Friday, December 31, 2004

Help Wanted

1 Corinthians 16:13 (New International Version)

13”Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”

Our men’s group at church has been discussing manhood for a little over a month now. A couple of nights ago the subject was “the wounds of a father.” The essence of the discussion was about the wounds fathers inflict, and imbedded in that discussion was the wounds our fathers have had inflicted on themselves as well.

I believe a lot of the wounding comes from expectations. Society, or men in society, seems to be bound by expectations of what a man should be. Almost every everyone disagrees with these conventions, but almost all men strive to live up to them. The conventions look something like this:

“He was a man’s man, an incredible football player. A hard-drinking, hard-living man every guy looked up to. He drove a truck, chewed tobacco, loved the outdoors. He used to eat glass. I’m serious. It was sort of a frat party trick he took on, the ultimate display of dangerous strength. He’d literally take a bite out of a glass, chew it slowly and swallow it. When he worked as a bouncer for a tough bar, it made a pretty impressive show to get the roughnecks in line.”

- John Eldridge, from Wild at Heart

It all goes a lot further, though, than the frat party tricks. Look at the “help wanted” section of any newspaper and you’ll see what society is looking for. The buzz-words say it all – “we’re looking for someone who’s "DRIVEN.” “We need a SELF-STARTER." “Are you an "AGGRESSIVE SELF-STARTER"? Then you’re the man for us!”
Well, you say, that’s just worldly hyperbole. Really? Are you aware that this same thinking has invaded the Church? There’s a church in Virginia, for example, that is looking to fill a position for “director of youth and student ministries.” What are they looking for? The person they want needs to be “a proven SELF-STARTER.”

I could provide more examples, but I believe I’ve made my point.

How many of you out there in the Blogosphere have felt the effects of men who have been hired because they were “aggressive?” Have you met one of those “driven” types in a board-room during your career? I’d be willing to bet you have and I’d also be willing to bet that it wasn’t a bit of fun. You’ve been around these guys. You know what they’re like and you know how they act. They basically bully their way to “success.”

We’re all having fun, aren’t we?

The other night I posited the idea that what the world (and the Church) is looking for is exactly the opposite of what it needs. Well, after I left our meeting the other night I gave the matter some more thought, and as I thought about it all I imagined how Jesus Himself would have approached a job interview in our day.

At first glance He would have seemed just right for the position. For the corporation looking for someone who could walk on water, Jesus would truly be able to say that He not only could, but had. The rest of us have to pretend and demonstrate that pretense in our resumes. For the outfit looking for someone with “god-like” qualities, Jesus again could say He did and mean it. The rest of us, once again, would have to pretend.

But that’s where this neat fit seems to end. If Jesus were asked if He was a self-starter in an interview I believe His response would be something like this:

John 8:28 (New International Version)

28”So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”

For those looking for the aggressive guy, the guy who chews glass and swallows it, Jesus would be a great disappointment. He’d be the type of guy who would approach any workgroup he managed and give them advice like this:

Matthew 11:29 (New International Version)

29”Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

For the company looking for someone “driven to be successful” Jesus would be exactly the opposite of what they were looking for:

Philippians 2:8 (New International Version)

8"And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death–
even death on a cross!”

And worse yet, Jesus’ advice to the workplace would be totally out of step with the current “reality:”

Luke 14:11 (New International Version)

11”For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

It all sorta’ makes this fella’ wonder whether Jesus could even get a job in modern society. I can almost hear the hiring panel discussing Him right now. “I mean, He’s really a nice guy, but he doesn’t seem aggressive enough to me. I think he’d be a push-over.” I can even hear the response. “You’re right. He really is a nice guy, but the union would chew him up and spit him out.” In the end the hiring panel would all agree. “Let’s call Brutus, the guy who chews glass, in and offer him the job.”

When we occasionally get together with Nancy’s family, her two brothers John and James discuss work. John says “it’s really hard.” Jimmy, who’s retarded, almost always responds emphatically, “That’s why they call it W…..O…..R…..K, Johnny!” I believe they’re both right. It is W…..O…..R…..K. And it’s not fun. It could be a lot better, but given the current circumstances it won’t be any time soon. Those running the corporations and doing the hiring are looking for, expecting, and even demanding the “wrong stuff.”

My next post won’t be until 2005. I hope you can wait till then. I’m going to look at Jesus as a son. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Nice post. I see that too often. The aggressive, bullying types (both male and female) are the ones that get ahead, and the "nice people finish last". There's something wrong with the world today.

Pastor Mike said...

It is so amazing to me how the Bible says almost the exact opposite from what the world teaches us. For example it says to give and it shall be given to you, humble yourself before God and He will lift you up, to prefer others before yourself, don't be in a hurry to get rich, as well as the least shall become the greatest. How would all this act in the corporate world of the Enrons and WorldComs of today?