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Secret Menu for Seekers of God

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Biblical Leadership  Freewill Versus Predestination   Success in Life  -  Hate Evil Love Good  -  Doctrine of the Trinity


Being Successful in the World

The Meaning of Life

In order to be successful in life, you must determine the answers to a few key questions. One of which is “what is the meaning of life?” The meaning of life is a question that philosophers, atheists, and Christians have all asked themselves as some point in their lives. Defining success in life would be very difficult if you are unable to answer that question for yourself.

Why are you here? What is your purpose? Why did God create you? What are you expected to do? If you were seeking the answer to a problem scientifically, you would first develop a hypothesis, and then you would test that hypothesis to determine whether it was reliable or true.

If you determine your hypothesis to be valid, then you could seek solutions to help you achieve your goals. When writing an essay, the writer begins with a thesis statement, followed by paragraphs that support the writer’s thesis in order to reach the goal of explaining or proving his/her thesis.

If you seek to be successful in life without first determining the meaning of it, then you would be writing endless amounts of paragraphs without a thesis statement or central theme. In order to work towards success in life, you must first define what constitutes a successful life, but before that, you must determine the purpose of life.

Deuteronomy 11:10-16 For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, anddrinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year. And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them

The above passages are the instructions that God gave to the Hebrew people after they left the land of Egypt. In it, God gives them direction on how to live and what he expects of them. They were instructed to diligently obey God’s commandments, and to love God and serve him with all their hearts and souls. In response to their diligence, God promised to give them a better land than what they had experienced on earth thus far.

God also included a warning, to take heed that their hearts are not deceived or turned aside from God. The above were specific instructions, which God gave to the Hebrew people, but the fundamental principles are no different from what is expected of Christians. Followers of God are instructed to love God and obey his commandments. In response to the believers’ dedication, God promises to take them to a better place – for the Hebrews, it was the Promised Land, for the Christians, it is Heaven.

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

Matthew 22:34-40 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

In addition to loving God and obeying his commandments, while on earth, God’s followers are expected to develop and utilize discernment and wisdom. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 states that while on earth, others may provide convincing proofs in an attempt to lead believers astray. This was done to test the believer to determine if he/she truly loved and was committed to God.

In Matthew 22:34-40, the Pharisees gathered together in an effort to tempt Jesus, but his answer was the same as Deuteronomy 13:13 – to love God with all your heart and soul. So one of the most basic answers to the meaning of life, is that we are here to develop an understanding and love of God, to devote our lives to his commandments, and to grow in judgment, wisdom, and discernment in the world; in order for us to avoid temptations or being led astray, so we can eventually go to a better place [Promised Land/Heaven].

If you accept the above presumptions as a thesis statement, then you must expand on those concepts in order to prove the thesis. In order for you to devote your life to God, you must first accept the fact that God does in fact exist. Since you are reading a study based on succeeding with a Christian worldview, I assume that you have already come to that conclusion. After accepting the fact that God exists, your next step is to love God.

Love is not automatic, even if you believe God exists, that he created you, and that he loves you that does not mean that you will automatically love him. In order for you to love God, you must learn about him, and figure out who he is. If you do not fully understand God, then you will be vulnerable to many arguments of atheists, false prophets, and others, who will attempt to lead you astray. In order for you to have discernment or to test the spirits, you must first have a solid understanding of who God is.

Galatians 1:6-11 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

To learn about God you must read the Bible. You may need to forget about a lot of the garbage you have been told in church, in order for you to figure out who God actually is. You cannot love God unless you truly know him, and develop a relationship with him. Orthodox Christianity may try to tell you who God is, and in the past, they have burned people at the stake or tortured them unless the person agreed completely with an Orthodox set of beliefs.

They invented extra-biblical terms to explain God, most of which start with omni [all]. They tell you that God is omni this or omni that, or that God is an unknowable mystery or godhead. This is where your sense of discernment comes into play; you must test the doctrines against the Bible, and if the extra-biblical concepts differ from the word of God, then you might be being led astray.

God is not an unknowable mystery. The purpose of the Bible is for humans to know, understand, and love God; that could not happen if it were impossible for you to learn about him. God’s character is clearly displayed throughout the Bible, as he interacts with humanity. God’s character is not that different from ours; after all, we were created in God’s image.

Likewise, Romans 8:29 states that we should be conformed to the image of Christ; that task would be impossible, if we did not share many of the same attributes as Him. I am certainly not stating that we possess the superhuman abilities of walking on water or being able to create living creatures out of dust, but we were created in God’s image and share many behaviors and or character traits with Him.

When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the serpent told them that after doing so they would be like God. Understanding good and evil removed Adam and Eve from the sheltered lives they were living, and allowed them to be like God – in the fact that they could understand good and evil. Although humanity had the ability to think more like God, they were amateurs at using that ability. A major aspect of life is developing discernment and judgment. Christian growth involves mastering those abilities, which I believe is one of the most important aspects of life.

Revelations 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

By examining God’s interactions with humanity, one can see that he has emotions such as love, hate, anger, mercy, and understanding. While on earth all humans are observed, their behavior is documented, and based on their performance, books will be opened and God will judge everyone according to their works.

Living with wisdom and discernment is not automatic and possessing the capability to distinguish between good and evil does not mean that one is born knowing how to do so. Choosing the correct path and growing in our intellectual abilities is one of the core purposes of life. God wants to know what kind of person you are, and he determines that by watching how you live your life. The question of evil will be discussed further in the next section.

God did not leave us to figure everything out for ourselves. He interacted with humanity and demonstrated the successes and failures of numerous people in the Bible in order to provide us with life lessons and examples of how to behave. We can study scripture and learn from the successes and failures of others. However, understanding a topic academically does not mean that one has mastered the concepts.

In order to demonstrate mastery of the principles, God allows us to exhibit our understanding and/or grow in our mastery of the subject matter. He does this by giving us opportunities to interact with the world and in similar situations to what others in the Bible have previously experienced.

Proverbs 23:13-14 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Job 5:17 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.

Proverbs 3:11-13 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

Hebrews 12:5-8 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Revelations 3:19-21 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame.

James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

1 Peter 1:6-7 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 5:8-9 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.

Wisdom 3:5 And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself.

Christian growth is usually not fun. It is usually very hard and unpleasant. In order for us to grow in our understanding, God disciplines us. He does this out of love, and to help us become what we are meant to be. When we face adversity, God is treating us like his children. Even Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered in order to be made perfect. Christians are baptized with fire. Going through the fire may burn, but you come out purified. This discipline or spiritual growth is not a one-time thing; we will continue to face obstacles in life, which help us reach the next level of enlightenment.

In addition to facing adversity, God gives us many opportunities to let our lights shine, and to demonstrate the positive behaviors we have learned. Discipline, adversity, charity, and loving our fellowman as ourselves are apart of our spiritual education, which permits us to understand or demonstrate wisdom and discernment. We might find it unpleasant while we are facing trials, but we can rejoice that God is raising us as his children.

Daniel 10:10-14 And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.

Understanding the difference between freewill and predestination are an important part of one’s spiritual growth, but explaining those concepts is outside of the scope of this study. I will sum it up by stating that God has a purpose for your life that includes certain milestones, but beyond those key points, you are free to choose your own fate. God gives us leeway so that we can make our own choices and learn from our experiences. I mention this here, because understanding how God interacts in your life is a part of knowing God and growing to love him for his attributes.

You notice that in the above verses from the Book of Daniel, the angel stated Daniel’s words were heard immediately, but the angel was delayed after being sent to Daniel. God hears our prayers, but that does not mean he answers them right away. In Daniel’s case, his words were heard and an angel was sent, but even the angel was delayed on its journey. This might alter some of the ‘omni’ concepts that Orthodox Christianity may have taught you in the past regarding God or angels.

God may not be omnipresent in the manner that Orthodox Christianity teaches, as the Book of Revelations states that our actions are recorded in books for God. He may have a plan for us, but that does not mean that he watches us every minute of everyday. Just as earthly fathers do not watch their children eat every bite of cereal or observe them watching cartoons, their may be times that God is not continually watching our every moves.

In the Book of Genesis, God comes around after Adam and Eve had eaten the from the tree, and later the LORD came down to see the city and the Tower of Babel that humans were building. Of course, God’s presence in the lives of Christians far exceeds his interactions with humanity in the past, since God’s spirit actually dwells within the believer.

One way for humans to understand God, is to view him as a Father. God is our Father, and like a father, He is raising us and disciplining us. Since we were created in the image of God, the father attribute is one that we can understand. We might understand God by examining our human fathers, or we may get a glimpse at God’s perspective by examining our behaviors as parents.
Of course, there is a difference between the parenting style of our earthly fathers and our heavenly father, because our heavenly father has mastery over that attribute – just as God has mastery in understanding good and evil. Humans who serve in such roles are apprentices, seeking to master those roles or abilities. The objective of life is for us to gain mastery in understanding and responding to good and evil, and in our roles as parents and providers.

As a father, I love my children, and I try to share what wisdom I have acquired with them. God does the same thing with us. God has given us instructions and commandments in the Bible for us to live by, and has showed us why we should live that way – hoping we will listen to him and grow in our understanding. Good parents try to do the same with their children; however, children do not always listen to their parents. This is an example of freewill in action.

Parents may tell their children that stealing is bad, why it is bad, and warn them of the consequences of breaking the law, but regardless of the parent’s attempts at intervention, the child may still choose to steal. This may break the parent’s heart, but regardless of what the parent does, he/she may not be able to get through to the child.

The exact same things happen with God, and it has happen to him repeatedly. He provides us with instructions and interacts in our lives, yet some people continue to choose sin. Even Christians backslide. No one is perfect, but like a good parent, God recognizes our efforts, does not give up on us, and helps us to succeed – even if it is painful.

