The Stigma of a Negative Rating and the Untold Story of The Sneak King (Genesis 35)

It is a mixed blessing living in this digital age of immediate accessibility to information combined with an endless stream of content being generated by people across the planet.  While it is certainly handy to be able to get directions at the push of a button and find answers with a simple query on the nearest smartphone, as a society we have lost something incredibly valuable in the exchange… the ability to discover something new without already having an opinion formed by another’s experience.

Think about it… before you go to a new restaurant you read the ratings to see what others have thought about it.  Maybe you peruse pictures of what the plates of food look like or check social media to see if your friends have tried it.  They may all have completely different ideas on what tastes good but it still influences your decision-making process before you have even gotten in your car.  And it’s no different in the world of gaming, as everyone from official gaming sites to individual personalities on social media forums have a review of each and every game complete with a rating and story synopsis before you have had a chance to consume the experience for yourself.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it can be quite convenient to avoid wasting your valuable currency on a game stuffed full of bugs, or to check the content of a game prior to purchasing to insure it fits what you find appropriate for yourself or your family.  But if one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, it may be possible that a game that you would truly enjoy may simply suffer from negative press and poor ratings from people who simply don’t have the same taste as you.  As a case in point, I would like to present to you in all of its jumbled and unappreciated glory, the magnificence that is Sneak King.

If you are one of the multitudes who missed this, you have denied yourself the opportunity to play as the one and only Burger King in a stealth adventure that requires sharp reflexes, cunning, and a burning desire to surprise your hapless victims with a delicious croissanwich sandwich.  As the titular Burger King, you will climb scaffolds, infiltrate buildings, and most importantly deliver your concealed chicken fries and whoppers to people who must be snuck up on and forcibly given your fast-food offerings.

Not enough for you?  In addition to this awesome setup, you are also tasked with performing a celebratory dance after each successful food attack, which is set up in a risk/reward structure that requires excellent timing and rhythm to pull off.  But if you are truly elite and worthy of wearing the crown that only a true Sneak King can possess, you will not only successfully sneak up undetected on a construction worker as they exit a port-a-potty to hand deliver a tasty whopper sandwich but also top this off with a well-choreographed dancing flourish.  If that synopsis doesn’t make you track down a second-hand copy of this game which is one part Splinter Cell mixed with a healthy dose of budgetary limitations and complete insanity, I’m just not sure we have the same palette for video games.  I hope we can still be friends.

The truth is this game is not for everyone, and reviews for it were pretty unkind.  But because of my love of many terrible games along with the absurdity of the concept I loved it.  And there are many other titles that I have found delightful and entertaining but other gamers and reviewers have not shared my enthusiasm for them. If I had listened to others opinions before forming my own, I may have been steered away from many incredible and unique adventures that I really enjoyed.  But when reviews and previews and just plain VIEWS are so prevalent it’s very difficult to indulge in anything without finding someone else’s opinion on it first and having your outlook adjusted accordingly.

As we have been finding over the past two weeks, names have a special significance in the Bible and in many ways acted as a “preview” of the individual and their path in life.  But sometimes the name can be given unfairly based on the skewed viewpoint of the individual providing the christening, and in the case of Genesis 35 we will find an individual who was on the wrong end of the naming process before they even had a chance to launch.

BEN-ONI/BENJAMIN: Let’s briefly  fill in the background of the situation so we have some context to this tragic story.  Jacob, who has been renamed Israel, has two wives named Leah and Rachel.  They are sisters who have had a fairly bitter rivalry ever since they became “sister wives” and a primary source of competition between the two of them was childbearing.  Simply put, Leah had been tremendously successful in providing her husband with multiple sons but to this point Rachel had achieved a grand total of one.  This was a great source of frustration for Rachel and as we find her in Genesis 35:16 her seeming success with delivering another child would sadly be her swan song in the Scriptures.

