We had our church’s version of vacation bible school this week. I was asked to come up with the decorations. I was honored, but also a little nervous. Why? Because I sat under the world’s best kid’s pastors (truly) and watched them create these kind of events; they set the bar extremely high. Thankfully, I had HUGE team who helped me pull this off.
I kept hearing God whisper this phrase in my head this week, “Set the table for them- it matters.”
To some, the amount of work that went into the decorations was probably excessive. But God was behind it. He wanted the “table” to be set in such an extravagant way that the kids’ hearts were open to all the stuff that really matters.
For the purpose of this post, I want us to think about “setting the table” as synonymous with excellence. It is taking whatever you’re doing to the next level and giving it extra care.
I just listened to a podcast where the creator of Ritz Carlton Hotels was interviewed. He talked about how he trained his staff to notice little things about their guests and then keep very detailed notes on file. They would pull from their file and set out preferences before the guests came back to visit the next time. They noticed things like which side of the bed their customers slept on so that they could sit their house shoes on the correct side of the bed. They took note of when a guest mentioned that they liked a specific room so when they booked the next time, they would be put in their preferred room. They understood that people want to be treated well and went out of their way to “set the table” for their guests.
I’m leading a very small life group right now and we rotate bringing snacks to share. I went first and kind of threw a few store bought things down on a plastic table. The next week, my friend brought in a fabric tablecloth, her China cups, and real silverware. She baked for us and took special care in picking out every item. It showed. It completely changed the night. We felt seen by her and lavished upon. That experience was humbling, beautiful, and honoring.
Here is what the Bible has to say about this kind of excellence:
“Whatever you do, do well,” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NLT).
“Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom,” (Daniel 6:3 ESV emphasis added).
God asks us to take things above the normal level of what is expected. When we do, people see Him in us. Now, please hear my heart, this isn’t meant to add pressure to you. I know life is crazy busy. Most meals in my house happen on paper plates and are sort of a thrown together concoction. But what I am saying is that every now and then, set the table, use your real plates, cook something special for the ones that you love. Or take the time to “set the table” in whatever place you have influence. If you work in an office, be the one who notices birthdays and makes people feel celebrated. If you see trash on the ground, be the one who picks it up.
God sets the table for you.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows,” (Psalm 23:5 ESV).
I love the Message version of this verse:
“You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing,” (Psalm 23:5 MSG).
I imagine this scripture like this: I am in a dangerous battle. Arrows and gun shots are blazing all around me and yet, God is completely calm. He pulls out a beautiful, handcrafted table. He lays down a pretty table cloth and invites me to sit down. Right there, in the middle of the chaos. He serves me extravagant food, tells me stories and loves on me. The battle is raging on and I am not even aware. I am just enjoying God’s presence.
Setting the table matters because it opens peoples’ hearts up for the stuff that actually matters. Spending a million hours on VBS decorations doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. However, those little guys were so filled with wonder and awe about how cool it looked. The church preferred them and made them a priority. That paved the way for lots of them to decide to follow Jesus.
I want to end this post by asking you two questions:
- Who has set the table for you in your life? I bet whatever they did made you feel special, loved, and cared for. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to write them a thank you note and let them know what that moment meant to you.
- Who can you set the table for? Who can you make feel special, loved, and cared for so that they get to experience the love of God through your efforts? Remember- it doesn’t have to cost millions of dollars for it to be excellent. It just needs to let them know that they matter.
Let’s set the table together.