As a father, I try to instill certain values in my children, which I believe will help them navigate the world. However, my children are not always with me, and will experience the world without me at times. When they are not with me, they must use their own judgment to make decisions based on the lessons I have taught them. They may not make the best decisions, but together, I attempt to help them learn from their interactions/decisions.

We send our children to school and they interact with other children, who may influence them, give our children opportunities to help others, or the other children may bully or attack them. That scenario is not that different from what God does with us, or our interactions in the world.

Like a loving parent, God rejoices with our successes, and is grieved at our misfortunes or victimizations. He gets angry when we sin against him, and angry with those who sin against us. He gets jealous when we betray him, and takes pride in our accomplishments (Luke 3:22). Since He loves his children, He empathizes with us, he understands what we are going through, and is merciful when we truly regret our misdoings. We are made in God’s image, one of the ways that we can understand God, is by examining our own feelings in our roles as parents and children.

Some churches preach a very distorted version of who God is or who Jesus was. They might say things like, “God loves you unconditionally, and accepts you exactly the way you are”, which would negate all of the above verses about God disciplining his children and helping to make them perfect through their suffering. If you were already perfect, then there would be no reason for you to do anything or to put any effort into trying to learn or grow.

Likewise, people may have What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) stickers on their cars, yet not have the slightest idea what Jesus would actually do. I have read pamphlets from prison ministries that used the WWJD concept and then stated that if Jesus were alive today, he would be devoted to a prison ministry (therefore, we should send our money to said ministry). When Jesus walked the earth, there is no record of him visiting prisons. He did not even visit John the Baptist when John was in jail. Jesus did not attempt to save everybody.

Some people were intentionally blinded from being able to understand his message. He did not try to win over the religious leaders of his day. Some of the letters from the Apostles state to remember those in prison in their prayers, but they were speaking about the Christians who were put in prison while being persecuted for their faith; they were not telling anyone to pray for rapists or murderers.

Psalm 119:101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, For You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

Psalm 139:21 Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

King David was a man after God’s own heart, and he cherished God’s word and hated evil. God hates evil and is a God of justice. If you are going to love God or become like him, then you must understand that aspect of him – and you must understand those aspects of yourself. Many modern churches teach that Christians must love and forgive everybody, but that is not what the Bible teaches.

Emotions such as hate, anger, and jealousy may be frowned upon in modern churches, but they are emotions that we have and that we share with God. God shares those traits with us, and by understanding when those emotions are appropriate; we are better able to understand God. To repress emotions that are considered negative or to pretend that God does not share those traits is to live in a fantasy world.

Genesis 6:5-7 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Just as human parents try multiple ways to get through to their children, God has adjusted his approaches in influencing humanity. He first placed Adam and Eve in a garden that was like paradise; there was no sin or struggle, and all they had to do was obey one rule. After the fall of man, one of Adam and Eve’s sons murdered the other, and humankind went further down hill from there, until the world was consumed with wickedness. God was grieved in his heart, and regretted making man on the earth, so God wiped man off the face of the earth with a flood, and only allowed Noah and his family to live.

Genesis 9:1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

Genesis 11:5-9 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Humanity rebuilt following the flood, and were instructed by God to fill the earth. Instead, they constructed the Tower of Babel as a monument to themselves, and so that all of humanity would gather to that one location and marvel at it. God confused the languages of humans, so that they would have to scatter as He had instructed them to do.

At this point, God changed his approach again. God selected Abraham, who had committed to following God’s instructions and moving from Ur to the land that God promised him. God invested in Abraham and his descendants, and for the most part, he left the rest of humanity to their own devices. Abraham’s sons eventually led their family tree to enslavement in Egypt, but God stuck with them.

God sent Moses to free the slaves, and to take Israel to the Promised Land. This led to a series of wars, in which God used the Hebrew people to punish the evildoers and take over their land. In accordance with God’s plan, the Hebrew people returned to the land God promised to Abraham, and to depose the inhabitants of the land, who God permitted to exist until their sins reached the point that warranted their destruction (Genesis 15:16).

Within their society, the Law of Moses was implemented, and the Hebrew people followed God under the threat of death. In this approach, no evil would be tolerated. The Hebrew people went back and forth for a number of years, following God and ignoring him, and flourishing and being enslaved.

Finally, Jesus was born, and God’s approach to reaching humanity was modified again. Jesus did not force belief on anyone. He gave people the choice to accept him or reject him. Christianity does not force obedience to God with the threat of physical death. People are given the choice to follow God out of their own hearts and love for him. Non-believers will still face death, but it will be a spiritual death.

While living on earth, people are given the freewill to choose their own destinies and final abode. Another unique aspect of Christianity is that it does not require an earthly government or rulers. Christians can live in any country, and right along side non-believers. Doing so is not a hindrance, but instead, it actually provides opportunities for Christian growth. In the world, Christians will face obstacles, confrontations, and have opportunities to help their fellowman.

God has changed his approaches at reaching humanity a few times, and in the end, he will change it again and will make all things a new (Revelations 21:5). By examining the challenges God faced in trying to get through to his children, we can empathize with him, and can understand some of the emotions he may have had. In addition to being able to understand God better by being a parent, having pets could also give you a sense of what God may feel like while people misbehave.

I grew up in a family that had many pets. We had many dogs at the same time, and had cats, goats, and other animals. We loved are pets, and considered them parts of our family. We disciplined our pets when we needed to, but mostly, everything was good. However, there would be times when our dogs would get mad and fight each other.

Sometimes they would actually rip each other’s skin off or draw blood. When such things occurred, it was very sad, because we loved all of our animals and did not want them to behave in such a manner towards one another. They normally loved each other. By observing my own feelings related to my pets, of only wanting us all to simply love each other, get along, and simply enjoy life, I can see how it would grieve God in his heart when humans seek to destroy or hurt each other.

One-way to understand God better is to examine our own feelings, and to see our similarities with God’s nature, because He has instilled similar traits in us. This is even easier for Christians to do, because they are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that the spirit of God actually dwells inside us. Just like in the case of Daniel, from the first day you set your heart to understand God and chasten yourself, God hears your prayers.

1 John 4:17-21 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of Judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

The greatest commandment is that we love God with all of our hearts, and the second is that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We can know God by examining the concept of love, because, “as he is, so are we in this world.” By loving each other, our children, spouses, pets, friends, or neighbors, we can get a glimpse into God’s own heart. Everyone who loves is, “born of God and knows God.”

Ecclesiasticus 15:13 The Lord hateth all abomination; and they that fear God love it not.

Isaiah 61:8 For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Psalms 97:10 Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.

Wisdom 7:28 For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom.

Wisdom 1:6 For wisdom is a loving spirit; and will not acquit a blasphemer of his words: for God is witness of his reins, and a true beholder of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue.

Not all love is the same. The love we feel for our neighbors does not contain the same intensity that we love God, our spouses, or our children, but we are supposed to seek our neighbors good. We are to have mercy and empathy for our fellowman, but that does not mean that we are to love everyone unconditionally, regardless of their actions or behavior.

Certainly, God does not love everyone, and certain peoples’ actions warrant feelings of hate, anger, or resentment. The scriptures clearly indicate that God hates evil. If we are to be like God, or conformed to the image of Christ, then we must grow in our discernment and wisdom – understanding love and hate, and applying those feelings appropriately.

1 Kings 3:7-14 And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.

Mark 10:14-15 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

King Solomon received his earthly kingdom as a little child, and the intensions of Solomon’s heart pleased God. Solomon did not ask for selfish things, but sought to be a servant of God to his people. He asked for wisdom and discernment, so that he could distinguish good from bad, in order to use the position that God had placed him in to serve his fellowman.

In life, God places us in positions where we can demonstrate love for our fellowman. Love is an action. When we are told to love are neighbors, it does not mean that we must possess the same emotional love we feel for God or our families, but we are to show loving-kindness and demonstrate love to others through our actions.

Isaiah. 54:5-8 For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. “For the Lord has called you, Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, Even like a wife of one's youth when she is rejected,” Says your God. "For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the Lord your Redeemer.

Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Another means of learning about and understanding God is through the relationships we experience in marriage. Of course, when I speak of marriage or parenting, I am referring to the ideal state of these relationships, and not deadbeat dads or people who marry and divorce at the first sign of trouble.

Ideal marriage or family relationships are based on love and commitment; they are based on honor, which is not to be compromised. In scripture, God is referred to as our husband, and likewise, the church is considered the Bride of Christ. Viewing our relationship with God in such terms allows us to understand some of God’s emotions.

Exodus 20:1-7 And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Jeremiah 5:7-9 How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses. They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife. Shall I not visit for these things? Saith the LORD: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?

Proverbs 6:32-35 Whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.

In the Ten Commandments, God clearly stated that he is a jealous God. Viewing him in the role of a husband makes his relationship with us easier to understand. Instead of viewing God as a king or dictator demanding complete obedience, view him in terms of a spouse, desiring the basic emotions and commitments that anyone would want out of a marriage. He wants to be shown respect; he wants to be appreciated for providing for us, he does not want his spouse to commit adultery, or to be betrayed. He wants to be loved and to show love in return.

In the Bible, Adultery is a serious offense. It was punished by death under the Law of Moses, and is the only grounds Jesus stated as an appropriate reason to get divorced in the New Testament. God’s jealousy is to be taken as seriously as man’s jealousy, and the rage a loving husband feels in response to adultery is unforgivable (nothing can make up for it or appease the husband’s wrath). Likewise, God takes it seriously when He is neglected, betrayed, or hated.

God’s character is displayed throughout the Bible, and by studying it, you can understand God. If you agree with his actions and view his emotions as appropriate, then it is easy to love God and to trust in Him. However, if you do not agree with him, you will have a hard time loving him. If you do not understand certain aspects of his character, such as the need for him to establish justice, then you will have difficulty loving him. Some people have big a dilemma with the concept of hell or eternal punishment, and do not know how their ‘loving God’ could permit that.

