Career Advice

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, Isaiah 57:14-21, Galatians 6:11-18, Mark 9:30-41


If you’ve been on a job interview in the last fifteen years or so, there’s a good chance you’ve been asked: “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” Potential employers ask this question hoping to determine how well your goals and motivation fit the position. Imagine applying for the position of vice-president of a Fortune 500 company, and answering: “I’m hoping to be in an entry-level position in the mail room by then.”

That would be a pretty crazy answer – unless you were interviewing for the position of disciple. Jesus had some unorthodox recruiting techniques (“Hey, Peter and Andrew! Quit your jobs and follow me!”) so it’s no surprise his career advice was unconventional as well. When the disciples argued about which of them was the greatest, Jesus told them: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” When following Jesus, success means service.

This doesn’t mean we should suppress or hide our talents and contributions, or that we can’t be leaders. To the contrary, we should fully use all the gifts at our disposal to the glory of God. We can even apply for that CEO position, as long as in all things we are serving as Christ commanded. No matter how successful the world tells us we might be, God’s criteria for success include how welcoming we are to children or whether we give a thirsty person a cup of water. We can serve from a penthouse or a cardboard box, but we must serve.

Servant leadership costs us. Sometimes that cost is social standing and higher earning; other times it may be our safety. Paul bore the marks of servant leadership on his body in the form of scars from beatings he received for spreading the gospel. We don’t aspire to these hardships or offer them as proof of our superior humility, but if necessary we modestly accept them. They prepare us for a career of Christ-like leadership. If someone asks us where we want to be in five years, are we ready to say “last of all?”

Comfort: Serving in the spirit of the Gospel is pleasing to the Lord.

Challenge: Be sure to temper your ambition with your humility.

Prayer: Creator God, I will use the gifts you have entrusted to me to serve your people. Amen.

Discussion: What’s the difference between being humble and demeaning yourself?

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Cults of Personality

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 116; 147:12-20, Judges 8:22-35, Acts 4:1-12, John 1:43-51


Poor Gideon. He was a poor farm boy from a poor clan and had no desire to lead Israel, but God the Father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. After Gideon – with the Lord’s help – led the Israelites into a miraculous victory over the oppressive Midianites, his people asked him (and his son and grandson) to rule over them. Gideon replied: “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.” Instead he fashioned an ephod (priestly garment) from the golden earrings which had been worn by the Midianites and become spoils of war. Scripture tells us the Israelites made an idol of this ephod, and flocked to it as if they were chasing after a prostitute. It was the ruin of Gideon’s family.

It’s quite telling how easily the people settled for an idol instead of a leader as though they were equivalent. How little we’ve changed. Many churches build entire identities around the charisma of a specific minister. Millions of people hang on every word from celebrity preachers and cite their books and sermons like gospel. Citizens surrender their individual identities under banners and deafening chants of a candidate’s name. At least Gideon had the sense to say “don’t follow me – follow God.” When humble Gideon made a huge error in judgment, the people worshiped the error to the exclusion of God. When we turn a person into an idol not only are we prone to overlook their flaws, we are prone to double-down and spin those flaws into virtues.

We belong not to a single pastor or congregation, but to the Body of Christ. We owe our primary allegiance not to a candidate, a party, or even a nation, but to the Kingdom of Heaven. We must not turn anyone into an idol who warps our faith; rather we must measure all would-be idols against the standards set by Christ. Idols – whether graven or human – eventually betray us. We may out of necessity follow a Gideon into battle, but only Christ leads us to eternal life.

Comfort: Christ is our spiritual north star.

Challenge: Meditate on the people and institutions you follow; how critical of them are you?

Prayer: Loving and all powerful God, I am faithful to you above all others. Amen.

Discussion: Without tearing apart someone’s character, when have you been disappointed in someone you trusted as a leader?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!