Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Look for Ways to Be Humbled

One last word on pride from last week's posts. I've mentioned before that my wife and I had a baby at the beginning of this month. In just a little over 3 weeks, he has taught me an important lesson about pride. Before he was born, I'd taken time to read a lot of books on caring for babies. I tried to read things that represented a wide variety of viewpoints and techniques. And now that he's here, I implement a lot of that knowledge when he's crying or when taking care of him in this or that way. And sometimes it works. That's a great feeling, when you try something that's supposed to soothe a screaming baby and it works. It's a huge ego boost to be able to calm our baby. But other times, I go through my list of things to try and nothing seems to help. I think to myself, "wait a minute, I had this down just a few hours ago." My ego boost from the success goes flat faster than you can say "dirty diaper."

Having accomplishments at work is great. And like I've said a number of times, you need to strive to produce quality work. But don't shy away from humbling experiences. They can keep your pride in check and show you how much you depend on others and how much you depend on God.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Day After Easter

I hope you had a wonderful worship experience yesterday as most of Christianity celebrated the resurrection of our Savior. I hope it was a time for you to reflect on God's Grace and His victory over death.

But now it's Monday. How will the celebration of Jesus change the way you face this week? How will your Christianity make a difference in your work? Don't let the joy and hope of Easter fade now that Sunday has past. Christ is risen today, just as He was yesterday.

Friday, April 22, 2011

He Humbled

Philippians 2:5-8

I need to start with a caveat that I probably should have included in Wednesday's post. If it seems like that post on pride or this one on humility makes me look like I've got it all together or that I don't struggle with pride, that is not my intent, nor is it true. I'm writing to myself this week, just as much as I'm writing to any of you.

The opposite of pride is humility or humbleness. Jesus uses the idea of meekness in Matthew 5:5. It means recognizing our place in the universe (i.e., very small). It means recognizing our dependence on God (complete). It means that, while our accomplishments seem great in our own eyes, we worship a God who created the universe (an infinitely greater accomplishment). James says that humility comes from wisdom (3:13). Other passages talk about God giving salvation and grace to the humble (Psalm 149:4 and James 4:6, respectively).

Perhaps the most exemplary model of humility is Jesus Himself. Philippians 2 reminds us how far the Son of God stooped to save us from sin. "Being in very nature God," Jesus was at the very highest height of the universe. Nothing that we can imagine was equal to Him. But, instead of taking pride in that, He "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." He refused to take pride in His position. Instead, He "made Himself nothing." He humbled Himself as far as He could and "became obedient to death, even death on a cross." In addition to the pain and horror, the cross was particularly humbling because it was a style of execution reserved for the lowest of the low criminals. Jesus went from the infinitely highest place in the universe to the absolute lowest.

Kind of brings everything into perspective in terms of our own pride, doesn't it? The antidote for pride is to remember what you'd be without God. In Him, you move and have your being (Acts 17:28). You would be less than nothing without Him.

It's great to get a promotion or land a major account. And it's fine to celebrate those accomplishments as gifts from God. Just remember where they come from. Remember that nothing is possible without your creator.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pride Goes Before Destruction

Proverbs 16:18

Pride is an interesting problem for Christians in the workplace. On the one hand, we're told to do quality work. On the other, the Bible warns against pride with verses such as:

"Pride goes before destruction" (Prov. 16:18)
"I hate pride and arrogance" (Prov. 8:13)
"He looks upon the lowly, but the proud, He knows from afar" (Psalm 138:6)
"Do not be proud" (Romans 12:16)
"[Love] is not proud" (1 Cor. 13:4)

And that list is just a small sampling.

Al Pacino, playing Satan in The Devil's Advocate, states that vanity (another word for pride) is his favorite sin. Obviously, the movie is not speaking on behalf of the devil, but pride is certainly one temptation that is particularly dangerous.

One reason that pride can be so dangerous is that it hides our weaknesses, which may be the reason that "pride goes before destruction." We begin to think we're untouchable, and then we don't notice mistakes and other problems that creep up around us.

Another reason that pride is a big problem is that it alienates others. Romans 12:3 says "do not think of yourself more highly than you ought," and the context is that we all need other people. That's true in our Christian walk (which is Paul's reference in the Romans passage), but it's also true at work. There are very few, if any, jobs that you can do without some kind of dependence on other people. In the university classes that I teach, students invariably hate group assignments. However, the lessons of dealing with underperforming group members or with having to coordinate schedules (which are the two most common complaints) are important as students go into jobs where they will have to work with others. Very rarely will your job performance be solely dependent on you, and pride tends to hide the fact that we need other people.