Why God allows bad things to happen to good people is another concept of which some people have issues. Still others cannot get past instances of death and punishment, such as when God killed the first-born sons in Egypt, flooded the earth, or instructed the Hebrew people to destroy other nations in war. If any of those are issues for you, then they are concepts that you need to look into further in order to understand them. Try to see things through God’s point of view, and try to view it as a bigger picture of His interactions with humanity, instead of interactions with individuals.

After you come to truly know and love God, then following his commandments is easy. You trust that God is working in your life, and that all things are working together for your good. Things may not come together for your earthy success, but God will be disciplining you and building you up spiritually. Once you are on the path of the Lord, you will grow closer to God and will depend on Him and experience life together. You will face obstacles, trials, and tribulations, and will be given opportunities to display your faith, to demonstrate love for your fellowman, and to grow in wisdom and discernment.

My answer to ‘what is the meaning of life’, is for us to learn about God, love him, trust in his plan, and allow him to journey with us through life, as we face trials, discipline, and obstacles in order to develop wisdom and discernment. Our judgment is then tested or demonstrated as we interact with others in the world, and our final destination is determined based on our actions. In life, we will continually face adversity in order for us to be conformed to the image of Christ, and to move from the apprentice stages of judgment and emotional intelligence in order to become more like God.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 Do you not know that the saints will Judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to Judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall Judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?

Knowing, loving, and serving God are what I consider the basic answers to the question of the meaning of life. Beyond that, I consider falling in love, getting married and raising children other key aspects of life’s journey. Those choices complement the previous, because by learning to be a good husband (or wife) you gain insight and a deeper understanding of God. Raising children in the Lord and imparting your wisdom to them, also aids in understanding and loving God.

Following Jesus and the principles taught by the Apostles require you to be a hard worker and trusted employee – a person of character. Those traits establish credibility for you, so that as opportunities present themselves, you can share your faith with others, and they will listen to you. Life is a balancing act, requiring you to gain a certain amount of worldly success and credibility without compromising your values or core beliefs. Try to make a difference in the world and add meaning/purpose to your life. Know and love God and to live with honor.

Jeremiah 9:22-24 This is what the LORD declares: “Dead bodies will lie like dung on the open field, like cut grain behind the reaper, with no one to gather them.” This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

The Question of Evil

The questions as to, “why evil exists in the world” or, “why God permits suffering or heinous crimes to be committed against innocent people” are questions of profound significance. Many people reject God or lose their faith based on their inability to answer such questions. Some form of evil is encountered daily in the world; it is on television, in the news, and in the emotions or intensions of strangers, friends, co-workers, and even loved ones. The existence of evil is an unavoidable aspect of life, but for now, it has a place in God’s plan.

Take a few moments, and try to imagine a world without evil, pain, or suffering. What would it be like? What emotions would you experience? When trying to imagine such a place, you might imagine what Heaven would be like. All of the negative aspects of life such as, death, sadness, and pain would be gone.

Revelations 21:2-4 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

For those who successfully navigate the world and develop a character pleasing to God, all of the negative aspects of life will be removed. However, those who choose a different path will face the second death or hell. On the Day of Judgment, each person will be judged according to his or her deeds, but until that day, they have a lifelong opportunity to learn to distinguish between right, wrong, good, and evil. Evil exists in the world in order for us to have freewill, to be disciplined, and so that we can learn from our mistakes through choices and consequences.

In a world without evil, the answers to the Meaning of Life I proposed in the previous section would be greatly affected. Think back to the Garden of Eden. There were no threats, Adam’s only responsibility was to tend to the garden, which required very little effort. There were no dangers from animals, poison, illness, or anything else. What emotions to you think Adam experienced in that state, and how profound do you think he felt those emotions?

He probably felt contentment, but without having anything to contrast it against, he may not have recognized that feeling. He was free of illness, so he did not experience pain, but at the same time, would he have even been aware of how his body felt or would it have been taken for granted. Were Adam and Eve happy and content? Probably, but were they aware of those feelings? Before sin entered the garden, Adam and Eve were in a state of ignorance. It was very easy for the serpent to convince them to break God’s only rule, because their minds had not been schooled in discretion.

They knew that if they ate from the tree they would die, but they probable did not understand what that meant. After evil entered the garden, the world became a dangerous place, and Adam and Eve realized that they were naked. They felt shame, remorse, sorrow, and fear. In their next encounter with God, they did not take responsibility for their actions; they tried shifting the blame to others and Adam even tried to blame God.

Was it God’s fault? No, Adam and Eve were responsible for their own actions/decisions. However, placing the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden was obviously a part of God’s plan. Why would God do such a thing? I believe He did it so that humans could advance to the next level.

Imagine that you have two fish in a fishbowl. There are no bigger fish to threaten them, so the fish are not even aware of the existence of danger. Everyday you provide the fish food, so they do not have to look or work for it. They just swim back and forth content, but doing nothing other than existing.

You can try to talk to your fish everyday, but they cannot understand you, they have nothing in common with you, and could not fathom what the hand that sprinkles food in their bowl is like. Now imagine there was something you could place in their bowl, that if they chose to eat it, they would have the ability to become like you. They would not instantly be like the hand that sprinkles food, but they would possess the ability to learn to become like the hand.

Before evil entered the world, Adam and Eve were in a state of ignorance. The Bible does not state what emotions they felt, but fear, sorrow, pain, anger, and jealousy were probably not among them until evil entered the world. When evil entered the world, it brought with it consequences for the choices we make. It also made simply existing challenging. Concepts like pain, fear, and death may be unpleasant, but they also make life more vibrant.

You can appreciate life more, you can experience love more, and you can be proud of your efforts. Accomplishing tasks may have become more challenging, but the feeling of accomplishment as we achieve our goals and overcome challenges would not be felt if we simply swam back and forth waiting until the next time the hand sprinkled food in our bowl.

Having challenges in life is not a bad thing. Wanting to push your body to the next level, run faster, become stronger, or mastering a subject academically is motivating and rewarding. Growing food, passing tests, inventing tools or vehicles is satisfying, challenging, and gives us purpose. It gives us something to strive for, and allows us to set goals and have direction in our lives.

Having everything too easy, causes us to miss out on many opportunities to grow, which is why Jesus stated that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it would be for a rich man to enter Heaven (Mark 10:25).

Proverbs 2:10-13 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; {Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;

Ecclesiastes 1:13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

Ecclesiastes 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was necessary to give us the ability to develop wisdom (Genesis 3:6). Unfortunately, with wisdom comes grief, and with knowledge comes sorrow. Developing wisdom is also a “sore travail” or painful process at times, but developing wisdom is worthwhile and can aid us in avoiding evil.

Evil exists in the world, because it provides us with choices and consequences; it allows us to experience a range of emotions we might not otherwise have been aware of, and the positive emotions we experience are more profound. It is important to remember that with the knowledge of evil, the tree also gave us the knowledge of good. Evil allows us not to take the good things in life for granted. Challenges drive us and motivate us to achieve the next level, and overcoming obstacles allows us to grow.

Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:

Ecclesiasticus 17:7-8 Withal he filled them with the knowledge of understanding, and shewed them good and evil. He set his eye upon their hearts, that he might shew them the greatness of his works.

In the previous section, I proposed that the meaning of life was for us to learn about God, to love God, to serve Him, and to strive to become like him, by growing in our mastery of emotions, wisdom, discernment, and in our behaviors. Without evil in the world, all of those tasks would be difficult. In order for us to understand God, we must be able to think like Him, and God has an understanding of what is good and what is evil.

For us to love God and for us to grow in wisdom, we must observe God’s feelings and emotions in response to good and evil. Facing adversity gives us opportunities to put the knowledge we acquired into practice, and based on our experiences, we can modify our approaches and grow in judgment. Having challenges in life also gives us opportunities to help our fellowman, and demonstrates our willingness to love our neighbors.

Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

James 4:7-8 Submit therefore to God, Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

2 Corinthians 2:11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

The world can be a beautiful place, but it can also be very harsh and filled with horror. As parents, we shelter our children from the horrors of the world until they reach an age or level of cognitive development that we feel they are able to process such information. At some point in their development, we must share necessary information with our children in order to equip them to face the world on their own.

As Christians, we are like sheep being sent into a world full of wolves. In order to survive, we must develop some cunning, discernment, and judgment. We must become as wise as the serpents we are facing, because if we are unaware of their schemes, we would not be able to defend ourselves against them.

John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Jesus stated that the thief’s intension was to steal, kill, or destroy. Without knowing what motivates our enemies, we would be at a severe disadvantage in defending ourselves against their evil intent. During my academic studies on terrorism, warfare, and crime, I was often traumatized by the information I was confronted with. The heinous evil that people inflict against each other is unnerving. Yet, understanding how the enemy thinks and behaves is an important aspect in establishing security measures or responding to attacks.

Police officers, soldiers, and counter-terrorists need to possess an understanding of the actions of evildoers that is not required by the general population. I am not suggesting that either you or your children need to examine evil in graphic detail, but you must possess a general understanding of it in order to defend yourselves against it.

Knowing that the thief might come after you in order to steal, kill, or destroy may be enough for you to secure your home and person, without requiring you to speculate what they want to steal or the different methods they might employee to try to kill you. In order to be as wise as the serpent you cannot be ignorant of its ploys.

The next big question is, “why does God allow heinous acts to be committed against innocent people?” This is a question that I have spent endless amounts of time trying to understand, and I am not sure that I have obtained a full comprehension of it yet. Very bad things happen to people on the earth, and may have happened to you or someone you love.

Unspeakable evil acts are occurring right now, all over the world. One of the answers is that bad things happen because evil exists in the world, but without evil, we would lack freewill and opportunities to either grow or exercise our faith. Through our interactions with evil, we are able to learn, grow, or demonstrate ourfaith; or we may demonstrate our indifference to the misery of our fellowman, our selfishness, and our failure to take action when we should.

