I recently read a Wall Street Journal Article titled
“How to Gain Power at Work When you Have None.”
Let me sum up the article for you.
People who build strong networks, ask questions of colleagues, show respect for colleagues roles and accomplishments, and look for ways to help.
Those are the people that get ahead.
In a nutshell the article is saying, don’t act like a know it all, do the job given to you, look to help others, learn from others and the result will be – you will succeed in the workplace.
So a workplace sociology study is confirming what we find in Phil 2:4-11.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others as better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
On the surface the article sounds like good advice – Humble yourself. Think about others. Do what you are asked to do. It is good advice but look at the motive.
Listen to the title of the article again:
“How to Gain Power at Work When you Have None.”
The article could be titled –
How to achieve your selfish ambition through humility
The article illustrates how in our sin nature we can take something that it good and twist into a methodology for getting ahead.
What about Selfish Ambitions’ twin brother – Vain Conceit.
In the passage vain conceit can be understood as empty praise. Undeserved Glory.
Surely we are free from Vain Conceit, right?
The Self-Esteem Movement which was conceived in the 80s and gained steam in the 90s is an example Vain Conceit
Research was funded in California to determine if there was link between low self-esteem and low performance and high self-esteem and achievement.
The Hypothesis of the study was that low-self esteem is at the core of all of society’s ills.
People do drugs, commit crimes, perform poorly in school because of low-self esteem.
If we boost self-esteem through empty praise then people will perform better.
Research was conducted and the results were mixed.
There was some correlation but not proof for causation.
The researchers decided to spin the result of their study and the Self Esteem Movement was born.
Why did they spin the results of their study?
“If our findings do not support our hypothesis, then we will lose our funding.”
The effect of that study explain why I have drawer full of medals at my house for the myriad of sports that my kids have participated in over the years.
The study is why one school in Massachusetts instructed their gym teachers to have their students jump rope without a rope. We don’t want students to have the self-esteem damage of tripping on a rope.
Rodney you are right – Selfish Ambition and Vain Conceit do permeate our society. It is a bad problem out there.
Selfish ambition and conceit are problems in here as well. Problems in my heart.
I drop off Jesse and Emily at 6:40 in the morning for school at Brooks
Up until this week, it is dark when I drop them off.
There is always a line of cars waiting to drop off kids for school.
On this particular day a car pulls into the drive where all the other cars are lined up. The car goes to the right side of my car, tears across the school lawn and whips up the front of the building to drop off their child.
They probably saved 30 seconds and endangered the lives of a child or two.
I know – Selfish Ambition on display!!
It gets worse – It just so happens that this car and I end up right beside each other. I’m in the car lane and they are in the bus lane.
What did I do? I give it a little bit of extra gas just so I can get around this car!
They gained 30 seconds with their selfish move, I’m going to take 15 seconds back with my selfish move.
Stupid I know – but selfish Ambition and vain conceit lurk around every corner in our world.
When Paul says do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourself.
Is “nothing” possible? Can nothing be done from selfish ambition?
No it cannot be done perfectly
But it must be the aim of our lives as followers of Jesus.
When humility steps in – true humility not a fake humility with desire to gain then – selfish ambition and vain conceit are pushed aside.
Why are we drawn to selfish ambition and vain conceit?
We have been deceived. We can think that the path to the good life is found in…
- Getting my way – selfish ambition
- Getting applause – vain conceit
Selfish ambition and vain conceit are just subsets of pride.
We are prideful.
CS Lewis said
According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. All other evils are mere flea bites in comparison to pride. It was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.
If we could drill down to the center of our sin nature and take a sample:
Pride would be at the core.
It was through the attitude of Pride that evil was introduced into the world.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Eve said: Yes God did actually say that.
Serpent: You won’t die – You will actually be like God.
You could be like God.
Yes God maybe said it, but you know better than God.
Thinking we know better than God is Pride
Pride is at the root of all evil.
