Suggested Reading: Nehemiah 5:14-19
Worf was one of the most memorable characters from Star Trek: the Next Generation. A Klingon with giant ridges on his skull, Worf was from a race of warriors who prized honor above all else. But Klingons also believed in punishing children for the sins of their fathers. When Worf discovered proof that his father had been falsely branded a traitor, he brought that proof to the Klingon High Council to clear his family name. As a result, the Council offered Worf the son of the man responsible for framing his father and a chance for his family to avenge the wrong done. Worf was given the right to kill the young boy but he refused to punish a boy who had not personally committed a crime against him. As far as Worf was concerned, he had the right to kill the boy, but killing him would not have been right.
At the end of Nehemiah chapter 5, after Nehemiah had dealt with the nobles and officials who had been exploiting the poor, Nehemiah made an official notation that almost seems like he was tooting his own horn. Nehemiah wrote, "Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year-- twelve years-- neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor." (Nehemiah 5;14, NIV) Nehemiah went on to say that the previous governors collected a very hefty salary from the people he governed but that he himself refused to take it, even though it meant feeding 150 officials on a daily basis as well as the occasional visiting dignitaries out of his own pocket. Nehemiah specifically stated that he refused to demand what he was due as governor because it would have hurt the people of the land. Nehemiah could have demanded a salary and reimbursement for all of his expenses because they were his right, but he chose to make the people more important than his rights.
There are many things that we believe are our rights, things that we think people owe us. Sometimes, we have a right to an apology, to an explanation, to compensation. People may owe us credit or thanks. And often, we would be well within our rights to demand those things. But sometimes, demanding our rights simply isn't right. Sometimes, we need to put people and relationships above our rights. That person who hurt you may owe you an apology, but is the apology worth more than the friendship? Jesus set aside his rights as creator of the universe and ruler of eternity in order to save the very people who had taken his gifts of life and freedom and thrown them back in his face.
Jesus refused to cling to the rights he was due as God because we were more important to him. Shouldn't we be willing to forgo some of our rights because people are more important to us?