I want to make one thing very clear, when I speak of the concept of God disciplining those he loves; I am not suggesting that God planned out or set up and horrible event to befall an innocent person for that person’s own good. As I stated previously, I believe that God predestines certain things in our lives, but beyond that, gives us freewill and leaves us to our own devices.

I do not believe that God is sitting somewhere watching and controlling every event in our lives. When God created the world, He established a system and cycles of life, that could be left on its own to continue. Bats eat fruit and defecates seeds, which grow more fruit trees for the bats to eat. Water evaporates and falls back to earth as rain to grow crops.

Good and evil existing in the world can function in a similar manner. Once that system was established, God does not need to control humanity like puppets and control every single event, because we will automatically encounter and respond to good and evil without Him needed to take any further action.

So, why does not God rescue innocent people from evil? I do not have an answer to that question that will satisfy everyone. I will say that God never promised that we would be safe while we live on the earth. We are not guaranteed safety, which is why Jesus warned us that we are being sent as sheep in the midst of wolves. We have been warned that the world is a dangerous place and that we need to develop wisdom and prudence in order to protect ourselves.

It is also important to note, that it is rare that God personally intervenes in order to rescue his people. He may have parted the sea for Moses, but that was part of God’s will, as his intent was to punish the Egyptians. Otherwise, God has always allowed tragedy to befall innocent people. Abel earned the respect of God, yet Cain murdered him. Heinous crimes against innocent people are recorded throughout the Bible.

Jesus was God’s only begotten son, and Jesus himself fell into the hands of evil men and was tortured and executed. The Apostles were beheaded, crucified, or otherwise imprisoned and killed. When people fall into the hands of evil men, I do not believe that God intentionally placed them their to assist their spiritual growth, but I believe that such things occur as a consequence of evil being on the earth.

The Bible also tells us not to worry about those who can destroy the body, but beyond that can do nothing more. God may not be overly concerned about whether we live or die, but He cares about how we live our lives and how we respond/react to the situations, we are confronted with.

The other thing I would mention is that it may not be all about the innocent person that is victimized. Jesus’ death on the cross was not only about him, but served as a means of humanity to be reconciled to God. Of course, the death Jesus would die was a unique part of God’s plan, since the foundation of the world.

Someone I love very deeply was the victim of multiple heinous acts. Acts that left permanent and dire emotional scares that will be there to some extent for a lifetime. Maybe the events allowed her become stronger, or in a better position to help others who suffer similar fates. Perhaps the events had less to do with her, but had an effect on the lives of others. It would certainly demonstrate the victimizer’s failure, which may have sealed his fate in the afterlife.

It may have been a test for others, who ignored signs of victimization or failed to take action when they should have. Everyone is going to give an account for their deeds, to include the things they should have done but failed to do. I was not there when the events occurred, but it had a profound impact on my life regardless. Combining those events with the other evil acts I learned about through life and study has greatly influenced my desire to fight evil in the world and to help victims.

So why doesn’t God do something about all of the suffering in the world? He might ask you the very same question. What are you doing about it? There are endless examples of suffering taking place around the world. What are you personally doing about it? What should we do about it? Is war the answer? Should we send troops to the other side of the world and force the people at gunpoint to stop being evil? We do that some times, but it is never enough.

There is always evil taking place in another country that would require the same response. The amount of evil that we can or should get involved in around the world requires discernment, but where we can ensure justice, we should attempt to do so.

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.

Psalm 82:3-4 Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.

Jeremiah 21:12 ‘O house of David! Thus say the Lord: “Execute judgment in the morning; and deliver him who is plundered out of the hand of the oppressor, lest My fury go forth like fire and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Zechariah 7:9-10 “Thus says the Lord of Hosts: “Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.”

Zechariah 8:16-17 “These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate, ‘Says the Lord.”

Matthew 25:44-46 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

God might not intervene in the world to rescue innocent people from suffering, because He is giving us the opportunity to do so, or to see if we will try. The Bible is very clear about our need to love our neighbors, establish justice, and help the less fortunate.

Amos 5:14-15 Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; so the Lord God of host will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate.

Psalm 37:27-28 Depart from evil, and do good; And dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.

Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

One of the reasons evil exists in the world is for us to learn to hate it. In the future Kingdom of Heaven, all suffering will be removed, and we will return to a stake similar to the Garden of Eden. However, only those who have been chosen/selected will be there. They will live in peace and contentment, but not out of ignorance, they will do so because they have mastered their emotions and character, and have become like God.

God will have his children with him, and they will dwell in safety and comfort; similar to how parents try to establish such an environment in their homes with their own children. God will not worry about fallen angels rebelling against him, because everyone there will have proved their loyalty and honor while on earth. They will have demonstrated that while they lived with evil and sin all around them, they did not compromise themselves to it.

Ecclesiasticus 15:17-20 Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him. For the wisdom of the Lord is great, and he is mighty in power, and beholdeth all things: And his eyes are upon them that fear him, and he knoweth every work of man. He hath commanded no man to do wickedly, neither hath he given any man licence to sin.

Nahum 1:2-3 God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; The Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies; The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.

Deuteronomy 30:15-16 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live

When innocent people are the victims of evil, it might also be that God is allowing the evildoer to seal his own fate; eternal punishment is not something to be taken lightly, so if the evildoer were prevented from committing evil acts at each attempt, eternal punishment would not be fitting. As Christians, we are to live according to the precepts in the Bible, and are to come to the aid of our fellowman and to establish justice on the earth.

As much as it is in our power to do so, we are not to tolerate evil. The principles of hating evil, loving good, and establishing justice are found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. If a Christian truly wishes to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), then he/she should seek to understand these teachings (2 Timothy 2:15).

Psalm 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.

Revelations 2:2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars”

Revelations 2:6 “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

The choice between good and evil is a basic test that we may face many times in our lives. When we are confronted by evil, God observes how we respond to it, and how we treat our fellowman. As Christians, we are to use our judgment and discernment appropriately; we should seek a balance in our feelings of love, hate, and the need to establish justice, and we are to identify and not bear or tolerate evil.

The next major question some people have related to evil is the concept of hell. They cannot understand how and all-loving and all-forgiving god could sentence someone to eternal punishment. The answer is that God is not all-loving or all-forgiving. Those are extra biblical concepts. The Bible is clear that God hates evildoers, and in no way will He acquit the wicked. The Bible plainly teaches that there is a hell, it tells us who will go there, and how to avoid it.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Revelations 21:7-8 "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

The above verses list many reasons why a person may be sent to hell. You might notice hate, jealousies, wrath, drunkenness and liars are listed in the category of what not to do. Certainly, God himself displays some of those attributes, or some of His followers are recorded in the Bible as doing so. It is a matter of discernment, as to what is a righteous anger or a sinful one. Drinking an alcoholic beverage from time to time is different from being a drunkard, and tactical deception to defend against an enemy differs from someone who lies for selfish gain or to cause harm.

Matthew 23:25-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Mark 7:20-23 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

The LORD is a God of justice and righteous judgment. His judgments are based as much on the intensions of a person’s heart, as they are on the acts the person engages in. Some people (such as the Pharisees in the above verses) displayed appropriate or even righteous behavior, yet inside they were disgusting people. People who intentional lay-in-wait in order to murder a person and steal their goods will likely go to hell, but also people who may appear to be pillars of society may be condemned do to the evil in their hearts.

When people object to the concept of hell, they usually propose a black and white argument, and make it sound as if God would be unreasonable to force a person to endure eternal punishment. The thing that you must realize is that God is not unreasonable. God searches the hearts of people and his judgments are just.

Our nature is similar to God’s, so if we comprehend that not all things are black and white, of course God does too. We are on earth to learn about and/or master the concepts of justice and judgment. God has had a much longer amount of time to perfect those abilities than we have, so we can trust that God is a God of justice, and we can trust that He will do what is right.

Unfortunately, some people are so evil or do such bad things, that earthly justice could never suffice, serial killers, human traffickers, and people who engage in sexual slavery or genocide are prime examples. What could we, as humans, possibly do to such people that would be comparable to the devastation they have committed? We could lock them in prisons or mental institutions, or have them tried and executed, but the punishment still may not fit the crime.

We are not expected to devise comparable punishments for heinous crimes, because vengeance belongs to God and He will repay (Romans 12:19). We can still attempt to do justice to the best of our ability on earth – by restraining evil or isolating it the best we can from society – but ultimately, we must trust that God is just and that it is in his nature to use judgment appropriately, and administer justice fairly.

Understanding the justice aspect of God is important, because if you do not know God, how could you love him? If you do not love him, why would you keep his commandments or follow him? Evil is a necessary part of the current world, and the world is a dangerous place where bad things can happen to anyone. God made some vessels for honor and some for dishonor. It is through our interactions with evil that we are able to demonstrate our stewardship, grow in judgment, and be prepared for every good work and for glory.

Ecclesiasticus 33:10-14 And all men are from the ground, and Adam was created of earth: In much knowledge the Lord hath divided them, and made their ways diverse. Some of them hath he blessed and exalted and some of them he sanctified, and set near himself: but some of them hath he cursed and brought low, and turned out of their places. As the clay is in the potter’s hand, to fashion it at his pleasure: so man is in the hand of him that made him, to render to them as liketh him best. Good is set against evil, and life against death: so is the godly against the sinner, and the sinner against the godly.

Romans 9:22-23 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

Defining Success

There are many aspects to life, and many opportunities to be successful. You may be successful in some areas of your life, yet have difficulties in others. In order to be successful in life overall, you must determine what that means to you; much of which will depend on what you value most or hold dear. To gauge your level of success in life, you should base your criteria on an intrinsic value, and not on how others define success.