Since the time of Adam and Eve man has been eating of the fruit of their Pride and the result has been death. Physical death and spiritual death.
CS Lewis went on to say: It is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.
Transition: Rodney you have painted a pretty bleak picture for us here.
What is the way forward?
The way forward is God incarnate will show us the way to Humility.
God incarnate – Jesus – has shown us the way and has paved the way for us to walk in the way humility.
In walking in the way of humility we give up on proving ourselves to God, proving ourselves to others, and proving ourselves to ourselves.
Jesus – God Incarnate Showed Us the Way of Humility
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus
Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.
One translation says of this passage he became of no reputation.
John 1:14 The Word (Logos – referring the Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
The way forward is to look to Jesus God in the flesh.
The incarnation is not something that we can fully comprehend, but the testimony of scripture is clear – Jesus is fully God. The testimony of scripture is not comprehensive but it is adequate.
He did not cease to be God but he did not cling to his rightful reputation as God.
When I step into a new situation, I can be busy sizing people up.
Checking out their credentials.
Who is the most important person in the room? Who is the one I should be talking to? Who am I talking to right now? What is the pecking order?
Jesus was the one person in all of history who had the right to assert his authority over people but he did not. He became man but did not give up his divinity.
In living as a man he also did not flaunt his rights as God.
Meditate on the reality of the incarnation this Easter Season
Meditation on the incarnation will help us tremendously as we move forward in this way of humility.
Jesus fully God.
Humbled himself by strapping on sandals, walking dusty roads, eating food with men and women who were steeped in pride and selfish ambition.
Jesus God in the flesh – Attended to regular chores, He made time for little children, He made time for outcasts – lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors.
The one person who had the right to say with all authority.
“Don’t you know who I am!” “Get on Your Knees before me.”
He got on his knees when he washed His disciples’ feet.
He knelt to pick up dirt to heal a blind man.
He was fully God but he did not flaunt his credentials in order to move his mission forward. He humbled himself
He became fully human and in doing so showed us the true nature of humanity. The true nature of humanity is that of servant.
Jesus as a perfect man and fully man demonstrated for all of humanity what we were designed to do.
High Schools and some middle now have specialized courses that can help students towards a specific vocation.
Those specialized courses might be a great plan, but listen to me students and adults – regardless of vocation we all have the same calling – Servant.
Your business card may say CEO, Vice President or World Class Mom but You are a servant.
You are not a servant in order to get ahead. You and I are servants because that is how were were designed to operate.
Could it be that we experience frustration in work or our place in life not because we are in a bad job fit but because we are living contrary to our design.
Rather than serving, I’m busy trying to garner praise from someone I look up to.
Rather than serving I am looking for ways to get ahead.
As a servant, our protocol should be to give, to defer, to submit.
As servants walking in the way of humility we do not have the right to pick our assignments and we do not have the right to serve looking for something in return.
Jesus showed us the way of Humility by becoming human and showed us the nature of humanity is to serve.
BUT Jesus also Paved the Way to Humility through His Death on the Cross
His death on the cross broke the curse of sin.
Just as the result of one trespass (Adam’s sin in the garden) was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness (Jesus death on the cross) was justification that brings life for all men.
Since the children (humanity) have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Because of Christ’s death on the cross Pride no longer has to rule over us!
The Pride and Sin that Adam introduced is now remedied in the death of Christ.
We can be truly free to walk in the path of Humility.
In Pride we continually have to prove ourselves. We set ourselves up against God and we set ourselves up against one another.
In the way of Humility we are free from wondering what people think of us and we known clearly what God thinks of us.
For God so loved the world – He gave His only son.
We walk in the way of Humility by acknowledging that Jesus is Lord of All. He is Exalted to the Highest Place to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus is the only truly famous one our response to him is to bend the knee in worship and confess his name.
In the future a time is coming when every tongue will confess and every knee will bow to him.
We walk in the way of humility by doing know what everyone will do then.
