It’s Lonely at the Top

By Linda Tancs

Stories abound about bears and other animals stuck in trees. We watch news reports with rapt attention as rescuers go about the job of extraction. Clearly, the poor animal didn’t realize what it was in for when it started the climb.

You could say the same about humans. In the climb for success (however one defines it), it often becomes apparent what’s meant by the expression “it’s lonely at the top.” That’s typically because in getting there one has adopted the saying, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Instead of lifting others up during our march for the brass ring, we take them down. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious unless it’s selfish ambition or conceit (Philippians 2:3-4). In other words, the Bible exhorts us to please (and be pleasing to) God, not man (Galatians 1:10). To honor God and to honor the quest for power, success, honor, wealth and fame are mutually exclusive endeavors. You cannot serve both (Matthew 6:24). Jesus reminds us to seek first the Kingdom, and then our needs will be met (Matthew 6:33). To be first in the Kingdom is to be a servant (Matthew 20:26-28). So be good to those you meet on your journey because, as another expression teaches, you’ll meet the same people on the way down as you met on your way up.

Life Outside the Box

By Linda Tancs

Sometimes life may feel like one giant closet organizer. There’s a box for hopes and dreams. A box where we shelve our concerns about money. A box for work. A box for relationships, past or present. You may even put God in a box, usually opened on Sunday for an hour or so.

Benjamin Franklin said, “A place for everything, everything in its place.” Well, that might work for closets, but living a box-like life is stifling—and unrealistic. Life is messy. It’s hard to compartmentalize feelings, actions or emotions. We’re not robots; we’re human beings created to be interdependent. Living inside the box fosters independence, isolation and self-sufficiency; living outside the box produces reliance and interdependence.

Interdependence is vital to Christian unity. The Scriptures remind us of its value in personal relationships (Genesis 2:24; 1 Timothy 5:8), teamwork (1 Peter 4:10) and character development (Philippians 2:3-4). Thinking outside the box is a business cliché. Living outside the box is a profundity.

Keeping Up With the Joneses

By Linda Tancs

The temptation toward self-sufficient materialism expresses itself in our culture today (particularly in a capitalist, consumer-driven society) with the old “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. How often do you envy what someone else has or has done? How does it influence your own behavior? Do you buy the same brand of car as your colleagues, particularly if your occupation dictates the kind of car you should be driving? Do you enroll your children in the same activities or school as those you admire? Even the disciples started an argument among them as to who would be the greatest (Luke 9:46-48).

Healthy competition is one thing, but rivalry amounts to chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6). In fact, Philippians 2:3-4 warns against doing anything out of rivalry and conceit. Why? Because it’s so dangerous. It manifests in an upset of the love people/use things equilibrium. When one desires to be on a par with everyone else, the result is often using people to get more of the things one loves, failing to recognize that other people or circumstances do not dictate our riches. Only God gives, and God can take away (Job 1:21).

Measure yourself by God’s standards, not those of others (Galatians 6:4). You’re a marvelous work of God (Ephesians 2:10) with your own gifts and talents. Use your gifts in service to others and you’ll be less likely to fall prey to the kind of envy that rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30).