Category Archives: Value and Worth

Doing a Good Job

Proverbs 29:5 

A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet.

Flattery will get you everywhere – or so they say. But what about the person on the receiving end of the flattery – where will it get them? Is flattery a good thing, or is bad? Is it clever to flatter, or is it stupid? For instance, should a husband who has just worked his way through another awful meal tell his wife she is a wonderful cook? Or should the wife of a lazy husband who does little to help her around the home tell him what a fantastic husband he is?

My wife Marilyn was asked to help with the children’s work soon after we joined our present church. Marilyn knew that this wasn’t her calling, but she initially agreed. When she found out that it would involve leading some of the sessions she panicked. Flattery based on Marilyn’s success as mother to five children might have persuaded her that she would make a brilliant Sunday School teacher. Such flattery would have been misguided. Fortunately a wise lady suggested serving elsewhere. Nowadays Marilyn does occasionally help in Sunday School, but she is also a vital member of the church catering team serving where she thinks she can’t be seen. Despite hiding away in the church kitchen, Marilyn’s reputation for cake making means that she is much in demand. When people tell her how good her cakes are it is not flattery, but praise (and possibly a hint that more cakes would be appreciated).

As ever, this proverb is about wisdom, specifically the wise use of words of praise, and perhaps also the ways in which criticism can be provided constructively. If a person is continually on the end of undeserved flattery they may come to believe that they are something that they are not. Flattery has the potential to stack up problems for the person who is flattered to the point where they believe they can do something outside of their gifting or skill set.

God took great pleasure in making us all different, and in giving us different gifts and skills. Yes, it is important to be told when we have done a good job. But we also need to receive guidance and direction when we have not, especially if the reason is that we are in the wrong job. Telling a person they are good at something when they are not will eventually end in tears.

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Make Money Fast

Proverbs 28:20 

A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.

It is probable that ‘get rich quick’ schemes have been around since time immemorial. You may ask how they operated in Solomon’s day without a postal service, email, or Internet; but imagine a group of shepherds sitting around the fire one night talking about how poorly they are paid, with no overtime for the night shift, and no possibility of ever matching their employer in terms of wealth. One of them then says, “I met this fellow the other night in The Bethlehem Arms and he told me about a scheme involving something called soap. If we all invest one-quarter of our weekly wages for the next six months, which is only a little bit more than we spend on beer, he will supply us with the ingredients and secret recipe to manufacture soap. Then all we need is a market stall in Jerusalem and voila, we’ll make a fortune and never need to sit out here minding smelly sheep all night again.”

“Soap?!” replies one shepherd, “what is soap, and what do you do with it?” When Getrichqwikamiah replies “you use it to wash your body” the other shepherds all fall around laughing. “Who ever heard of anyone in Jerusalem washing?” shouts one, barely able to get the words out because he is laughing so much.

Solomon wasn’t just talking about people wanting to get rich quick, but about the condition of their hearts when wanting to be wealthy begins to rule their thoughts to the extent that it becomes an obsession. Jesus had opinions on wealth and those who let it dominate their lives. When a cheating tax collector came into contact with Jesus he ended up giving away most of his wealth. But another man with great wealth chose not to surrender his riches, and walked away from Jesus. I love the parable about the barn building landowner and how Jesus summarizes this teaching:

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21 NIV)


Oppressing the Poor

Proverbs 22: 22-23 

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
 and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life. (NIV)

Once again the writer challenges our attitudes to the poor. How we treat those who are poorer than us, or even weaker than us is important. Most of us would probably read this proverb and think that it doesn’t apply to us personally because we haven’t robbed or oppressed anybody. Perhaps we haven’t, but are we sure? What about times we have failed to stand up for someone? Take it right back to the school playground where it was easier to walk away than stand up for a fellow pupil facing ridicule or even physical violence. I can remember thinking ‘rather him than me’ on more than one occasion.

Then there is the work place. When I joined the Merchant Navy as a sixteen-year-old cadet it was made perfectly clear to me that I was at the bottom of the pecking order. The chief officer on my first ship used to shout at me regularly, perhaps because he had been treated the same way when he was starting his career. I remember the captain sticking up for me one day and the treatment I received improved a little after that. A few years later when I was an officer I found myself speaking up for a young Rastafarian able seaman who was assigned to my watch. In this case the bosun and another seaman were making this young man’s life a misery, with the knowledge of the chief officer! He had nobody to plead his case until I stepped in. I did not make myself popular in the process, but I could not ignore what was going on.

Oppression takes many forms. Read through these verses again – there is a significant warning in verse 22. Is God challenging you about your attitude to others, or is He calling you to take a stand in someone’s defense today?


Looking Inside the Pot

Proverbs 26:23 

Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. (NLT)

This is the first of several proverbs dealing with the subject of hypocrisy. Loosely defined this is saying one thing and doing another. Jesus warned about hypocrisy when he spoke about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in Matthew 23 verses 1-7:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

The Pharisees liked to dress up in fancy clothes and have the place of honor wherever they went. They constantly sought respect from the people of Israel, yet had a reputation for not practicing what they preached. The dressing up bit is mentioned in this proverb where it refers to covering an ordinary clay pot with silver. It isn’t what the pot looks like on the outside that matters – it is what it looks like on the inside.

The Apostle Paul taught that we should examine ourselves, especially before participating in communion (1 Corinthians 11:28-31). Communion in my church is scheduled twice monthly. What about the rest of the time? The fact is that we should be constantly checking up on ourselves. Portraying Jesus Christ is not an easy task. But we owe it to Jesus to do our best at following His example.