What does success mean to you? What are the ideal conditions in life that you wish to strive for or obtain? Is your success based on wealth, fame, fulfillment, respect, or recognition, and if so, what is the level of success you wish to achieve in those areas and whose approval do you seek (your own, the worlds, strangers, co-workers, your spouse’s, your children’s, or God’s). Do you want to succeed in athletic competitions, earn academic honors, rise to the top of your career-field, or to be a respected member of your community? Do you define success by the size of your house or the car you drive?

Success can mean many different things to people. The entertainment industry is full of people that have obtained fame and fortune, but what did they have to do to obtain it and was it worth it? Was the person recognized for his/her superior performance, or did they have to compromise their honor to obtain it? Did they have to sleep with casting directors, sabotage the careers of others, or engage is unsavory behaviors that compromised their values in order to obtain success?

Now that they obtained it, was it worth it? They might be on the cover of magazines or in commercials, but they do not have any privacy; paparazzi are always watching them, and hoping to uncover some dark secret that they could proclaim to the world for their own profit. Is fame worth sacrificing your independence or your freedom of movement?

Proverbs 28:6 Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

Sirach 9:11 Envy not the glory of a sinner: for thou knowest not what shall be his end.

Proverbs 10:2 ill-begotten treasure is of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.

How about the extremely wealthy, who are surrounded by ‘yes men’, and all the people in their lives are superficial – only wanting to leech off of what the other person has. When someone comes into the person’s life, the wealthy person cannot be sure if the other person is genuine, or only after the person’s money.

Ecclesiasticus 12:8 In prosperity you cannot always tell a true friend, but in adversity you cannot mistake an enemy.

In some areas of life, obtaining success requires an extreme amount of dedication. In order to be successful, you may have to devote excessive amounts of time to the endeavor, which may cause you to neglect other aspects of life – or life in general. One might devote their entire lives to improving their bodies, mastering a sport, rising to the top in business, or in countless other endeavors, but is the medal, the trophy, money, or whatever other token of success worth being alone or having a spouse or family that they do not really know? At the end of your life, when you are on your deathbed looking back, what do you think you would wish you had spent more of your time doing?

Ignoring how secular society or outsiders define success, determine what success means to you personally. What activities, endeavors, or relationships have value to you? What gives your life meaning, and/or makes you feel like you are making a difference? What do you cherish most in life, and in what aspects do you wish you had more? On your deathbed, will you wish you had explored the world or seen certain sights, will you wish you spent more time with those you love, or had more time to engage in a hobby or activity that you enjoy or find meaningful?

Galatians 6:4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

Neither society nor I can define success for you. You must determine what has value to you, in what areas of life you wish to succeed (and what constitutes success in those areas), and you must develop a correct balance in fulfilling the requirements of life, and obtaining success and meaning in the aspects of life that you determine to have value.

Luke 12:29-32 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

In the third section of this study I asked you to contemplate and answer the question regarding the meaning of life. Defining success in life should largely be based on your answer to that question. Once you determine what has purpose and value in life, you can then go about seeking success in those areas.

I provided my answers to that question as follows: to know, understand, love, serve, and trust God. Additionally, through our experiences we are to grow in wisdom, discernment, and judgment in order to understand, love, and serve God (and others) more effectively. In doing so, we become more like God, and worthy to enter His Kingdom.

Our relationship with God is one of the most important aspects of our existence. However, our relationship with God is not the only thing that we must focus on in the world. If we devoted our entire lives locked in a monastery reading scripture trying to learn about God, we would miss life, and the lessons that God can teach us through living. I believe that we should go through life in a partnership with God, but if our entire days were spent sitting in a church we would miss the opportunities to put what we have learned into practice.

Succeeding in marriage and in raising our children is as important as studying the scriptures, because God judges us based on how we live and how we apply His precepts in our lives. Moreover, by succeeding as a spouse or parent, we are given unique insight in our ability to understand God. Family, career, children, and being successful in our other interactions with the world are important, and God, “knows that ye have need of these things.” By including God with us in our journey through life, many things and experiences can be used as learning tools.

Matthew 25:23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Our talents and ability to succeed in different aspects of life is based on the blessings that God has given us. God wants us to be good stewards concerning the gifts we have been given. If we are blessed with a loving spouse, we should appreciate and be thankful for that gift, and should also let our spouse know he/she is appreciated. If we are given children, then we should do our best to raise them right, and to set them up for success in this world and the next.

If God places us in a position of power, we should use that position wisely, and make a difference in the world or in the lives of those God has placed in our care. God evaluates our stewardship, and those who demonstrate that they can be trusted with the blessings they had received, God will increase His trust in them; and will provide them with the means to achieve the next level.

Ecclesiastes 4:4 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 9:9-10 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is an example of Solomon’s quest for meaning in life. He determined that much of life is focused on vanity. I agree that much of what we do in life is based on our own pride and desire for self-esteem, but taking pride in oneself is not always a bad thing. Living with a sense of honor and having pride in your work is different from being narcissistic or arrogant.

Solomon put things into perspective, many of are experiences in life do not make a difference in the grand scheme of things, and we must remember to live joyful with our wives and those we love all the days of our lives, recognizing that God has given us those blessings as our portions in life.

Whatever we do and whatever goals we pursue, we should put our hearts into it, and make the most of the opportunities that are given to us while on earth. We should take the opportunities we are given to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Solomon concluded his quest for meaning, by stating that in the end, all it comes down to is that we keep God’s commandments, and live a life pleasing to Him.

What exactly we choose to do on earth does not matter as much as how we live. God can observe our stewardship and judge our hearts whether we become leaders or followers, spouses or parents, freemen or slaves. We are given freewill to make our own choices.

1 Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

James 4:14-15 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that we ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Much of what we achieve in life will be here one day and gone the next. Our lives are but a vapor. We can achieve success in many areas of life, but much of our successes go only towards our own vanity. The only true ‘difference’ that we make is in the impact our lives have on those around us, and how pleasing our actions are to God.

We can certainly ‘make a difference’ in the lives of our children and in the lives of others as we find opportunities to love our fellowman. As you define meaning in your life and decide what constitutes success, keep it in perspective, and make sure you do not miss the truly important things in life while you add to your own fleeting vanity.

Personally, I define worldly success as being able to maintain a safe and comfortable lifestyle that permits me to keep a stable home for my wife and children, and gives us opportunities to learn, grow, and pursue our interests and goals. Self-esteem is important to everyone, so within our careers, relationships, and/or hobbies, each family member must find fulfillment.

Success in life often equates to adequately meeting our needs for safety, security, love, esteem, and our ability to pursue our dreams. A warm and loving home with loving relationships is better that fame or fortune. Of course, success in the workplace is required to pay for such things, and in order to be successful at work, one may need to be successful academically, vocationally, or athletically in order to afford a comfortable lifestyle.

Worldly success is based on the fulfillment of one’s desires. Most of which are related to a person’s vanity, self-esteem, or the perceived respect they attribute to themselves or the reputation they establish with those around them. One’s personal honor is usually intrinsic in nature.

I graduated from college with honors at the Bachelors and Masters levels, but honestly, the fulfillment I received from those accomplishments was a personal one. Most people could not give a crap that I have a degree or what my grade point average was. In fact, I usually hide the fact that I have a college degree, because more people resent me for it than they do respect me because of it. People do not care about how many trophies or awards you have, they care about how many trophies and awards they have.

Spiritual success is about God. Our worldly success is based on how proud we are of ourselves, but our spiritual success is based on how proud God is of us. Luckily, those two aspects of success intersect in many areas. While we are seeking worldly success, God examines our actions and if we are living an honorable life, then we can obtain spiritual success simultaneously.

Ultimately, spiritual success is about how we live. Establishing relationships based on love and our concern for others, are the traits that God is looking for in us. God also wants us to be good employees, to love each other, and to serve Him. By loving our wives, children, and neighbors, we are fulfilling our own needs, and following God’s commandments at the same time.

Establishing Priorities

1 Samuel 16:18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, he is shrewd in playing, and a mighty man of valor, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, a handsome person, and the LORD is with him.

When discussing the need to establish priorities in life or to live with honor, there are no better examples than that of David and Uriah. King David was declared to be a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). David was an honorable man with a good reputation. He was shrewd, prudent, courageous, and handsome. He had the looks, the brains, the courage, and he lived by God’s statutes and commandments. However, not even David was perfect, and he too fell into sin and temptation.

2 Samuel 11:2-15 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, "I am with child." Then David sent to Joab, saying, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. And David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and wash your feet." So Uriah departed from the king's house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from [thy] journey? why [then] didst thou not go down unto thine house? And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing. And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house. In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die."

1 Kings 15:4-5 Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

King David gave into temptation and committed adultery. After getting Uriah’s wife pregnant, he tried to hide his sin by bringing Uriah back from the war – hoping that Uriah would sleep with his wife and believe the child to be his own. When David’s plan failed, he sent a letter to Uriah’s commanding officer in order to orchestrate Uriah’s death. Uriah delivered the message with his own hand. David was a man of honor, but by compromising his honor in just one occasion, he committed very serious sins that produced many devastating consequences in his life (2 Samuel 12:7-14).

Uriah the Hittite was also a man of honor. He too had a good reputation and was listed as one of David’s Mighty Men (1 Chronicles 11:41). Uriah was a respected soldier and he had a beautiful wife. He possessed a sense of duty, and could not justify indulging himself, while God’s ark was in a tent, and his fellow soldiers were sleeping in open fields. Even after being made drunk, Uriah was still unwilling to compromise his principles, which ultimately led to his death.

What are the lessons we can learn from Uriah? First, he was a good soldier, he respected God, and had empathy for his fellowman, and he lived with principles. However, his failure was in his inability to establish priorities. There is no doubt that Uriah was a dedicated employee, but life is not only about work. In the example that we are shown in the Bible, Uriah neglected the needs of his wife. He had empathy for those who were still at war, but he did not consider his wife’s needs.

