A Manager's Lament

In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”
(Nehemiah 13:15–18, NIV)

The new birth comes with no guarantee that you will lead a trouble-free life. Sure, you will have new home in heaven, a new Father in God and a new you… that new creation… but if everything is new, why does it smell like a sty down here?

First, the world did not get the memo — Satan still runs the place. And second, all those “new” things? Those are what we are in Christ… not what we do in Christ. As such, even a Christian’s life can spiral into a self-induced mess. You see, keeping those paths straight takes hard work and good management… and not everyone is up for that.

Managing is a combination of activities that involves learning, evaluating, correcting and monitoring progress — and then nudging (or bludgeoning) yourself and others to meet the agreed upon objectives. We Christians do not need an MBA to live victoriously in Christ, but we should expect to manage both ourselves and others as part of the project.

Managing is like juggling. A juggler puts energy into an object by handling it and tossing it aloft. He knows that he will have to put energy into it again. But in the meantime, he puts energy into the other objects in his charge — and this is the basic model for managing. But it is also the reason for this lament. Because without constant monitoring and adjusting, systems degrade… and they do not recover on their own.

Nehemiah managed a God-directed and God-energized project… and you’d think that a people thus energized would push through to the goal — but they did not. Nehemiah had to stay on them — he was constantly addressing problems. So even when God is unarguably a project’s propellant, there is no guarantee that the people will stay on course.

Consider a ship’s captain. Even when a course is plotted truly and even when a ship is launched rightly, the voyage requires his continual involvement. A captain must adjust the course every so often to reach the desired port; he cannot just lie in a hammock and ride out the voyage… even though he guided the ship perfectly out of the harbor. A captain must fight to stay the course amidst the constant forces of current, wind and wave.

And although Jerusalem’s wall-rebuilding project was launched righteously (and directly by God’s almighty hand), the Jews soon slipped into serious sins like breaking the Sabbath. Why couldn’t these newly restored and newly committed people do this one thing correctly? Because that’s how life is… with or without God: systems will degrade until Christ returns. What happens then? I’m not sure — but that’s on him.

In the meantime, we live in a world where setting the course of our churches (and ourselves) is relatively easy… but keeping control of the fleet? That takes good management and hard work. 

(End). 

 

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