integrity

Does the Everyday Mundane Matter?

Do you believe the everyday activity of ordinary Christians has deep religious significance? The answer really depends on when in the history of the church you ask it.

Prior to the Reformation, Christians in the medieval church would have answered no. They believed only priests did spiritual work. All other activity was secular.

It was the sixteenth century reformers, men like Martin Lutherand John Calvin, who rediscovered the biblical idea that everything we do is important to God.

These men encouraged Christians to be salt and light in the world. They believed it was possible to maintain integrity of faith while injecting Christian influence within society.

They were right.

Western civilization is replete with examples of followers of Christ who positively shaped culture through their work in the fields to which God had called them.

Many American evangelicals during the last seventy-five years have let the sacred/secular distinction corrupt their worldview in such a way that they leave their faith at home when they enter the public square.

They are ambivalent about engaging with social and political matters, as the Reformers urged.

They fear involvement in such secular matters will compromise the integrity of their faith.

They are convinced faith is a private matter and best kept that way.

They have lost sight of the spiritual significance of their work.

To be sure, the risk they have identified is real. Being in the world but not of it is not easy. It is not safe. But it is what we are called to be.

These thoughts came to me recently as I was finishing Carl Henry’s Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, published in 1947. In this book, Henry, an American evangelical theologian who served as Christianity Today‘s first editor-in-chief, wrote a stinging critique of Christian fundamentalism in the late 1940s.

Almost prophetically, Henry argued fundamentalists did not present Christianity as a worldview with a vision for impacting culture. Instead, they chose to emphasize personal salvation. In doing so, they offered a truncated, impoverished version of the gospel to the world. This gospel was too other-worldly and anti-intellectual to be taken seriously.

And so, in their efforts to preserve orthodox Christianity from modernity and liberalism at the beginning of the twentieth century, evangelicals lost an important ingredient that has been a powerful influence throughout the 2,000 years of Christian history. They forgot how to be leaven in the loaf. (Matthew 13:33)

The good news is that sixty years later, many of Henry’s hopes for evangelicalism are beginning to be realized. Today’s evangelicals are re-engaging many social and political issues and working together to influence culture for the kingdom.

Yet the importance of our daily vocational work in the furtherance of God’s kingdom is still lost on many believers. Many still feel they need to quit their jobs and start working for ministries or non-profits to truly make a difference in the world. They don’t. They can be salt and light right where they currently work.

Bringing faith to work or anywhere else in the public square runs many risks, but it is essential if Christians are to be leaven where leavening is most needed.

If Christianity is to once again become a positive influence in American public life, all Christians need to be present within that life as salt and light. Christians need to leave the safety of their Christian ghettos and take the risks necessary for reforming, renewing, and recalling today’s culture.

The legacy of the Reformation invites us to engage the world. It instructs us in how to do so with integrity and as public witnesses to the power of the gospel.

So, do you believe the everyday activity of ordinary Christians has deep religious significance?

The real question should be “Does the Bible teach that the everyday activity of ordinary Christians has deep religious significance?”

The answer is yes, absolutely yes, in any age.

 

Originally published by the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE). ©Institute for Faith, Work & Economics 2015. Used by permission.

Jabez, Agur and Volkswagen

I own my second Passat in three years. I believed in the "clean diesel" bill of goods sold to consumers by Volkswagen, now exposed to be a major hoax and sure to result in a series of federal and international criminal indictments and consumer lawsuits. Volkswagen got itself into this major mess out of its oft-stated goal to be the globe's largest auto manufacturer.

It is hard for a Christian business person to argue against growth. Neither do they wish to argue against the sacrifice of integrity. And yet, they seem to regularly clash against each other as they have done with Volkswagen and so many other case studies in the history of enterprise. Enter the prayers of Jabez and Agur.

The Jabez Prayer received new life and a lot of conversation a few  years ago.

"Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." - Chronicles 4:10

Less known, and perhaps more provocative, is the prayer of Agur.

"Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die. Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." -Proverbs 30:7-9

In effect, Jabez prays for an increase in his efforts and a cessation of all difficulty, while Agur prays for ethical groundedness even if he must struggle. Those who engage in business like the Jabez orientation, and yet the prayer of Agur speaks at the soul level, reminding the business person of the need for carefully cultivated integrity and a God-centered perspective of all things.

--Some seem to respond to these prayers as if one must make a choice between them. If so, which would you prefer? Which one calls to you the most?

--Others conclude that these prayers are not in conflict, rather that they reflect a progression. In effect, as Jabez lives longer and becomes more wise, his prayer shifts to something more like Agur prays. Does this reflect your pilgrimage as you have moved from the amibitious intern to the CEO who views her or his role as a steward of God's gifts?

--I think about these prayers a bit differently. For me, these prayers are not in conflict. Neither is it a progresssion a person goes through from Jabez's immaturity to Agur's wisdom. Instead I think the Agur prayer is the foundation for anyone who holds a Christian orientation. Then and only then, with the commitment to live in integrity, to be detached from material possessions, and a God-centered orientation firmly in place, can one move to pray that God would enlarge such a territory and to reduce the pain of the journey (and there will be pain).

Comparing and contrasting these prayers makes for a good exercise among a leadership team -- even if they are not people of faith. They are Jewish prayers first and foremost. And they reflect heart cries that people of all stripes tend to have. What other prayers or heart cries might be uttered that would embellish or edit what Jabez and Agur have said? What next steps are called out of those who serve your customers beside you? How does your firm reconcile the impulse to grow with the need for integrity?

Reclaiming the purpose of your work week

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” -Proverbs 22:1

Have you ever had someone’s name come up in conversation, and you just rave about that person? You speak well of them, you tell about their outstanding character, you love to be merely in the same room as them.

This is a person with a “good name.”

A good name is ultimately what lasts. Riches don’t go with you to the grave, but your character does. The problem is that we tend to lose focus in the working world. It lures us to build up money and accumulate things. And we end up forgetting about the most important task that the 40 hours a week should see us doing—that of building good character.

So how do you start to focus on building up a good name instead of building up riches, which come and go?

Here’s four ways to start:

1. Allegiance to God, not man. We have to yield daily to His principles and start to live in the reality that we are working for the Lord first, our boss second. When we have the mindset of working for God, we pay more attention to his rules, his ways, and his directions. As our boss and the one we serve, he desires vastly different things than many of the bosses that we will encounter. Stay always in the mindset that you are working for Him and serving Him first, and His ways will gradually become yours. God isn’t interested in making you rich (“Oh how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!”)—he’s interested in making you more into the image of His son.

2. Loving others more than yourself. When we are self-centered (which is a lot of the time!), we focus on what will serve our kingdom best. For me, this generally leads to giving more time to myself, spending more money on myself, and thinking about myself. I’m essentially putting my resources into puffing up my own world.

Ouch.

But when you start to focus on others and spend time learning how to love them, two things happen. You start to build others up, and by doing so, you become more of a servant-hearted person. There are few people I know that would rather spend time with someone who’s prideful rather than someone who’s humble.

3. Integrity. Simply put, you’ve got to be the same person…everywhere you go. Many people build up a good name for themselves at work, but their home life is a train wreck. It’s not worth it to receive accolades as a professional but fail as a brother. It doesn’t build one area of your life and neglect the rest. Your name is a holistic representation of who you are. It comprises your work self, your church self, your personal self, your family self, and more. The task is to bridge any gaps that remain and fix inconsistencies.

4. Gratitude. Many go through life blazing their own trail and leaving a cloud of dust behind them. They use people to get what they want and step over people to get to the top. What they’re leaving behind them is a trail of people who think poorly of them because they’ve been treated poorly, which in the end doesn’t serve the person at all. Who wants to be at the top, only to find that everybody hates you?

