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An Unimportant Man

by Tim O'Hearn

“I am not important. Nothing I do will ever make a difference.” You think not. Well, ask Mordechai, the hero of the book of Esther.

Mordechai was the homeless guy that sat in the gate of the palace every day. Nobody knew he was guardian and cousin to the richest woman in the kingdom. They just knew him as the guy who spent every day sitting in the gate. Maybe occasionally someone would throw him a coin, but other than that he was not very noticeable. He was unimportant. Nothing he could possibly do would make a difference. Surely this man could not change the world. In fact, he was such a nobody that people even forgot he was there; and that made a difference.

How much of a nobody was Mordechai? So much that he was invisible. G. K. Chesterton wrote a mystery story in which a murder was committed, but nobody saw the murderer come or go in the place where the man died. It turns out (spoiler alert) that the killer was the postal person, who people were so used to seeing go into the building that he had become essentially unnoticeable. This was how Mordechai was. He was so invisible that Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, plotted to “lay hands on” the king in his presence, thinking they were in private. That’s about as nobody as you can get. And yet it was just that invisibility that allowed Mordechai to make a difference. He snitched on the plotters, and got his name into the king’s chronicle. That would later have a significant impact on the known world.

Because Mordechai was not totally invisible, Haman the Agagite had already established a law of government sanctioned genocide. While Mordechai was using his ward, Esther, to counteract that law, the king decided to reward the man who had saved him. His reward of Mordechai included what Haman saw as the grossest humiliation. Thus when he went to Esther’s banquet and found that she was related to his mortal enemy, he lost his mind and appeared to attack the queen. This resulted in Haman’s immediate execution. It also, no doubt, helped when Esther pleaded for the salvation of her people.

This unimportant man became the catalyst for the Jewish response to possible annihilation. Had he been a somebody, the history of the Jewish people would have been much different. Esther’s paternity may have been known. Mordechai would not have been in a position to save the king, which means he would not have been in a position to save his own people. Haman’s anger at Mordechai’s refusal to bow to him was increased by his humiliation before a totally unimportant Jew. That combination showed his true personality to the king.

In a very real sense, then, the holiday of Purim (March 16 in 2014), which was instituted as a result of the salvation of the Jewish people, is a celebration of how much difference an unimportant man can make. Mordechai’s seeming lack of importance actually was his greatest strength. It was only when he appeared to be somebody that his people got into trouble.

So you seem to be unimportant. Embrace it. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” (Jas 4:6, a variant of Prov 29:3) “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen.” (1 Cor 1:27-28) It is when we seem to be unimportant that we may be the most valuable to God.