Who’s Defining You?

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. John 1:44-46a

The Beverly Hillbillies is one of the classic TV shows of yesteryear. It is the story of the Clampett family who moved from rags to riches once Jed discovered oil on his rural mountain property. With encouragement from other family members, Jed and his kin loaded up their dilapidated truck and moved into a mansion next door to their banker, Milburn Drysdale, in Beverly Hills, CA.

One of the ongoing plots of the show was Mr. Drysdale’s efforts to keep the Clampett’s considerable fortune deposited in his bank. Those efforts included keeping Granny happy. She’s often shown threatening to head for the hills whenever she felt slighted by the city folk. Even worse was the constant badgering from Drysdale’s wife to get those “hillbillies” out of town.

To call them hillbillies was to put them in their place. They were backwoods bumpkins who simply didn’t measure up the sophistication of the Drysdales. As far as Mrs. Drysdale was concerned, nothing good could ever come from Bugtussle or whatever podunk town the Clampetts called home.

She viewed the Clampetts much like the way sophisticated Judeans saw people from Galilee. Galileans were people of the land. They were unschooled, unsophisticated, and most of all unworthy of any spiritual acclaim. That was reserved for those who lived in and around Jerusalem. Everybody knew that including people from Galilee.

As a case in point, John tells the story of Philip informing Nathanael that he had found the Messiah. He was Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth. At the time, Nazareth was a small town in southern Galilee. Nathanael was likely from Cana further north but still within the region of Galilee as well. So one Galilean was telling another Galilean that yet another Galilean was the long awaited Messiah.

Nathanael’s response said a mouthful. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Of course, some of this could have been just good natured ribbing pitting one small town against another. But I think there’s more going on here. It seems that Nathanael has bought into the narrative that he and his fellow Galileans were substandard. He had allowed himself to be defined by the Drysdales in Jerusalem.

The thing that happened to Nathanael can happen to any of us if we allow others to define us. Somehow or another we don’t quite measure up to the standard that modern culture says we ought to maintain. We’re too poor, too uneducated, too unattractive, too something that defines our unworthiness in their eyes. Overtime, we begin to believe these imposed messages and live accordingly.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t challenge Nathanael’s negative self-talk. Instead He affirms that Nathanael was a non-pretentious person. It may not have seemed like much at the time, but Nathanael’s eyes were opened. He began to understand who Jesus really was. At the same time, he would begin to discover who he was as well: not as a bumpkin from Galilee, but as a follower of the man from Nazareth, the Messiah of God.

Of all the characters in The Beverly Hillbillies, it seems that Jed is best able to resist the defining voices of others. Unlike Granny who’s trapped in her hill country ways or Jethro who would sell his soul to be a part of the elite in the hills of Beverly, Jed stands secure. He may be a man from nowhere who became a millionaire. But he is neither of these. He’s just Jed. And something good can come from that.

About the Author

Brian Lee

Brian retired in 2020 after more than 40 years as a pastor and teacher. He stays active teaching at his church in Jackson, TN, visiting his grandchildren, and writing at his blog: Soul Shaping

You may also like these