In the February 5, (2011??? Sorry – I lost the year) edition of THE WEEK, it said it was a “Bad week for: Equal-opportunity employment, after a British government run jobs center rejected an ad from a company specifying that applicants “must be very reliable and hardworking.” A government official told the company that it could get sued ‘for discriminating against unreliable people’.” Really? Is it a bad thing as a company to discriminate against unreliable people? I’m not saying, obviously, that hate crimes against unreliable people are acceptable, or just not caring about them in general—but should you have to knowingly hire them? Is it really discriminating to simply suggest you are looking for someone hardworking? Would it be discriminating then to ask for someone to speak Spanish and English for a job as a Spanish/English translator? At this point, isn’t every job descriptor some form of discrimination?
I think the silliness of this is evident. But it does make me pause a minute to think. What does God think about our “self esteem”? If he were CEO of a company, would his employment add request only hard working, reliable people? What about when Jesus said that it’s easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven (Matthew 19:24)? Is that discriminating against rich people?
I had a teacher who opened the class, first day, with this statement: “I hope you never feel good about yourselves in this class.” In the era of feel-good, raise-your-self-esteem education, this was shocking, to say the least. It was a Bible class, nonetheless, so the statement was even more shocking. You think Bible class is going to teach you about how much God loves you—kind of a feel good booster, don’t you think? But no, he opened with the shocking statement that he didn’t want us to feel good about ourselves in his class. Of course, everyone jumped to the opposite but false conclusion that he must, therefore want us to feel bad about ourselves while in his class. Boy, that’s an encouraging motivation to attend class every day! But then, this brilliant teacher who was somewhat masterful at semantics explained. His goal wasn’t to make us feel good or bad about ourselves. His goal was to make us feel RIGHT about ourselves in his class.
You see, feeling rightly about ourselves means that we are dealing with truth. We feel good about things which are good and bad about things which are bad. The goal isn’t pleasurable or unpleasurable emotions, but truth itself. To feel bad when you have done a bad thing is actually a good thing. When people do bad things without feeling badly about them, we call that a sociopath.
On the flip side, especially in high school, there is an epidemic of people feeling badly about themselves for no good reason. It is largely an issue of comparison. Julia feels bad about herself because she’s not as pretty as Jolene. Tom feels bad about himself because he isn’t as good at football as Frank. And everyone feels bad because they don’t have the money and the clothes and the cars that the Kardashians do or the teens of Beverly Hills. These are not good reasons to feel bad about yourself.
So, back to the beginning and the questions of discrimination—what if that same employer had someone apply who was able to be honest and admit, “Hey, I haven’t been very hard working in the past, but that is something I am trying to change and I am willing to work with you on some accountability if you’ll be willing to give me a chance.”? Now it’s not so much an issue of discrimination but of helping someone be honest about their faults and overcome them.
This is how God treats us. He doesn’t require that we all start out perfect, but he does ask us to be honest about our imperfections. He doesn’t discriminate against us for our failings, except for the one of thinking we don’t have any. As an employer, He is willing to hire any person who wants the job of ambassador for Christ to the world. However, he asks that you are honest with yourself and with Him about your skill set: namely your character and fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control – Gal. 5:22). In fact, when we are honest with Him about our areas of weakness we don’t need to feel condemned, but rather, He is excited to make Himself strong for us in these areas (2. Cor. 12:9). He is like an employer with an incredible advancement program. He is eager to help us succeed as His ambassadors and will give us all the skills we need to do it, so long as we are honest with him about what we need. It’s the issue of feeling rightly about ourselves—recognizing our limitations and our need for Him.
Another part of that feeling rightly is coming to Him when we feel bad about ourselves for stuff we shouldn’t feel bad about. He is willing to help with that too. Say you are comparing your life to the life of some Hollywood celebrity who seems to have it all and you are feeling pretty low about your economic status, your Walmart wardrobe and second hand slacks, your looks, your boring existence, etc. God reminds us that He made us, He loves us and He has a plan for our lives.
God doesn’t discriminate – no matter how lacking our qualifications or our character. What He does do is help us think and feel rightly about ourselves, and then He helps us to improve.