But perhaps the most important reason that the Bible warns against pride is that is such a small step from pride in one's accomplishments to forgetting how much we need God. Pride diminishes God's work in our lives, and how He provides for us in terms of our day-to-day living. Pride in an achievement at work neglects God's help in giving you the skills and knowledge to do the work that you do. And that kind of pride also makes it easier to forget that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, that we are nothing without Jesus.

Where do you struggle with pride? Take a long look at your life, particularly how you think about your work. Identify the areas in which you're more susceptible to pride. Then take those areas to God in prayer.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I really liked what Nancy wrote about apologies. This week, I'm planning to post about pride, and that's really related to apologies. I think the reasons why saying a sincere "I'm sorry" is that we don't want to lose face. We're prideful. This week, if you are in the wrong, apologize. We'll talk more about pride on Wednesday and Friday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Only Human

This week, Kobe Bryant yelled a homophobic slur at a referee. He was fined and shamed, as he should have been for saying what he said. In his comments after the incident, he noted that "the concern that I have is for those that follow what I say and ... look to me as a role model." Kobe is used to living in the spotlight, where people pay more attention to his actions and expect him to be above reproach to a certain extent. It seems like almost every couple of weeks, another public figure is caught doing something that they shouldn't be doing. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that they are just human. I'm not making excuses for what Kobe or anyone else has done. Nor am I saying that they shouldn't be subject to high standards given the tendency for others, especially young people, to look up to such public figures. But really, they are, after all, human. All too often, I think we forget that our bosses and coworkers are also human in one of two ways. In the first way, we set super-human expectations for them and are disappointed when they don't live up to those expectations. It's important to realize that the people around us make mistakes. Your boss is going to make mistakes. When he or she does, it's important to understand that this person is just someone else in need of a Savior. In the second way, we see the people around us almost as uncaring robots, who interact with us but are devoid of feelings and needs. This is dangerous because it gives us a false loophole in the command to love others: Jesus tells us to love other people, but maybe our coworkers and bosses don't count. The reality is that we're all only human. We make mistakes. Your boss makes mistakes. Your coworkers make mistakes. Your subordinates, your clients, your venders, they all make mistakes. Rather than expecting someone to be perfect, look for ways that you can show love to people in spite of their shortcomings. God did that for you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blessed Interruptions

James 4:13-16 cf Jeremiah 29:11; Acts 17:26-28 On April 2nd, I received a "blessed interruption" in that my first child was born, which is why I haven't posted since then. Nathan was due on April 22--I was supposed to have 3 more weeks to prepare. I'd planned to have maybe a month's worth of posts built up by then so I could be posting here, but wouldn't have to fit that in around diaper changing and desperately trying to catch up on sleep. I'd planned to get ahead in a lot of things before he came. As I sat in the hospital rocking Nathan so my wife could get some sleep, I thought about how my plans for the next three weeks would need to change. That led me to think about James 4:13-16. Last August, I posted about the danger of living rigidly by a day planner. The text for that passage was James 4:13-16, where James warns merchants not to make plans without the caveat "if the Lord wills" we will do such and such. The lesson is that many of us, myself included, get caught up in our day-to-day to do lists and lose sight of the hand of God in our lives. Interestingly, God has a way of getting our attention sometimes. Steinbeck (and Robert Burns before him) explained that the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. Sometimes, those things happen because we're pursuing a course different from what God had in mind for us. But even when we tell ourselves that, it's still tough to bear down deep in our core. My interruption was a wonderful one, but that isn't always the case--not getting an account, missing a promotion, an argument with a coworker or supervisor, getting "right sized"--all of these interrupt our plans. The lesson from James as well as other passages such as Jeremiah 29:11 and Acts 17:26-28 is that God knows our plans but His plans take priority. In Acts 17, Paul explains to the Athenians that God put us here, at this time and at this place. Jeremiah tells the people of Judah that they are going into 70 years of captivity (a MAJOR interruption!!), but that God had plans for them to prosper greatly after those 70 years were over. How many times of prosperity have we missed because we've refused to consider God's plans for our time? As you continue through this week and plan for the next, be sure to leave flexibility in your schedule. Who knows what kinds of blessed interruptions God will bring your way?

Friday, April 1, 2011

What does Faith in Your Job Look Like?

In addition to writing here, I try to read what others are saying about living out your Christianity in your workplace. I came across a website called Faith in the Workplace, and an article there described what it might look like to consistently express faith where you work. The article says that Christianity at work starts with ethics and with doing high quality work. Evangelism is part of it, but not in an overbearing way. Finally, being Christian in the workplace means considering how any work reflects the creative work of God.