Friday, April 13, 2007

From Hierarchy to Mediocrity

"Unit. Corps. God. Country."

So the Marine lieutenant from the film A Few Good Men explained his priorities to Tom Cruise's character in order to justify his assault on a fellow officer (hey, he was following orders). The Christian version of this list usually places the "God" part a bit higher up on the totem pole of importance (like, say, first). After "God" follow "Church," "Family," and "Work" in varying order.

Some would argue, however, that it is illegitimate to place the various callings that God has given into a specific order of importance. If God has called me to be a dad, a husband, a church member, and a lawyer, then who am I to decide which of those legitimate vocations trumps the others?

Obviously, each person must come to his or her own conclusions on this matter. I will say, though, that if one sees his role as a husband and father as being more significant than he does his job (with the latter being a means to excel in the former), then it may be necessary to view with some measure of suspicion the clarion call Christians constantly hear to do all that we do "with excellence." Consider the following two reasons for this.

First, in order to be the best lawyer (or doctor, or WalMart employee) one can be will of necessity entail an excruciating amount of toil, stress, and overtime, which may very well interfere with one's performance in other areas.

Secondly, if Reformed, amillennial theology teaches us anything, it is that God is not glorified by what passes as impressive in the eyes of men. This means that when "excellence" is defined as whatever wows the worldly, it pales in God's estimation to the weakness, foolishness, and lackluster character of the cross.

So a hierarchy that places family above work may include a call for more mediocrity in the latter in order to show some excellence in the former.