Having deployed to war myself, I can assure you that it is not easy on the wives who are left at home to fend for themselves. If Uriah had a good relationship with his wife, then he would have considered that she may have missed him, needed his help, and/or would have greatly appreciated having a few days with him. Uriah placed the need to appear dedicated to duty over his own needs and over those of his wife.

Had he not done so, he would not have been set up to die. In fact, if he had a strong relationship with his wife, then she might not have betrayed him in the first place. The lesson here is to establish priorities in your life, and not be so focused on succeeding in one area that you neglect the truly important things in life. Always keep in mind that although your employer may appreciate your dedication and effort, they probably do not care about you personally.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

My priorities are God, Family, and Country, and in that order. Uriah may have had similar priorities, and may have believed that by doing his duty he was serving God first; however, we serve God by taking care of our families. We can also serve God in our careers, but I believe God cares more about how we care for people, especially those He has placed in our care.

We can represent our faith and serve others through our careers, but we should live with a devotion to God and loyalty to our families first. Balancing God, family, and career is sometimes difficult, because without an income, serving God or providing for our families would not be possible. It is important to find success in each of these areas, but we must not lose sight of our priorities and neglect the things that are truly important in life in order to be more successful in a certain aspect of it.

After determining what you consider important in life (and what gives your life meaning), you can establish a list of priorities to ensure you are working for success in those areas, and filling any voids that might take away from the satisfaction and fulfillment you obtain in life. In this section, I provide a few questionnaires meant to help you identify any deficits that you may wish to correct or to aid you in planning a strategy for success.

The categories I selected to evaluate include your relationship with God, your spouse, your children, your career, and the focus you place on activities/hobbies that are meaningful to you and your efforts to love your neighbor. By rating your current progress in those areas, you can compare the results to identify any areas you may wish to improve.

Our happiness is influenced by the happiness of others. You must fulfill your own needs to be happy, but you must also keep your boss, wife, children, and God happy in order to have a prosperous life. All of those relationships feed off each other, and result in a happy and successful life.

A happy wife makes for a happy life. If your wife or children are not fulfilled, then your happiness will be affected. If your boss is not happy with your work or effort, then your career may suffer and your working environment may become unpleasant. Making God happy will drastically affect your opportunities for success. If you put God first and seek Him in your life, then all other things will be added unto you.

If you love God, then all things in your life will work together for your own good. God evaluates your stewardship and observes what you do with the blessings He provides you. If you want Him to help you succeed, then you must demonstrate that you can handle what you have been given. Making a difference in the world or in the lives of others, is in accordance with God’s will, and demonstrates your discipleship.

Answer the questions in the below tables by selecting a number from zero to six. Total your answers for each table, and then compare the results to determine which areas of life you focus most of your attention, and which areas you might wish to improve. If you find yourself lacking in a certain area, you can look back at the table to see which aspect of the category is the most lacking in order to improve in that aspect.

For example, if you do not feel assured of your salvation, you can work on your relationship with God or do a Bible study on that topic; ask yourself questions as to why you feel that way? Do you not feel worthy of salvation, if not, why not, and how do you fix it? If you are lacking in the employment table, what changes can you make to improve your satisfaction at work (different job/better relationships with co-workers/better resources)? The categories I selected are the ones I felt would be most significant, but if you would like to evaluate other categories, I included a blank table that you can use to write in your own category.

Category Total
Serving others

Understanding Human Nature

In order to be successful in the world you will need to interact with other people to some extent. They may not share the same morals or values with you, but people’s needs and motivations are similar. People make decisions that move them away from pain and towards pleasure, and they are motivated by common needs. When dealing with people, you are dealing with feelings, and how you make them feel will affect how they respond to you at that time and in the future.

It is also very difficult for people to modify their behavior, so you are can predict what other people will do in the future, based on what they have done in the past. Keeping that in mind, you should remain cognizant of your own behavior – and what your actions say about you. If you demonstrate that you are a competent and trustworthy employee, your bosses and peers will trust that you will continue in that behavioral pattern.

However, if you are known to be a gossiper or complainer against others (talking behind people’s backs), those you complain to will assume you will do the same about them, and they will not trust you with their information. People are motivated to move away from pain and towards pleasure; so if your behavior is of value to others, you will be a welcomed ally, but if you come across as a threat, your behavior may work against you.

In the early 1940s, Abraham Maslow came up with a theory of human motivation that consisted of a Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be a valuable tool managers can use to increase productivity and to motivate their employees. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is depicted as a pyramid with five different sets of needs that should be met within each individual. The five areas consist of Physiological Needs, Safety and Security, Love and Belonging, Self-Esteem, and Self-Actualization.

These are the needs that Maslow believed drives and motivates humanity. Once a person has achieved the lower needs in the pyramid, the person will seek to fulfill the next highest need. Of course, this is not an exact model and the degree of importance of any particular need will vary from person to person, and from situation to situation. However, as a general guideline to follow, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs could be of assistance in many situations, and in many aspects of life.

If a subordinate is not having their physiological needs met (meaning they are not receiving adequate food, water, sleep, or air) then they will be distracted from performing their duties. If employees do not feel ‘safe’ at work (due to a hostile working environment, sexual harassment, or other threats) they will be more concerned about securing their own safety than they will be about being your best employee.

If they feel, they do not have job security they may devote a large amount of their time to creating back up plans or by looking for more stable employment. Once those basic human needs are met, the person is free to pursue the higher needs in the pyramid, and is able to perform their duties without distraction.

The next level in Maslow’s pyramid is the ‘Need for Love and Belonging.’ People want to fit in, be accepted, and feel like they are apart of something bigger than themselves. If an employee does not feel like they belong in their work center, they will continue to work there only long enough for them to find a job where they feel comfortable and accepted.

They would be working to fulfill their physiological needs and/or the need for financial security, but they will not care about their jobs. If you can create a sense of belonging within an employee, you will gain their loyalty, they will be content with their job, and they will care about the company’s success. When the company they consider themselves apart of is successful, they feel successful.

The next need to be fulfilled is the person’s self-esteem, which relates to a person’s ability to distinguish himself/herself from the rest of the group from which they have been accepted. This level of Maslow’s Hierarchy deals with pride or vanity. People want to feel important, and if they do not feel like they are appreciated, they will cease to put effort into their work.

If you recognize a person’s efforts, they will work harder to seek more recognition, because it is natural for them to move away from pain and towards pleasure. If hard work equals more pleasure, they will work to obtain it, but if they view work as nothing but effort and pain, they will not be motivated to work beyond what is required to meet their physiological needs.

The final level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the need for ‘Self-actualization.’ People have a natural desire to express themselves. They want to be creative. If people are never allowed to express themselves, they will feel like they are going nowhere or like they are trapped in a dead-end job. To accommodate this need, managers delegate more responsibility to the employee, or let them take the lead on certain projects; giving them creative control of a project, and allowing them to design and execute it themselves. Doing so allows them to fulfill their needs for self-esteem and self-actualization. If this need is not fulfilled, the person will be left wanting something more.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a useful model that you can apply effectively in the workplace, and in other areas of your life, as long as you recognize it for what it is. It is a theory proposed by a man to assist us in motivating other humans. One thing that you need to remember while discerning knowledge is that there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is not a divine revelation. Abraham Maslow was not a prophet, nor did he possess any special knowledge that God has not made available to all of us since the beginning of time. Maslow simply developed his theory by observing human behavior. Humans are driven by common motivations and needs, even if their values or beliefs are vastly different. Maslow created his hierarchy to assist managers in motivating employees, but the common needs and desires apply to many areas of life and to people in general.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be applied to dating or marriage situations as follows. If a male would like to be an attractive candidate for a courtship, he must be able to provide for his potential mate’s physiological needs. If he cannot provide for life’s basic necessities, then any prospective spouse would need to select a different suitor, simply out of a need for survival.

If the woman does not feel safe with her suitor – either she is afraid of him, believes he is not capable of protecting her, or cannot provide emotional security (such as him not being trusted not to commit adultery) – then the woman will not feel safe in the relationship. She may always be worried about her physical or emotional security, which would create stress and cause friction and instability in the relationship.

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

1 Corinthians 6:1-16 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make [them] the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

Sirach 9:9 Sit not at all with another man’s wife, nor sit down with her in thine arms, and spend not thy money with her at the wine; lest thine heart incline unto her, and so through thy desire thou fall into destruction.

For Christians, committing adultery or sexual immorality are major sins, and Christians should not even be alone with another man’s wife, so that there is no possibility of temptation or the compromise of one’s honor. Sexual sins are sins against one’s own body. Possessing and living by Christian values will go along way in assuring a potential spouse of one’s fidelity. After being assured of her potential mate’s ability to provide for her food and shelter, and physical and emotional security, the next need to be fulfilled is that of love and belonging. The couple must feel like they belong together and build a relationship that is based on love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not arrogant. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Ephesians 22:28-33 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Love is an action; love is patient, kind, nurturing, and places the needs of the other person above oneself. In marriage, the two are to become one flesh. They are to face life together, and work in one accord. This will provide them with a since of belonging; they will feel like they belong together, and are better together than apart. Love is of the greatest feeling and emotion that humans possess.

Love is the pleasure that we are all work to obtain and maintain. When a person’s need for love is fulfilled, he/she will safeguard that need and cherish the relationship. If a person’s need for love and belonging is not fulfilled, he/she will feel empty and will continue to seek it out. In a healthy relationship, it is import that both parties give and receive love.

Once the need for love and belonging is established, each person must have their need for self-esteem fulfilled. They feel apart of something, but they must also feel good about themselves. They want to feel like there is something special about them, something that separates them from the rest. They want to know that their spouse cherishes them. It is important to make your spouse feel appreciated and special. In relationships where one partner constantly puts the other person down (or decreases the person’s self-esteem), the relationship is abusive.

