Barnyard Mentality … OK, you are wondering what musing I must have with this topic! Well, throughout the week, the gun violence in the Kansas City Chiefs parade, out-of-control courtroom trials, the sad death of Alexey Navalny, and the continued genocide in the Middle East, Ukraine, etc., just stopped me in my tracks saying, “what is happening God, this is awful!” It all reminded me of “pecking orders” – rank and file who are enamored with their power and position.

This reminded me of chickens, yes chickens! I love chicken, cooked, baked, rotisserie, grilled, soup, casserole, pasta salad—chicken is delicious and it is very good for us. However, how many of you realize what chickens do to one another? How many of you have had to go out to get fresh eggs and darn it, they pick your hands? Oh, those nasty little buggers and their “pecking orders!” They are just downright mean. Do you know what they do when a chicken is sick—they peck it to death. Farmers call it ‘poultry cannibalism’.

But this is not something old; this began when huge chicken farms developed. Cages were small, over-packed and filthy (they still are today). There was no care for the chickens, just the monetary rewards when their meat was sold. The pecking orders developed quickly.  For those on farms where chickens have room to roam, are fed without chemicals and cared for with great responsibility—in this kind of environment, a ‘barnyard mentality’ is very rare.

Do you think this ‘barnyard mentality’ will fly in God’s kingdom? NO, not one bit. But we see it every day, from pulpits, egotistical journalists, politicians, dictators, and millions of people who will crawl to “the top of the ladder” in anyway they can. Their pecking orders are always to be “the top person” and sadly, they hurt so many people on their way up the ladder so they can be the best “picker.” What does Scripture tell us about this?

As we are in the season of Lent and Jesus is on his way to Calvary, what is going on with the Saducees and Pharisees? A huge pecking order and for them, it was them only. They started plotting to put Jesus to death as soon as he spoke as a 12-year-old in the Temple! You can almost hear them say “a kid thinks he knows more than us?” and the picking order was on.

In Matthew 23:6-7, the Message makes it clear why Jesus was so critical of these groups: “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’”

Through this passage Jesus blasts the top birds of the church, those who spread their plumes of robes and titles and choice seats. Jesus won’t stand for it. Jesus has no room for pecking orders in his kingdom—PERIOD! So why do we have them? Yes, they are a part of our life. Ranking systems have been around for ages; they clarify our roles but are not meant to trash one another. In other words, the problem with pecking orders isn’t the order. The problem is with the pecking! I can imagine many of you have stories from work about jealousy between who is “the next one to climb the ladder.” It hurts, it demeans, and overall, it creates a mindset of power and that is deadly. Worse are those who think they are doing something good for God—really?! According to Jesus’ words in Matthew, their idea of rank and file, of ego and over-lording are not in the Kingdom of God.

In closing, I ask you to think about a ‘barnyard mentality’—the deadly pecking orders that destroy one another. Has it happened to you? No doubt, it has somewhere in your life, and it hurts. The worst is when it comes from our pulpits! Looking for and loving as Christ loves us keeps the pecking order in the hen house and out of God’s house. OK, that’s blows Barnyard Mentality right out the barn doors—cock-a-doodle-doo! AMEN.