The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern. –Max Lucado, And The Angels Were Silent
In a world where a YouTube video can make a dancing toddler or wacky kitten “famous,” it doesn’t hurt to step back every once in a while to gain some much-needed perspective. Max Lucado gives this perspective with just a few questions:
- Can you name the last five Nobel Peace Prize Winners?
- How about the Pulitzer Prize Winner from last year?
- Name five people who had a profound impact on your life.
- How about ten people you have a great memory about?
Like me, I’m sure you had a difficult, or impossible, time with the first two questions, but a much quicker response to the final two questions. Lucado explains that the difference in your ability to answer these questions comes from the value of the second set of people in your life.
Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners may be the best in their area of expertise, but knowing how to write a profound play, ultimately, doesn’t mean as much to me as experiencing the helping hand I really need from a person who knows me and cares enough to do something for me.
Isn’t the difference between credentials and concern summed up in Hosea, in the verse that Christ repeats during one of his encounters with the Pharisees?:
If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent (Matthew 12:7).
The truth of Christ’s sacrifice for us is that God’s main desire is not the continued spilling of blood (Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice for us once and for all on the cross), but our earnest striving to be kind, to love, to show concern.
How do you measure your success? Do you spend too much time, like I often fall into the trap of doing, measuring yourself against the kinds of jobs other people have, or what’s in your bank account, or what kind of clothes you wear? Even when you think you are trying to measure yourself according to God’s standards, do you fall into the trap of thinking bigger is better? In other words, if you aren’t building a church or working on a mission trip, do you consider yourself a failure?
Luckily for us, God has a different measuring stick. If we can be that concerned person for even one other, then we have made strides in His kingdom we may never totally fathom. Do you want to think according to God’s measurement of success or man’s?
I always answer God’s to that question, and I always find myself slipping back into a laundry list of credentials instead of concern! So, I propose thinking about success from a concern perspective. How will that look? Where do I begin?
It seems one of the best places to begin is by thinking hard about the people, outside of my family, who have shown the most concern for me in my life. What impact did they have, exactly? What did they do to make me feel appreciated, worthy, loved?
I might begin with Miss Patty, who taught me the Bible every Sunday during a particularly trying time in my life. She was the one who walked me through the path to salvation as it is explained in the book of Romans. She pointed out the verse in Ephesians that assured me I had been “sealed in that holy spirit of promise” when I had my first doubts. She checked up on me long after I was in her Sunday school class.
Then there were the “mighty four,” a group of women a generation older than I who befriended me as I entered full adulthood. We worked together at a community college, shared meals and miseries, my first real gang of friends. When they teamed up to surprise me for one of my birthdays, I felt like one of the most important people in the world. They probably won’t even know that until they read this paragraph. These are the women whose love will be in me for the rest of my life.
Some of those who show concern are in my life for but a moment. Every time a gentleman opens a door for me, I feel respected and thankful. When I walk into a place I haven’t been in a while and yet someone remembers me, I feel “important.” Even when more than one person seems genuinely interested in seeing me on a Sunday morning, I think, wow, maybe I’m not such a pain. Like Sally Field, my inner self thinks, “They like me; they really like me.”
And no, I am not always a pathetic dweeb whose self talk is negative. I often have to humble myself or be humbled. But, my point is that because others have focused on concern and not credentials, I have been drug out of many a down moment. And don’t we all have down moments that could use a little concern now and again?
I think that’s the kind of love God uses to measure us by, the treasures in heaven that Jesus admonishes us to strive for. So, the next time I try to berate myself for not doing enough, I think I’ll make sure my measuring stick is marked with concern and not credentials, with kindness and love instead of silver and gold.