What else or who else could be we bow to?
We could bow to our reputation by trying to impress others but the way of Humility won’t allow for that.
We could bow to others by being overly impressed them, but the way of Humility won’t allow for that.
Bowing is a completely humble and deferring position.
We do not bow in our culture but it is a sign of respect and reverence.
In bowing to another we are saying you are over me.
We put ourselves under the one that we are bowing too.
In essence in bowing to Jesus we are giving up trying to prove ourselves to God. We yield.
His pleasure (God’s) is not in the strength of the horse,
Nor his delight in the legs of man; (he is not impressed with what you can do.)
The Lord delights in those who fear him,
Who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Since Jesus is the only truly famous one we give up on trying to prove ourselves to others.
I truly was made to bless you and not to impress you. I can actually get to a place where I can respect you without fearing you.
Jesus humility as God incarnate, stooping down to love on children, heal lepers, and associate with humanity instructs us that there are no unimportant people.
Jesus exaltation to the highest place instructs us that there are no truly important people either.
We all get a last place ribbon – Congratulations!!
I can truly get to the place where I do not have to impress you.
I do not have to prove to you what I know or shove my credentials in your face.
When I push up to the table in the boardroom filled with wealthy successful people I might be nervous but I do not have to be controlled by my nerves.
All of us, the famous, the simple, the gifted, the beautiful, we are all going to die. Our physical beauty and splendor is fading. We are like grass – Here and then gone.
What you think about me in terms of me impressing you does not matter.
You matter. Your needs and your interests matter above mine.
I have started this weird ritual. I know that is not what you want to hear when you go to church. But when I go to a meeting or even as I step up here on stage, I am imagining a unique sound in my head.
*** The sound of a shredder ***
You know what it is shredding – MY Resume.
It makes me smile and chuckle everytime I think about it. I don’t have to shove my credentials in your face. I don’t have to prove myself to you. I can love you and serve you because Jesus showed me the way to humility and paved the way for humility.
If I am talking to you after the service and I start to laugh a little bit, it is because I just heard the sound of the shredder go off in my head.
Since Jesus is the only truly famous one we can Embrace Our Role as Servant
Embracing our role as servant will show up in mundane everyday ways. Jesus went to the cross. He laid down his actual physical life. Most of us will not do that. We will lay down our lives daily by putting other people’s needs ahead of our own.
The phrase “put the needs of others” can sound safe. Others is generic.
Okay that means open the door for random strangers at Dillons. Give up a parking spot to someone I don’t know.
What about when the word others becomes specific?
The supervisor who sometimes is hard on me and I butt heads with at work.
Could other people’s needs include my brother or sister, my spouse, my small group member.
That colleague at work or team member who constantly challenges our patience
Maybe other people are the customers or employees who often thinks their way is better than our way.
The path to real freedom and happiness is found in Humility. When we give up on trying to prove ourselves and embrace our role as servant we can find fuel for a new ambition.
Ambition for the glory of God rather than a name for myself.
Walking in the way of Humility leads to Ambition for the Glory of God
Jesus was exalted to the highest place to the Glory of God the Father.
When I am freed from selfish ambition and vain conceit, I don’t go into passivity.
We go into super-charged mode! We have a new freedom and new fuel to live for the Glory of God. We are living as we were designed to live!
WE are throwing off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and running the race marked out for us. Running the race in humility as we were designed to run.
The self esteem movement was a reaction against the exceptionalism and win at all cost mentality that came before it.
Self Esteem movement did not work out and now it seems we are shifting our focus back to achievement.
If I don’t have selfish ambition and I don’t have my own glory driving me, what do I have?
Am I left passionless?
No – We are passion full and realize that every simple daily opportunity can be a chance to serve others for the glory of God.
For the Glory of God and the good of others let’s close the gap on having the humble attitude of Christ.
Will we do it perfectly? No. But we can grow in Christ’s humility day by day.