Note to leader: Prior to this class, provide for each student the article, “The Silicon Valley Saints” from Christianity Today magazine.
Given the reputation much Internet content has for sex and violence, and given the money-making focus of this high-tech industry, it may seem surprising to find Christians actively involved in Internet commerce. Yet, writer Tony Carnes found a number of Christians there, some in significant positions of leadership.
(You may wish to highlight one of the persons profiled in the article.)
[Q] How do you feel about Christians working in an industry that is best known for smut and big money?
[Q] Could you work in a medium whose potential to spread the gospel is bested only by the number of sites selling pornography? How does the Internet compare to other media, such as television and print magazines?
[Q] Is it wrong for Christians to take risks that come with the dot-com business?
[Q] What are the temptations inherent in such an environment? Are they different from the temptations in your own work environment?
[Q] Milo Medin of ExciteAtHome says, “Christians can be more aggressive in the Valley. Our values are not wrapped up in business and career.” What do you think he means by that? How do Christian values encourage risk-taking?
[Q] After the computer chip maker Chen Wen-chi became a Christian, he brought the Bible and prayer into his company’s decision-making process. In practical terms, how would that work? Chen told his employees about his faith. (They were astonished.) Would you? How would our business be affected if we brought God more overtly into the process? Can you think of other companies as examples? (e.g. Chick-Fil-A or ServiceMaster?)
[Q] In your experience, how do non-Christians look upon Christians who are open about their faith on the job or in school?
[Q] Have you participated in a Bible study in the workplace? What are the risks of such activity?
[Q] Executive Michael Yang is quoted as saying that it is hard to feel spiritual need when basic physical needs are fulfilled. Why is it that hard times force us back to God, but successes rarely do?
In Scripture, we find many people bringing faith to places where God’s presence seems largely absent, in times where only his presence can offer hope and deliverance. Esther, a Jewish woman who after the exile lived in the capital of Persia, was one of those people. During the reign of King Xerxes (486-465 B.C.), the empire extended from India to Ethiopia. We know little about Esther, other than her beauty, wisdom, and the practices that would suggest she has held onto her Jewish identity and faith even among foreign people and religions. After Xerxes divorced his first wife, he held a beauty contest. Esther won the contest and became queen, but she was one of many wives. Her presence in the king’s court was by invitation only.
From Esther’s story we see that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. His use of them (and us) is often contingent on several factors.
Teaching point one: God uses people of integrity and faith.
During the pageant, Esther kept her religion, and thus her nationality, secret. Her relative Mordecai told her not to reveal that she was Jewish. That would come later. Mordecai, however, was open about being a Jew.
When Haman was promoted above the other rulers of Persia’s 127 provinces, Mordecai refused to bow to Haman. Mordecai had told everyone that he was a Jew, and the implication here is that his faith was his reason for refusing to bow. Some commentators have argued that acknowledging Haman’s superior position would not be equal to worshiping him, and there was no scriptural reason to refuse. Others contend that Mordecai was reserving his worship for God alone, although that specific reason is not given in the biblical text.
[Q] Do you think Mordecai’s refusal to bow down to Haman is a matter of pride or of faith?
[Q] Can you think of a recent example where someone refused to “bow down,” even though it would have been politically expedient?
[Q] Mordecai revealed his Jewish heritage, but told Esther to conceal hers. Does this have any bearing on his integrity? Does God sometimes commission believers for “secret service”?
Mordecai’s reaction to the death sentence on his people was loud and bitter. He showed the depth of his grief by wearing sackcloth outside the king’s gate. His anguish was shared by many Jews of the city, as once again God’s people called out for deliverance. Esther evidently expected Mordecai to go in to see the king. She sent him attire appropriate for meeting the head of state, but he refused. Instead, he called on Esther to intervene.
Teaching point two: God uses people who recognize his divine calling to minister in their circumstances.
Mordecai’s appeal to Esther is one of the more often quoted verses from Scripture: “for such a time as this.” Mordecai does not reference God’s hand directly in the elevation of a foreign Jewish girl to the place of queen, but the inference of this faithful Jewish man is clear. Esther has not won the post by her beauty alone. Neither of them could have arranged for her selection as the king’s favorite, if she would have chosen it at all. Most likely her induction into the harem was compulsory. Her royal position has a much greater purpose, one that neither she or Mordecai could not have foreseen. These two who faithfully practiced their religion, who were conditioned by their history to look to God for deliverance, seemed aware of their providential placement for such a time.
[Q] “For such a time as this” is invoked often in Christian circles, for everything from political movements to building campaigns. Should we be careful when identifying special times that God is using us, or does God’s divine calling to minister in our circumstances apply equally at all times? How can we use the phrase and the concept judiciously?
[Q] What is your reaction to Mordecai’s caveat in 4:14: “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place…”? Is God at all dependent on particular human beings to carry out his plans? What happens when we are silent?