With all the product driven values our modern society propagates, I find myself drawn to the agricultural metaphors in scripture. They provide a calming place to rest my mind whenever weary. I must admit I am currently not in a pressure cooker. And for that I am very grateful.
Still, we are influenced by the world around us, and it’s patterns. In the swirling funnel of expectations, it is difficult not to gauge your success and value by the growth charts generously provided by the corporate machine. Some thrive in this arena and are energized by it. Personality does comes into play. It excites them and provides a catalyst for action and movement. Their passion is infectious and opens the imagination for something better, greater. I find myself envying this quality.
Yet there is a dark and heavy burden that too often accompanies the industrial pattern. I suspect what really underlines the corporate process is not passion, or vision, or even creativity. I once thought it’s end purpose was the product. It is not. You can produce enough to fill a hundred warehouses but in this context, that does not make you successful. As any Dragon’s Den viewer knows well, what determines success is getting rid of the product. People need to want what you’re selling, and bad enough to pay for it. Sadly, this has well infiltrated church life and leadership.
And so this raises the question: what is the real motivator here? It is my belief that the whole corporate pattern runs on fear. What if I am not successful? What if I can’t produce? I will be a failure. I can’t let that happen! If we don’t produce or can’t move what we produce, we have little value. And so we try harder, work longer, do better. Why? It is because we are afraid. Some have no problem with this system, perhaps because the results mask the anxiety that provides them.
But it has become empty for me. I don’t care how we are wired, or which arena our energies are spent in, this is not God’s way. It doesn’t matter if you care for your family, run a business or pastor a church, fear cannot motivate you to the place of fulfillment. Success based in fear is not a success that I want anymore.
“If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” 1 John 4:18
In the corporate system, if you don’t produce, bad things will happen to you. It is inevitable. This is merely a professional way of administering punishment. It is that inevitability that motivates people to produce. But production in this context only perpetuates the pattern; an unGodly pattern. And many are damaged along the way. Like I mentioned, the agricultural metaphors in scripture give comfort when the fear of punishment raises its accusatory voice.
“Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering.
What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” 1 Corinthians 3:5-8
There still is hard work, but there is something difference at the core. Growth happens, yet apparently not the focus of the work. More surprising, “growing” isn’t even our responsibility! This is squarely on God. I wonder what would happen if every labourer knew they had value, and not because of the bottom line? What if we worked as unto the Lord, and not for the product? Imagine if passion, vision and creativity were expressed in a context where fear did not rule? What we would accomplish! In this reality I suspect that we all would enjoy tremendous and life-giving success.