the human ego won out over any desire to pursue God’s will, if that desire was ever there at all.
Have you ever heard yourself say or think, “Oh, if only I was in charge at work, at school, at church, I would do a better job than they’re doing right now.”?
It really comes down to motives. Does the question come from an egotistical view because you want to feel important, or a humble attitude that seeks God’s help and wants to bless others?
Another one of David’s sons, who gives a better example
It is clear which direction Absalom took. But there is another one of David’s sons that sets a better example for us. And I’m not talking about Solomon. He had his problems as well.
I’m talking about THE Son of David, Christ Jesus.
Jesus had a completely different mindset from Absalom. Absalom acted on impulse. He calculated his revenge without seeking a higher sense justice than his own personal ideals. He took the issues of justice, revenge, and amassing power into his own hands. He did what he wanted to.
There is no convincing evidence that Absalom ever prayed to God for help or guidance, although he did give lip service to the idea once to cover up his true intentions of proclaiming himself King.
Jesus, on the other hand, took the exact opposite approach. He did not do things his way. He never took things into his own hands. He never failed to ask for and obey God’s guidance and support. He said,
I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. John 5:30 NLT
What a contrast between Absalom, who made himself a judge by his own self-will, and Jesus who made himself not a judge, but only judging by listening to and obeying God’s will.
Here are a couple of other things Jesus says, which point out the stark difference between him and Absalom:
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. John 7:16 KJV
And I seek not mine own glory: John 8:50 KJV
As I said, this is the exact opposite of Absalom’s approach to life.
I quote these verses on The Bible Speaks to You Podcast often, because they’re at the heart of Jesus’s mindset. And it never hurts us to be reminded who our true model is.
Absalom wanted to do great things. Good for him. But his motive was to glorify himself. Jesus came to glorify, not himself, but God.
Which of these two mindsets was more effective in accomplishing great things?
Absalom thought he was setting himself up for grand achievements and thought he had achieved his goal. But nothing permanent came from all his plotting and planning.
What about you and me?
When you’re tempted to think, “Oh, if I was the principal at school, the president or CEO of the company, the President of the country, the pastor at my church…” or any position of authority you are not currently in, it’s time for a little humble pie. And maybe to get the plank out of your own eye before you try to get the speck out of someone else’s eye. (see Matthew 7:5 below)
How would things have been different if Absalom had taken that approach?
When you have those thoughts wishing you were in charge, does that mean you’re going to end up like Absalom? No, of course not. Well, I certainly hope not.
Just to be fair, you might actually be able to do a better job than is being done. But the real question is, how are you doing with the position you do have. How are you using the authority you already have from God to love and forgive the way Jesus did?
No one can ever deprive you of your ability to obey the teachings of Jesus. No one can take away the authority Jesus has given you to pray and think and heal as he did. People may not understand this spiritual authority or they may not even notice. Or they may criticize it. But it is always yours to exercise.
When you could do it better than someone else…
As I mentioned, there may be those times when you are absolutely right that you could do a better job in a given situation. When you have the mindset of Jesus, as opposed to the mindset of Absalom, those in charge are more apt to see your abilities and ask for your help.
But not always. God may have something else for you to do that blesses you and others even more. A situation you know you could do better than what’s being done may be someone else’s opportunity to learn an important lesson or skill.
Over the years, when I have been given a leadership role, I’ve realized there was more to it than I thought. Just me being in that role was not an automatic solution. I had to acknowledge that I personally was not the answer to the problem. It was always about seeking and following God’s guidance.
I only want what God wants for me
About ten years ago, it came to me very clearly as I was praying about some new project at church I was interested in being part of, that I didn’t want to be in any position, job, or role at church or anywhere, which was not God’s will for me. If it wasn’t God’s idea, I wasn’t interested.
What a sense of freedom that brought. It was not about what I wanted or I thought I was capable of. It was about what God wanted.
It is pretty much the same thing as Jesus saying he didn’t come to do his own will and that he only does and says what the Father shows and tells him.
If you’re ever in a situation where you’re seeking a position of authority or leadership, whether at work or at church, or you’re impelled to seek public office on a local, state, or national level, take a look at your motives.
It’s always easier to see when someone else is acting like Absalom, just doing something for their own personal glory and because they want a position of power. It’s not always easy to see when we have some of those motives mixed in with our genuine motives of wanting to do something to help people.
It’s important to think about because God does have a purpose for you to be in a position where you can help others, where you can bring your God-given talents and abilities to bear on a situation, to make it better. And that’s a right thing to do. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s all about your motives.
When you feel unappreciated, undervalued, and underutilized and know you could do a better job than what’s going on, the question I have for you is: Which son of David will you follow, Absalom or Jesus?
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If you have questions or comments please contact me. I’d love to hear from you..
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
2 Samuel 13:30-32 NLT
30 Her brother Absalom saw her and asked, “Is it true that Amnon has been with you? Well, my sister, keep quiet for now, since he’s your brother. Don’t you worry about it.” So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.
31 When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry.
32 And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister.
2 Samuel 15:1-4 NLT
1 After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him.
2 He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe.
3 Then Absalom would say, “You’ve really got a strong case here! It’s too bad the king doesn’t have anyone to hear it.
4 I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!”
2 Samuel 15:5, 6 NIV
5 Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. [in effect paying homage to them].
6 Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.
2 Samuel 15:10 NIV
10 Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’ ”
John 5:30 NLT
30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.
John 7:16 KJV
16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
John 8:50 KJV
50 And I seek not mine own glory:
Matthew 7:5 NLT
5 First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.