The Right Tool for the Job

“It always helps to have the right tool for the job,” my father-in-law used to say. Even if his point weren’t so intuitive, who could argue with a man who built his own house? Helping him with projects over the years, I got better at using familiar tools and learned to use some I never knew existed—not only tools that build up, but also those that tear apart, for there is a time when dislodging or disassembling existing structures is our essential next step. Nothing more happens until we clear obstacles of any size, whether applying the sledge hammer to the concrete, the crowbar to the wallboard, or even a needle to the splinter.

Physical impediments are usually in plain view, and our solutions are clear. Obstructions of the soul—rebellion, deception, or self-centeredness, for instance—are much less conspicuous, even though many have been hard-wired or firmly cemented since childhood. Too often we reach for the wrong tool or apply the wrong solution. Sometimes we just open up the flow and go with it: “Whatever feels good,” we say, or “Everyone for himself,” though deep inside we don’t believe our own bromides. Other times we clamp down on our sinful nature with a list of “do’s and don’ts” a mile long, but they cannot change our heart.

So what is the right tool for detaching ourselves from our old sinful nature—that self-willed part of us that wants to live life on our terms and not God’s? The apostle Paul urges us to reach into the Father’s toolbox and get a firm grip on grace, for there is something about His unconditional love that pries us away from our ways and bonds us instead to His. Grace is God’s power tool, “the right tool for the job.”

Father, so fill me with the joy of your Spirit today that I eagerly leave my old ways behind me. May I trust in your grace and thrive. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in Titus 3:3-8.]

The Employee Handbook in Your Library

When my son was a teenager, I used to tell him, “Do the right thing, and people will follow. It may be many, a few, or just one person, but there are people who really want to do the right thing but in the pressure of the moment lack the confidence or strength to do so. If you do the right thing, someone will take courage and follow.” This is as true for adults as for those in school; it is as true in the workplace as it is at leisure.

If there were one manual to guide the transition from campus to career, I think Proverbs 16 might be it, for it opens our eyes to the impact around us when we embrace the wisdom of God and apply it in our jobs. Whether we lead formally by position or informally through influence, this chapter provides indispensable insight for living faithfully and effectively at work.

How critical is it, for instance to eschew the paths to dishonest gain and set one’s career on a trajectory of honesty, justness, and right behavior?1 What boss wouldn’t favor and rely on the employee who “gives heed to instruction”?2 What advice could be sounder than to discreetly filter our thoughts and give voice only to those that build up our team and its members?3 How highly must leaders esteem those with the courage to speak truth and the tact to do so in respectful, constructive ways!4 How rare, how valued, and how powerful the one in whom the Spirit has produced self-control!5 Moreover, Proverbs 16 reminds us of God’s sovereignty over even our best thinking,6 even as it warns us against the dangers of pride, which sadly but predictably topples even the mightiest of organizations.7

Do you know a recent college grad who is wide-eyed at the thought of entering “the real world”? Do you know anyone who’s stumbled out of the gate and would really welcome a do-over? Do you know anyone for whom things appear to be going smoothly, but are struggling inwardly to live his or her faith outwardly? If any of these people are in your life, then you have a great book-tip for them! Proverbs 16. And chances are, they already have a copy.

[Click here to read “the handbook,” Proverbs 16.]

Father, send your Spirit to incline my heart toward your truth and to inspire me to apply the life lessons He whispers inside. Amen.

1 Proverbs 16:8, 11
2 Proverbs 16:20
3 Proverbs 16:23, 24
4 Proverbs 16:13, 14
5 Proverbs 16:32
6 Proverbs 16:1, 9
7 Proverbs 16:5, 18, 19

From the Farmer and the King

I was in my early twenties when an unassuming farmer mused to me, “There are people earning $15,000 per year and getting by, and there are people making $100,000 per year and going bankrupt. It all comes down to living within your means.” I’d always been inclined to save, but this kernel of common sense bolstered my resolve to think and act long-term.

Though tending crops and herds was not within Solomon’s kingly duties, he offered this sage advice in down-home terms an agrarian people could understand. “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,” he wrote, “give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.” In other words, plan, watch, and make fully-aware decisions. Act in the moment with the end in mind.

I am now a stone’s throw away from sixty; decades of “sowing and reaping” have come and gone. Some years have yielded only financial famine, when living paycheck-to-paycheck was its own modest victory. There have been periods of pestilence, when even the savings in the silos were devoured by swarms of unforeseen expenses. Then there have been the storehouse seasons, when harvest was healthy and savings replenished.

Much lies outside our control—storms stir and insects invade, weather withers and droughts destroy. But be it through the king in his splendor or a farmer in his field, God speaks wisdom to see us through scarcity and to bless us in bounty.  Says Solomon, “There will be enough.”

Father in Heaven, inspire my mind to know your ways, and strengthen my spirit to live in them. I ask this in the name of Jesus, your Son, my Savior and Lord. Amen.

[Click here to read more common sense from Solomon in Proverbs 27:23-27.]