Playing Second Fiddle

Play second fiddle definition

To play a supporting or minor role in relation to someone else: “Tired of playing second fiddle, she resigned and started her own company.” In an orchestra, the position of second violinist (fiddle) is not as glamorous as that of first violinist.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

 

When I was a child my oldest brother, Dave, played violin in the High School Orchestra. He was always trying his best to earn the first violin position. The first violin is the premier position and Dave wanted it badly. The problem was that there was always someone just a little bit better than him. From time to time he would earn the top position only to be bumped out of it shortly thereafter.

Since his high school days, Dave has gone on to minister as a pastor. He has never been the senior pastor; he has always served as an associate pastor. For him it is not a question of ability; he would make an excellent senior pastor. At Dave’s last church they went through a string of several Senior Pastors.  Dave was the consistent stable influence that held the church together through those troubled years. In his current position he often fills the pulpit while the Senior Pastor is going through chemotherapy. Dave could be a Senior Pastor but God has called him to be an associate pastor.

My brother David has always played second fiddle and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Let me take you on a brief journey through the Bible to look at some of God’s people who played second fiddle.

Jacob

Some people would say that Jacob didn’t play second fiddle but that is not true. For much of his life he was definitely second place. Remember that Esau was the first born and the favorite of his father. Jacob spent 14 years learning the lesson of humble service (or sometimes not so humble) to his uncle Laban before he was allowed by God to be his own boss.

Leah

Often Leah is overlooked in the Bible. Although Leah was Jacob’s first wife in marriage, she was always second to Rachel in his heart. It didn’t matter what she did, she could never attain the prominence of her sister Rachel, but it doesn’t seem to matter. She still faithfully loved and served her husband giving him 4 of his sons. Rachel only had 2 sons. Rachel gave birth to Joseph who eventually became the savior of the Children of Israel. Leah gave birth to Judah the father of the largest tribe of Israel. It is from Judah that the Christ was born, the savior of the world.

Joseph

Joseph really stands out for his position of playing second fiddle. When Joseph was sold into slavery he was purchased by Potiphar. He served him faithfully until he became second in command. Then he was falsely imprisoned, but that didn’t stop him. Once again he went to work serving the commander of the prison until he was second in command. When he was brought before Pharaoh, Joseph was promoted to the ruler of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. God use Joseph to save the Children of Israel from starvation and to make them prosper and grow into a nation. And all by playing second fiddle.

Aaron and Moses

The situation with Aaron and Moses is a very interesting one. The Bible, the movies and history put such an emphasis on Moses that we fail to see the part that Aaron played. Originally Aaron was the one that did all the talking. Aaron was the one that spoke to Pharaoh. Even though Aaron did the talking; Moses was the undeniable leader of the duo. Aaron faithfully served Moses and God (with a few slip-ups). We are familiar with Moses talking with God, but we forget that Aaron spent his life approaching God with the prayers and sacrifices of the people. Many times great men and women of God live their entire life in the shadow of a great leader, helping them to succeed. We may never pay much attention to them, but they were never doing it for us; they were serving God.

Ruth

Ruth is one of the best stories in the Bible; amazingly everyone in the story does what they should in accordance with God’s law and everyone is blessed. Ruth is a young widow. She chooses to live with and care for her widowed mother-in-law. Through her humble servant spirit she provides for her mother-in-law physically and emotionally. As a result Boaz fulfills his role as Ruth’s kinsman redeemer. Boaz gets a wife, Ruth gets a husband and provider, Naomi is provided for, and Ruth becomes one of the four women listed in the genealogy of Jesus. And all because she was willing to place her mother-in-law’s needs above her own.

Daniel

Daniel is another man who really stands out in his role of playing second fiddle. Daniel was brought into the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar as an Israelite captive. He quickly distinguished himself as someone who had the wisdom of God in him. Daniel advanced to be the chief Satrap, the top official in the Babylonian government, just under the king (second fiddle). Even though Nebuchadnezzar was pagan king, Daniel worked diligently to make him successful. Daniel’s service continued through four administrations and two empires. Through Daniel’s service the people of God were protected and preserved even while under God’s judgment. God was repeatedly glorified.

Esther

Through a series of very unique circumstances, Esther became the Queen of the Medo-Persian Empire. She was second to the king. Well kind-of. In the Medo-Persian Empire the queen didn’t have any official power and Esther wasn’t even the first wife. She was wife number two. But God used her to save the Hebrew nation from a plot to drive them out of existence. Amazing what God can do working through the person in the second chair with no official power.

The Proverbs 31 Woman

The Proverbs 31 Woman is exhausted as the example of what a Godly woman should be. The focus of most of the chapter is on this woman of great Godly character, diligence, strength, kindness, wisdom and more. I have heard many people praise all of these positive attributes, but I have never heard anyone comment on her position as playing second fiddle. The passage is not addressed to women, rather it is address to a young prince telling him the type of woman he should seek as a wife. The real quality of this woman is that she will serve her family and husband in a way that will allow him to be successful. The passage talks about how he, the husband, is among the elders in the gate of the city. This is where the city leaders hangout and direct the affairs of the city. It is the Proverbs 31 Woman that makes this possible for him.

Throughout scripture God consistently uses this secondary position in a powerful way to accomplish His will.

Jesus

We place such emphasis on Jesus as God that we often forget that He played second fiddle to God the Father.

John 5:30 (NKJV)

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

If you read carefully the healings and miracles of Jesus you will find that the crowds did not praise Jesus. They marveled and praised God.

Matthew 15:31 (NKJV)

So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus never did anything of His own accord; He only did the will of the Father. All that He did was to bring glory to the Father. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus does receive glory honor and praise. He is exalted above all of creation, but even in His exalted position He is in the second chair, sitting at the right hand of the Father.

It seems that God has always had the idea of doing His greatest work through those in a secondary position. From what I can see, it is a consistent pattern in scripture. In God’s plan there is special honor to be place on those who serve faithfully in the second position.

The opposite is also true; those who seek to exalt themselves are humbled. The most horrific example of this is Satan himself. He sought to exalt himself.

Isaiah 14:13-15 (NKJV)

13 For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.

I cannot leave this discussion without commenting on a specific application. Once you understand God’s design for honoring people who serve by playing second fiddle it should create a whole different attitude toward the subject of submission. I have watched pastors as they bring up the subject. They fidget, hem and haw, and make all kinds of qualifying statements before they bring up the subject. I have watched the women stiffen up and clinch their teeth. The muscles in their necks tighten (a stiff-necked people) as they hear the words, “wives submit to your husbands”. And yet all through scripture God has accomplished His greatest work by those who faithfully served from the second chair. This has happened repeatedly even when they were serving under very corrupt masters. These are God’s servants who have received and will receive the greatest honor.

With this understanding I would think that every Christian would be running for the second chair.

Blessed are those who faithfully play second fiddle, God hears the music and is pleased.

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