The antidote to this path is gratitude. Yes, fight hard, become better at what you do. But thank the people that help you along the way. Thank your mom and dad for raising you and teaching you. Thank your boss, even if they weren’t so great (you can always learn something from tough people).

Thank your teachers, your friends, your spouse.

Thankfulness yields a good trail of people who think well of you. We live in a world of overworked, under-appreciated people. So when people feel appreciated, they appreciate you back. A hand-written note truly does amazing things to the heart. I’ve seen people change their countenance before my eyes when I’ve handed them a thank-you note.

What about you? What has your experience in the working world been like? What steps have you taken to make sure you’re pursuing the right things? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Four Agreements

One of my Perfect Year intentions is to reread a handful of books that were (and still are) very meaningful and significant to me. The one I just finished reading is The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. The lessons from this book are amazingly insightful and powerful. The following is an overview of the meaning of each of The Four Agreements based on the book. File under “how to live unfettered.”

Be Impeccable with Your Word

Speak with integrity.  Say only what you mean.  Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.  Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Impeccable means not speaking against yourself, to yourself or to others.  It means not rejecting yourself.  To be impeccable means to take responsibility for yourself, to not participate in “the blame game.” What you put out energetically in your word will return to you.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own thoughts.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

We take things personally when we agree with what others have said.  If we didn’t agree, the things that others say would not affect us emotionally.  If we did not care about what others think about us, their words or behavior could not affect us. Remember — it is not about you!  Others’ actions and words are based on what they believe and their belief system.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.  With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

When we make assumptions it is because we believe we know what others are thinking and feeling.  We believe we know their point of view, their story.  We forget that our beliefs are just our point of view based on our belief system and personal experiences and have nothing to do with what others think and feel. Stop expecting the people around you to know what is in your head.

Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. 

Doing your best means enjoying the action without expecting a reward.  Enjoy the path traveled and the destination will take care of itself. Live in the moment, be fully alive right now. If you do your best always, transformation will happen as a natural outcome.

We Are All F.H.B.s

I recently had an experience in which I made a major mistake. I sent an email with sensitive information to the wrong distribution list. Someone alerted me to my mistake and I was mortified. As this situation unfolded, I was captivated at the thoughts and behaviors that were triggered. I share this because it was insightful for me and it might be for others.  

 

  1. Gratitude to the person who alerted me to the situation. How fortunate I was for someone having my back.
  2. Frantically, I spent time on figuring out how do I recall this message and hopefully wipe out this mistake all together! Looking back, I was fascinated that my first reaction was deception – and then I realized this is how the evil one works. Any crack, chink in our armor is an opportunity for the deceiver to attack / work. Evil is ever-present.
  3. After going down this path for a while I realized it was futile. It was likely too late. The only person I was deceiving was myself.
  4. My gut hurt and my mind was filled with lies. “I blew it.” “I will lose this relationship.” “I have irrevocably embarrassed myself.” More deception attempting to take root.
  5. I fully confessed and owned my mistake – alerting those who were impacted that I messed up. No excuses. No rationale. I made a mistake. I am accountable. I shined light on my error and the darkness went away.
  6. I apologized and asked for forgiveness.
  7. I was understood and forgiven! I was encouraged that “stuff happens.” My relationship was restored and became even healthier.

So what did I learn from this experience and take away?

  • Mistakes happen. I am an F.H.B. – i.e., a Fallible Human Being!
  • Be on guard for deception and lies – they will attack my vulnerability when I am human and make mistakes.
  • Own the situation and my part in it. No masks, no excuses, no justification. Light will defeat darkness.
  • Receive the gift of forgiveness … and move on with meekness and humility.
  • Surround myself with healthy relationships that will give me grace when I will inevitably goof up. Build those relationships daily.
  • Forgive freely when someone makes a mistake that impacts me. Remember, they are an F.H.B. too!