This labor was an incredibly difficult one, and giving birth to this child that had meant so much to her just a few short verses earlier brought her to a place of incredible pain and unfortunately to a bitter ending.  As the midwife attempted to provide some good news that Rachel had successfully delivered another male child, all Rachel could see was that this final act would come at the cost of her life.  Drawing her final breaths, the last recorded actions of Rachel was to name her newborn son Ben-Oni, which translated means “Son of my sorrow”.  As her soul departed this plane of existence she placed a horrific burden on this innocent soul who had yet to even open his eyes.

A tragic end to the life of Jacob’s most desired bride, but more importantly a doomed beginning for the infant child who would carry this name for the remainder of his days.  This name would be a constant reminder that his birth had cost his mother her life, and robbed his father of the love of his life.  What an awful amount of baggage to heap on such tiny shoulders.  With no concept of the language he was hearing as this name was uttered, he was already a failed man walking.  And just like an unfair review or a misguided opinion about a game, movie, or any other area of life that can be rated and scored, this happens to us and around us all the time.

Maybe it’s not your given name on your birth certificate, but it was branded on you just the same.  Maybe it was a moment when your parent told you that you would never amount to anything.  Or when a partner in a relationship let you know how much of a failure and disappointment you are.  It could be an employer who destroyed your confidence by informing you that you simply aren’t good enough.  And more to the point, it happens each and every day as people hurl racist, sexist, body-shaming, and hurtful labels and names at others either in person or in an even more cowardly fashion over social media.  And we carry these burdens that were unfairly thrust upon us not realizing that just like Rachel and Ben-Oni, this did not come from an informed place, but a place of pain.

Rachel was reacting to a pain that little Ben-Oni wasn’t even aware of, and he became an unwitting target due to his proximity and inability to resist.  Slapped with a negative review before he had a chance to breathe, this could have cursed this poor child’s entire existence as he wore this shame and was forced to acknowledge it each and every time his name was called.  But this might be where you stop me and say, “Wait a minute… I know all the names of the 12 tribes of Israel and I don’t remember one called Ben-Oni”.  And you would be correct.  Here is your bonus gold star for paying attention in Sunday School.

See, the child’s father knew that this was not who he was and would not let him remain in this cursed state.  While Ben-oni’s birth inadvertently led to Rachel’s death, his father neither blamed him for this nor wanted him to spend his life agonizing over it.  He looked at his child and proclaimed that his name would be Benjamin, which is translated as “Son of my right hand”.  This was a name of strength and confidence.  The right hand represented a favored spot, and was considered a place of honor in seating arrangements.  Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, and when the Father divided the sheep and the goats the sheep were placed on his right hand side.  Jacob refused to let his child be defined by the negative review of one dissatisfied person as he saw something worthy of receiving the favored position in this previously poorly named child.

Like Benjamin, we were born into a cursed name, and I don’t simply mean as sinners although that is also true.  No matter how wonderful or well-meaning the people who raised us have been, at points throughout our lives we have been the recipients of negative reviews, unfair characterizations, ignorant stereotypes, or trapped in a moment where a mistake was made that we cannot remove from our profile.  And each day we carry that 1-star rating over our heads, a neon sign flashing the name we were given that simply won’t stop following us around.  Failure.  Liar.  Thief.  Adulterer.  Loser.  Addict.  Hypocrite.

Now for the good news.  Your Father does not call you by those names.  You are not the child of His sorrow, even though the requirement for you to be birthed as His child did cost the life of His Son. You are also the child of His right hand, and He renamed you as He held you for the first time covered in the blood of His precious Son who died so you could be born.  Gone are the reminders of the pain you didn’t mean to cause.  Erased are the references to a moment you didn’t intend to create.  Banished are the negative attempts to define you from people who lashed out from their pocket of pain to spitefully label you.  He sees beyond the moment to the real you, the one you are becoming and one day will fully be.  And when we choose to call ourselves by that name and see ourselves the way our Father sees us, we can see that those old labels are only used by the misinformed who are still unable to see past their pain.

I hope this encourages you to move past the reviews you have received, even if they are fairly earned.  He was not surprised by how much you cost to become His child, and He considers you well worth the sacrifice.  He has a special name for you… you are the child of His strength, His favored child, the child of His right hand.  Allow His love to erase the damage done by carrying these unkind labels.  He has a better name and a better future chosen for you!

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