When someone constantly belittles their spouse or children, the targeted person will lose his/her self-esteem, will question their sense of love and belonging, and may lose their feelings of safety and security – creating a stressful and unhealthy relationship. Boosting a person’s self-esteem is not difficult. It simply involves providing a complement now and again or showing the person that you appreciate him/her.

When your spouse does something good, thank him/her, complement his/her performance, and recognize his/her success. It will not only boost the person’s self-esteem, but it will also provide the person with a source of pleasure; thereby motivating the person to continue in such behavior. At the other extreme, if a person’s self-esteem is reduced to a point where they feel like they are, ‘good for nothing’, the person may start behaving in such a manner.

After a loving relationship is in place, and the person is confident, with a healthy sense of esteem, the final need to be fulfilled is the need for self-actualization. If this need is not filled, the person may feel like there is something missing in their life. They may have an intangible feeling that there is something more to life than what they are experiencing.

If the source of this need is not understood, the person may mistake the need for self-actualization with the thought that they might not be happy with their other needs, such as the need for love and belonging. The person may wonder if the emptiness they feel is due to them marrying the wrong person or choosing the wrong career. Many divorces in society may actually be due a spouse not having his/her need for self-actualization met. Society will often say that someone is going through a midlife crisis, which may involve a person getting divorced, buying a sports car, changing careers, or by some other means attempting to ‘relive their youth’ or find meaning in life. The person perceives that there is something missing.

The person may feel an emptiness inside, but it is probably not related to his/her marriage, career, vehicle, or any other area of life. The person experiencing a midlife crisis has probably fulfilled all of the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but has not filled his/her need for self-actualization and senses that there is something missing. The lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are mainly directed at making a person feel comfortable and satisfied. The need for self-esteem and self-actualization makes a person feel special, worthwhile, and/or gives them a sense of purpose or meaning in life.

The need for self-actualization can be satisfied through personal expression or by allowing the person to pursue their hobbies, dreams, goals, or aspirations. Maybe the person wants to be an artist, obtain an academic degree, or start his or her own business. This need is at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, because people usually seek to fulfill the lower needs before they feel safe enough to pursue it. Midlife crises usually occur after a person is financially secure, feels safe, accepted, and has enough confidence to pursue what he/she perceives as something missing in his/her life. Couples recognizing and supporting each other’s desire for self-actualization can avoid divorces, or strains on their relationships.

If someone wants to learn to dance, engage in a sport, paint, renovate their home, program computers, go to school, or any number of the endless amounts of activities in the world, encourage your partner to engage in and express their desires and to pursue their goals. Be a partner, complement the person’s success, and encourage their creativity; doing so will fulfill the person’s need for self-actualization, and will boost his/her confidence or self-esteem as well.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be applied in dating/marriage relationships or as a means of motivating employees, but it can also be applied in personal relationships and among peers. Everyone has the same basic needs, wants, desires, and motivations, and your awareness of the feelings of others can help you be successful in life. This requires empathy, and a deliberate effort in your response to others. I use the term ‘response’ instead of ‘reaction’, because a ‘response’ is more of a deliberate and tactful approach to creating a desired outcome. Reactions are more spur of the moment, and give little thought to the outcome of the reaction.

In response to the actions or comments of another person, you can behave as a child, a parent, or an adult. Children and parents react to each other, but adults try to respond. When a child gets upset, he/she feels a lack of control and lashes out through tantrums (“that’s no fair!”), blaming others, or getting angry. Parents react to the actions of a child by using their authority to correct the child; parents tell the child how things are and what they must do to correct their actions. When dealing with other people, you do not want to react as either a child or parent; you want to behave like an adult. Adults should possess wisdom, can be prudent and tactful in their responses.

When faced with a crisis or disagreement with another person, you must have empathy for them, and try to understand how they feel and what is important to them. Lashing out at the person is not productive, and would cause the person to shift into a defensive state of mind – where he/she will be more emotional and will apply less critical thinking to the situation or problem. Acting like a parent and attempting to boss the other person around or tell him that he is wrong, also places the person in a defensive mode and emotional state.

When I studied hypnosis, I learned that the best suggestion you can give a person, is the one that they give themselves. It is not as much what you say to a person, as it is what you cause them to think for themselves. Calling a person names or putting them down, may cause the person to think to themselves, “I don’t have to take this crap”, or “Well, ﻓﻙ you then.” Causing the person to think such thoughts will not gain their compliance or unite them with you in finding a solution to the issue you are having. Coming off as a know-it-all, telling the person he is wrong, or ordering him what to do will also be unproductive.

People do not like to feel like they are wrong (it makes them feel like you think they are stupid), so if you need to convince someone to change an erroneous belief, you must do it tactfully; otherwise, you will only create more conflict and arguments. Nobody wins an argument, because when arguing, neither party is open to hearing the other person’s point-of-view; instead, they are both formulating their next convincing argument in their own minds, which will fail to convince the other person anyways (who is also in a defensive emotional state of mind).

When reacting as a parent, one person may tell the person he is wrong, and in a matter-of-fact manner tell the person why he is wrong and what he needs to do to fix it. Such an approach may cause the other person to think defensive thoughts, such as; “you don’t know what you are talking about.” Is that the impression you want to give to the other person (that you do not know what you are talking about)? A better approach would be to behave like an adult, consider the other person’s feelings, and be cognizant and tactful in how you respond to the situation. Try to avoid putting the other person down, making him/her feel stupid, or coming off as an authority figure (which may put the person in a defensive state of mind).

Even if you are in a position of authority over the other person, try to have your ‘order’ sound like a ‘request.’ People do not like being ordered around or disrespected. Consider the following two statements.

“Can you do me a huge favor, I know you have worked really hard on your report and it is very well written, but I still need you to make a few corrections to it, so that we can turn in a very impressive product to the boss on Tuesday.”,

“The report you turned in is not good enough, you need to redo it and get it back to me by Tuesday, both of are jobs are on the line over this one.”

Which of the above statements do you think would elicit a better response from the employee? The first statement starts out by requesting the person’s help, which avoids talking down to the person from a position of authority. If you are the boss, your employees know that you are in charge of them, it is not necessary to rub it in their faces. Conveying your orders in the form of a request is more respectful, and does not make your subordinates feel like you think you are above them.

The next part of the first statement finds something positive to say about the person’s effort so far, which boosts the person’s self-esteem and keeps them from going into a defensive state of mind. It then addresses what needs to be done, and the final part attempts to connect the additional effort to a positive motivation (that the person’s work will impress others and earn praise for his/her efforts).

The second statement begins by putting down the person’s previous work, which may cause the employee to enter a defensive state of mind. Obviously, the employee turned in what he/she believed was good, so to complain about it would insult the person, and if it was truly the person’s best efforts, they might fear that they cannot do any better – causing their follow up report to be written under additional stress. The next part of the second statement gives the person a direct order, followed by a motivation to comply that threatens the person’s physiological, safety, and love and belonging needs.

The first statement asks for help, finds something to compliment, states what needs to be done, and motivates with positive outcomes. The second statement talks down to the person, insults him/her, and threatens the person’s basic needs – making the person feel like a failure and like he/she is in danger. Either approach may work, but putting yourself in the employee’s position, how would you rather be treated?

Do you want the employee to think they are doing well and that with a little more effort they will receive a positive outcome, or to think that they are failing and in danger of losing everything? Some stress may be productive, but overwhelming amounts of stress can greatly hinder productivity. If you want someone to be a winner, do not make him/her feel like a failure.

Philippians 2:3-4 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

1 Peter 5:5-6 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.

Matthew 23:11-12 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

As Christians, we are to be humble and to look out for the good of others. When I speak about pride and honor in this study, I am referring to possessing a positive self-esteem and of being confident in one’s actions. As Solomon determined, much of what we do in like is done out of vanity, but that does not mean that aspect of human nature is inherently bad. Similar to our emotions of hate or jealousy, pride has an appropriate function in our nature, and must be understood and balanced accordingly.

When the Bible speaks of about the proud, it is usually referring to groups of people who our too proud to submit to God. They trust only in themselves, similar to how the rich trust in their riches, making it harder for the camel to go through the eye of the needle. There is a difference in someone taking pride in one’s accomplishments and/or possessing a positive sense of self-worth, and to being arrogant or conceited and feeling superior to others. When Jesus taught the concept that ‘those who humble themselves will be exalted and those who exalt themselves will be humbled’, He was not saying that those who were humble were not worthy of being exalted.

Luke 14:7-11 And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, Give your place to this man, and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. "But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

In the above parable, the person who was exalted was actually recognized as someone who was worthy of a higher place at the table. When Jesus stated to be humble, He was not saying that we should not seek to have value in our lives, but was stating that we should not be boastful, arrogant, or selfish in how we conduct ourselves.

When Jesus gave a similar lesson to the 12 disciples, he followed it by stating that they would be given thrones to judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Luke 20:30). He was not saying that they should live as someone unworthy of such honors, but was telling them not to be arrogant or selfish in trying to out do or flaunt their successes over the others.

You can be proud of your accomplishments and be worthy of honor, without trying to make other people feel inferior to you. Unselfishness is a major lesson in the Bible. You can be successful, pursue your dreams, and have self-esteem, without being selfish. If you have true self-confidence, there is no need to flaunt it over others or to force them to recognize it. You can be comfortable with your own self-esteem, and you can help others increase theirs as well – creating a win-win situation for everyone.

I am not providing you with this information so that you can manipulate others in order to get ahead, but so that you will be confident in your own value and able/willing to help others do the same. Do not do it for your own gain. However, if you recognize opportunities to help others feel better about themselves, you will reap benefits from it naturally. You would be following the teachings of Jesus and building treasures in Heaven, while creating allies among your peers on earth.

