Substance Over Style


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 12; 146, 2 Samuel 7:18-29, Acts 18:12-28, Mark 8:22-33

Successfully interviewing potential employees requires a lot of insight. Because it can be so overwhelming, many employers and hiring managers follow rules-of-thumb to quickly weed out applicants from large piles of resumes. A typo or lack of white space may route someone right to the circular file. Employers may apply similar rules to streamline the interview process. Applicants who have a good interview but don’t supply a timely thank you note may inadvertently disqualify themselves. One could argue these mistakes speak to a lack of attention to detail or follow-through. On the other hand, employers are not usually looking for people whose primary skills include writing resumes and interviewing for new jobs. In some cases, to the chagrin of many a hiring manager, excellent resume and interview skills mask a host of other deficiencies more pertinent to the position.

Eloquence and charisma are no substitute for actual knowledge and experience. Yet people are often more swayed in their opinions by someone who sounds convincing – or convinced – than by people who lack charm but tell truth. A smoothly delivered inaccuracy (or outright lie) may very well be more widely accepted than an ill-spoken fact.

Like good interviewers, we need to be able to discern what’s beneath the surface; between style and substance.

When Priscilla and Aquila (followers of Paul, disciples of Christ) first ran into Apollos, he was enthusiastic, bold, and eloquent in declaring the Way of the Lord. He was also a little deficient in his knowledge, so “they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately” so he might join them in preaching the gospel. This was a smart hire. For evangelists, style can matter quite a bit. But Priscilla and Aquila knew he needed more substance to do the job well.

They didn’t rule him out over the verbal equivalent of a typo, and they didn’t let him fly solo until he’d proven his skill matched his swagger. Let’s follow their example and be discerning about whom we let sway us. However persuasive we may find the messenger, the message is what counts.

Additional Reading:
For more thoughts on today’s reading from Acts, see Under Construction.
For thoughts on today’s passage from Mark, see Cracked.

Comfort: Even when you don’t feel eloquent, you may have something to say.

Challenge: Flip through a few different news channels. Pay attention to who you pay attention to and why.

Prayer: May the LORD, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion. (Psalm 134:3)

Discussion: Have you ever misjudged someone’s abilities or integrity because of their charisma?

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