It is possible that Jesus appeared drab when standing close to the Pharisees, but only if you looked at what they were all wearing. When I read Scripture and look into Jesus I see the most beautiful person who ever lived. The problem is that He calls me to live like Him. If I claim to follow Jesus then I have to try and make that evident through the way that I live, not through what I am wearing, what I earn, what I drive, my position in church or any other thing. Jesus has to be visible in how I act, through the words that I speak, and in the thoughts behind the words that might not betray me to people, but are completely visible to God. I hate the thought of being a hypocrite. It is up to me to something about it.


Slings and Stones

Proverbs 26:8

“As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.”

Sling Shots

I used to own a pretty sweet sling shot. It had a handle shaped like a pistol grip, along with a metal brace that would go over my forearm. Attached to the forks was rubber tubing and a leather pouch. I could put a lead or steal ball in that sling shot and kill an elephant (at least in my imagination). However, the sling shot that I had as a child could not compare to the ones that were used during biblical times.

Home-made sling.

Home-made sling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one that David used against Goliath was a serious weapon which required considerable skill to use. Sure, my sling shot could kill small vermin and knock down targets at close range, but the type of slings Solomon was referring to could, and did, kill people. In Judges 20:16 we read how the Benjamites had 700 left-handed slingers who could aim at a hair and not miss. In 2 Kings 2:35 we read how that the Israelites used slings in warfare. As a matter of fact, lead shot used by the Greeks and Romans in warfare could have an effective range of over 200 yards.

Amazingly, even though the sling was in use over 3,000 years ago, it is still being used today as a weapon by survivalists and fighters alike.  It would seem that its simple construction, ease of use, low cost, unlimited availability of projectiles, and deadly potential could keep the sling in use forever. In the hands of a trained slinger, it is practically foolproof…unless you bind the stone.

Bound Stones

As good of a weapon that the sling shot is, it is worthless if the stone or shot never leaves the pouch. Sometimes a stone can fall out of the pouch by accident, but putting another one in only takes a second. But the idea of securing the stone to the sling so that it never leaves is like plugging the end of a rifle.

But this is what Solomon is trying to explain. Honor, prestige, wealth, giftedness, glory: all of these things are wonderful tools which can be used to great effect by the wise man. However, when in the possession of the fool, all of these things, especially honor, are worthless.

Implications

Solomon is speaking to the one who actually gives honor to a fool. The fool doesn’t posses honor on his own, but has it given to him. The warning in this verse is really aimed at the one who needs the stone thrown.

Some people will honor people who don’t deserve it with promotions and bonuses, thinking that those blessings will make the fool more of an asset. The problem is that the fool will not share in the honor given, nor will he use it appropriately. Therefore, instead of being useful, the fool has now become a liability, much like a soldier who refuses to fight.

Beware of political correctness. Beware of honoring for the sake of honoring. The one who truly makes honor worthless is the one who gives it to the fool in the first place.

 


Padded Résumés

Proverbs 25:14

“Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.”

Résumés

There are a few things I hate to do in life, such as flossing (but I do it, anyway), hanging blinds, changing diapers, and moving. I also hate writing résumés – about as much as I despise licking a cheese grater.

Résumés (also spelled resumes, but looks like it would sound like re-zooms) are so difficult because of the desire to boast. For those of us who have less to boast about, filling out a résumé can be even more challenging. There is always the temptation to “pad” the résumé with skills not quite developed, like saying you’re a “lion tamer” when all you’ve tamed is your pet cat.

Expectations

The problem with a padded résumé is that while it may get you in the door, it won’t guarantee you can do the job for which you are hired. When employers hire people based on the skills they are supposed to have, the expectation is that the employees use their skills, or “gifts,” when called upon.

Sadly, many people have been let go from high-paying, high-pressure jobs when their “boasting…of a false gift” became evident. Examples include Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, RadioShack CEO Dave Edmondson, and Notre Dame football coach George O’Leary.

No Water

Even more tragic than being found out is the negative effect lying about one’s abilities can have on others. When Solomon compares boasting about a false gift to clouds without rain, we might imagine thirsty people, or hungry people looking at withering crops. How cruel it would be to promise them water but never deliver!

Don’t be a cloud without water. Don’t boast about gifts and abilities you don’t have. Be the best you can be and live up to the expectations others rightfully have of you.


How to Get Ahead

Proverbs 22:29

“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean [men].”
“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” – ESV
Victims

True victims should be pitied and cared for; those with a victim attitude should not. Oh, we should care, sure, but there comes a point when people need to quit blaming their lack of progress on others.

I know what it is like to lose everything. I know what it is like to go from making good money to having to work multiple jobs just to feed my family. But many will not lift a finger for themselves, while all along condemning those who have worked for what they have. They live as victims of their own laziness.

Just the other day I overheard a conversation a manager was having with an employee. The manager tried to encourage the employee to seek a better position in the company, but the employee would not accept. The reason she gave was that if she moved into a better paying position she would lose some of her welfare benefits. She would rather live on what was given to her than work for anything.

Victors

Look at the working man. Look at what he is doing and how he is doing it. He is diligent, which means he does the best he can as promptly as he can. He cares about his work, no matter what that work is.

There once was a waiter at  a particular restaurant. One day the restaurant changed their menu and began offering Pepsi instead of Coca-Cola. When a customer was saddened by the change, the waiter went around the corner to a convenience store, bought a Coke, and brought it to the table. He was diligent in his business.

Not long after the Pepsi/Coke incident we discovered the waiter had left the restaurant! When we asked where he went we were informed he had been promoted – to manage his own restaurant!

Visible

When a person wants to get ahead in life, the last thing he needs is to be invisible.  Look at the man who does his best and works hard – look at the man who hones his skills and fine-tunes his gifts – and you will find a man who gets noticed.

If you want to be considered worthy to stand in the presence of kings, do work that is worthy to be noticed by kings.

Don’t be a victim – be a victor! You will get noticed.