Are you good at what you do? Not coming in under the radar or good enough to not get fired, or even competent—but genuinely excellent? Why do I ask? Because while eternal life begins with a relationship with Jesus (and He is available to all regardless of education or status or expertise), picking something moral and legal—at which you work very hard to become one of the best—gives you a platform for greater witness for Him, and many other personal blessings besides!
“Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” (Proverbs 22:29 NIV)
Today’s verse is from the book of Proverbs, penned by King Solomon of Israel. Do you remember his story? He ascended to the throne young, after his father David, and in a dream God offered him anything he wanted. He could have chosen riches or power, but instead asked for wisdom to rightly govern God’s nation, which God honored:
“I will now do just what you said. Look, I hereby give you a wise and understanding mind. There has been no one like you before now, nor will there be anyone like you afterward. I now also give you what you didn’t ask for: wealth and fame. There won’t be a king like you as long as you live. And if you walk in my ways and obey my laws and commands, just as your father David did, then I will give you a very long life.” (1 Kings 3:12-14 CEB)
Proverbs is wisdom; it is what came from “a wise and understanding mind” like whom “there has been no one…before…nor will there be anyone like…afterward.” So even though much of it seems to be practical advice applicable more to the here-and-now rather than to our relationship with God—that wisdom was given by God, so we should not scorn it. And today’s verse talks about getting really good at what we do.
Christians sometimes wrongly conclude that we do not need to be excellent because Jesus accepts all who come to Him. And while He does accept us all, that does not in any way negate or make untrue any of the wisdom God has given in Proverbs or anywhere else in the Bible. To the contrary, He accepts us as we are when we repent and come to Him for forgiveness and salvation, but He does not leave us there; He takes us on a lifelong journey of sanctification—of turning us into the people He wants us to be and preparing us for eternity! And as part of that, He opens us up to understanding and accepting everything He has revealed to us in His Word—including the practical wisdom of Proverbs. So how does today’s verse apply to a follower of Jesus?
Like most of the teachings of this book, it is short and succinct, and there is nothing more. It simply says if you’re really good at what you do, you’re not going to labor away in obscurity, but will gain prominence. When this was written, the best you could do was work in a king’s court, so that’s what the words say. But the meaning can be extrapolated to say that being the best will give you advantages in various ways that mere mediocrity will not gain.
How? Use your imagination, because this will vary, according to what we’re talking about. An excellent singer will gain different opportunities than an excellent animator, who will likewise gain different opportunities than an excellent architect or translator or baker or biophysicist. I’m educated, but not especially so; I have a B.B.A. in business administration with a concentration in managerial accounting, and took one graduate-level class recently. But because I stayed home to raise and homeschool most of our children, I have the work experience of a recent graduate roughly a decade before retirement and am therefore effectively unemployable in my field. So, as our children got older, I somehow “fell into” the practical work of appliance sales at a local retailer.
I actually didn’t initially think I’d make it past the eight weeks of training because I’m an introvert and had no desire whatsoever to sell anything. Yet not only did I make it, because I was on a straight commission and cost them nothing, they put up with me for thirteen odd years part-time (with a six year hiatus in-between to care for my aging mother).
Eventually our youngest daughter got a driver’s license and a car, and I found a full time position doing what, do you suppose? Selling appliances! Why? Because, it turned out, over the years it was the only practical, employable skill I perfected that anyone was willing to pay a reasonable salary for. And while I still don’t want to go to my grave having accomplished nothing of greater significance in life than selling things, I’ve also come to terms with it and even recognize it as God’s provision. You see, we are now experiencing the COVID-19 restrictions, but because our store is considered essential, I am still employed and can continue to pay our daughter’s tuition. We’re even getting a bonus for continuing to work!
But today’s verse speaks about being really good at what you do. Every field has markers of excellence or achievement, and selling appliances is no different. We are expected to sell dollar volume, protection plans, credit, installations, estimates for labor, and referrals for in-home work, and are statistically tracked. Because I trained in and worked at a straight-commission position for years and the highest financial rewards came from selling protection plans, all of us who worked there learned to sell those a long time ago! So I’ve had some really great weeks here, and am probably also on-track for selling over $1 million worth of product for the year, Lord willing. But so what? Why am I sharing this? Simply to illustrate that God’s Word is true—even in its practical applications!
Several days ago, just after my month’s sales topped $100,000, I overslept. Late at night when I thought I was raising the volume on my iPhone, I inadvertently lowered it all the way down instead. When I called in, I was dumbfounded that instead of just saying “okay,” the on-call supervisor offered several alternatives to change my schedule so I wouldn’t be marked late, and I was genuinely take aback.
My point—for my children or anyone else who may be reading this—is that when you give a company, a school, or anyone else a tangible practical benefit and are doing your best to distinguish yourself favorably, they tend to put up with your shortcomings so much more than if you don’t. Not that you should intentionally impose on people and expect them to put up with you because you’re somehow “special,” but—image someone who shows up randomly and puts little effort into actually doing their work when there: would they receive a gracious response when they fall short one more time? Of course not! (They might even get fired.)
So how does this apply to you? Well—what is it that you do? More specifically, what is it that you do, that you can do better than others? It may be what you already love to do—our youngest daughter may go into animation because she loves drawing and it’s what she often does for fun anyway—or it may be like me, who ended up being reasonably good at something I didn’t particularly want to be good at, but simply fell into because of life circumstances. Whatever it is, find something—then be the best you can at it!
Why? Apart from your life being more pleasant, it’ll also give you a greater platform for witnessing for Christ and honoring God! Think of people like Tim Tebow—would anyone care he loves Jesus if he wasn’t great at football? When someone asks why you’re so conscientious, or why you try so hard, or why you’re always happy—that’s when you can explain that it’s to honor God, that it’s because it’s what He wants us to do!
Help me be the best I can to glorify You! Amen.