Sales representatives use techniques such as ‘reciprocity’ in order to manipulate their targets into feeling obligated to respond to a sales pitch. They may begin an encounter by giving away a keychain, a weekend vacation, or some other inexpensive gift, which is meant to make their target feel obligated to listen to their sales pitch. After listening to the sales pitch, the target may also feel guilty about taking up so much of the sales person’s time, which may compel the targeted person to make a purchase. Reciprocity is a natural occurrence and many people do respond to it.

In this study, I suggest that you evaluate your peers, employees, or other relationships to identify strengths and weaknesses in people, and then to use your knowledge of human needs to help the other people achieve value the concerned areas. If someone does not quite fit into a crowd or in a peer group, help him or her to fit in. If someone lacks esteem, help the person to improve in that area. Find the missing value, and help the person fulfill it.

Will this produce a feeling of reciprocity? Sure, but that should not be your intension. You should do such things because you are living by the golden rule and are ‘nice’ to people. Look for ways to help others, because you are following God and loving your neighbor as yourself. By living in such a manner, you will naturally gain allies and produce positive feelings about you in others. The relationships you have will have less turbulence, and everyone will live happier lives.

Matthew 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs: nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”

I am not saying that you should go through life constantly looking for ways to help other people, but in the people you are around enough to identify needs, do not ignore opportunities that are presented to you. Even then, everything must be done with balance, and you must use judgment and discernment in your behavior. Do not give what is holy to the dogs, or cast your pearls before swine.

Personally, I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and I observe their behavior prior to rashly offering my pearls to them. If I do provide someone with some nugget of wisdom related to the person’s situation, I observe the person’s response. If the person seems to ignore or places little value on my advice, in my mind, I place that person into the swine category, and although I cannot take back the nugget of wisdom I had given the person, I will avoid providing the person with such tips, advice, or secret wisdom in the future.

As Christians, we are not called to help everybody. If someone is not deserving of our pearls, we are to use discernment and not give what is holy to them. Contemporary churches may disagree with my statement, but I base my philosophies on what the scripture says. The WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) concept should be based on what Jesus would actually do.

Not everyone in the Bible was called to repentance; some were accused of being a brood of vipers or of turning the father’s house into a den of thieves. The message of the gospel was hidden from some people, so that by seeing they would not see, and by hearing they would not hear – lest they should understand with their hearts and be converted (Matthew 13:15). While navigating a world of ungodly, you must use discretion and discernment in whom you trust and whom you share your value.

When dealing with human wants, needs, and motivations, we are actually discussing worth and value. What ‘value’ are you to your boss? What is maintaining a relationship with you ‘worth’ to your peers? Many people will determine your worth and value to them based on how well you assist them in fulfilling their needs.

If you are a hard worker, your value to other employees may rest in the fact that they do not have to work as hard, or that you can be trusted and depended on to get the job done. Your boss may value your commitment, effort, or ability to produce results, which makes your boss look better to his/her superiors (increases his/her esteem). If someone ‘needs’ a friend to meet their need for love and belonging, your presence may be of value to the person in order for them to maintain a strong emotional foundation.

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Hebrews 13:5-6 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

So far, we have discussed Human Nature and I suggested that you identify missing needs in others, and help them to fill them. Do not do this with evil intensions – hoping to manipulate your way to the top – but do so because you genuinely care about others, and are doing the will of God. Worldly success should not be your objective, but God knows that you also have need of such things in order to be successful spiritually. You must use judgment and discernment in understanding who to help, and when to do so. As situations arise, help others out of love, and not for personal gain, and be content with your current situation.

Being content with your current state in life will greatly help you to succeed. Not just because God is observing your stewardship to determine if more should be given to you, but also, because it allows you to be humble. If you have an attitude that you are worthy of a higher position and feel as though your job is beneath you, those around you will pick up on your feelings, and it will affect everyone’s morale. If you are content (humble) in your place in the world, your mood will be better, and you would be in a better position to let your light shine.

Personal pride and honor does not equate to forcing others to believe you are better than they are, or even that you are worthy of their respect. Honor is an inherent value that you need to develop within yourself. You should be content with your roles, take pride in your behavior, and the life you are leading. The value you place on yourself should not be based on the opinions of others. If you have a positive sense of self-esteem, you will have confidence, and will present yourself to the world with boldness.

1 Peter 5:6-8 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Self-confidence comes from a person’s self-esteem, and is a necessary aspect of life. You cannot boldly go forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, if you lack confidence. Predators are looking for easy prey, and if you appear too timid or insecure, they will seek to devour you. Studies have been done on convicted criminals to determine how they select their victims, and when being showed video clips of individuals walking either timidly or confidently, the criminals consistently selected the timid person as someone they would victimize.

How you conduct yourself will go a long way in your ability to succeed in the world. You must demonstrate pride and confidence in order to appear to have value and worth to others, but arrogance or conceit will hinder you. Everything must be done with balance. The best means of maintaining such a balance is to feel good about yourself, but do not flaunt your self-esteem or parade your talents for attention. Be confident in your own self-worth, yet be humble among others. Do not be boastful or arrogant – claiming to be the best and casting your pearls before swine – but instead, let others ‘discover’ your talents (worth), so they feel like that have found an hidden gem or treasure to cherish.

1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

Some people are ﺍﺹholes, and such people are unpleasant to work with. However, your job may require you to work with such people. In the military, some people are poor leaders/managers, and do not know how to use their rank. The person may be your boss, your peer, or your subordinate, but regardless, you must establish a positive working relationship with him or her. The person may constantly be talking behind everyone’s backs, complaining about others, or may treat others badly. If someone behaves in such a manner, he/she probably treats you the same way.

This is an example of where you can use your understanding of human nature to improve the work environment, which will benefit yourself and others. Such a person is probably not well liked, and does not have a sense of ‘love and belonging’ with the group of employees. Can you fix that, and make the rest of the group accept a jerk? Probably not, and you do not need to. What you can do is let the person feel ‘accepted’ by you.

In this example, I am not describing an enemy, or someone engaging in criminal activity; I am talking about a person who has negative personality traits that makes him/her unpleasant to be around, which may stem from the person’s own lack of self-actualization, self-esteem, love and belonging, or some other issue or trait that drives the person’s behavior. Try to have empathy for the person. Maybe the person hates his job or some other aspect of his life that he is taking out on others, or maybe he is unaware of his behavior due to his upbringing. He might not understand why people seem to respond so negatively to him.

The one thing that you do understand is human nature. When someone is treated rudely or badly, the person’s response is negative. Using empathy, you may not be able to determine the missing need in the unpleasant person, but you can predict how other people respond to the person’s behavior. Try to put yourself in the other person’s position, and imagine how you would feel if every time you asked/ordered someone to do something, the subordinate did the very bare minimum, argued with you, or fought with you the entire time – that is probably the response the person receives from others.

If you are unhappy about something in your life, and on top of all that, when you are at work you are not liked and everyone appears lazy or unwilling to do the things you need them to, that would be very frustrating. The person may be an ﺍﺹhole, but his/her behavior is probably compounding the unpleasantness of his/her life. In response, the person may complain all the time, talk bad about others (who appear to him/her as worthless employees), or may seem to always be in a bad mode. You may not be able to make such a person be accepted into the crowd or change the way others respond to the person, but you can control your response.

Such a person most likely will not have many friends or allies at work, and since people move towards pleasure and away from pain, others probably try to avoid such a person at all costs. You cannot control others, but you can control your response to such a person. Depending on the person’s position at the work center, you can play his game, fight back, and behave in a similar manner to the rest of the people he/she encounters, or you can enlist the person as an ally. When the jerk asks/orders you to do something, do what he/she says, do a good job, and do it with a positive attitude. Be nice to the person. If he/she has esteem issues, treat the person with respect. This will cause the person to see ‘value’ in you.

Maybe you provide value to the person by allowing the person to feel respected, but even if you don’t affect his ‘needs’, you still offer value to the person; because he will see you as a person who is willing to comply with his instructions without arguing. If everyone else responds negatively to the person’s approach, then the ‘jerk’ will come to see you as one of the only people at work that he can trust to get the job done. Will the person continue to stab everyone in the back and complain about them? Of course, but he will at least decrease his complaints about you. You can transform a would-be enemy into a positive ally.

The person will still complain about others, but he/she might actually come to respect and praise you to others, as he/she might consider you to be the only employee there that is worth a ﺩﺍﻡ. Having your work criticized is never a good thing. Building rapport and a positive working relationship will benefit the entire work center. If the person is normally in a bad mood because he feels like everyone disrespects him, you may have changed that a little bit and lightened his mood. If nothing else, you can serve as a go-between, between him/her and the rest of the employees – so they do not have to deal with jerk (your position would have value to everyone involved).

The above example demonstrates how you use your knowledge of human behavior to benefit yourself and others in a working environment, and that might be all that you can or should do in the situation. In time, you might develop a relationship where the person trusts you, and will be open to your advice on how he/she can modify his/her behavior to be more approachable, but creating an acceptable working relationship might be all that you deem to be necessary in your decision to influence the person.

You must use judgment and discernment to decide what level of change or impact you need to make, so that you do not cast your pearls before swine. If the person truly is an ﺍﺹhole, getting all buddy-buddy with him/her may work against your interactions with the other employees, so you must gauge your responses and behaviors to what you feel is appropriate.

You want to create a functional working environment, and relieve as much stress as you can, without compromising your own honor by appearing to be the yes-man of the biggest jerk in the office. Be a nice person, even if you are not treated nicely, and try to have a positive attitude. Make a difference in the lives of others when you are given opportunities, but do not throw away your treasures.

Matthew 7:3-6 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”

Proverbs 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

In order to be cable of influencing others, you must first get your own ﺷﺕ together. Your personal sense of honor or pride should be based on your feelings about yourself and on your commitment to living by the commandments of God, and the principles taught by Jesus and his disciples. If you rely on other people to reinforce your beliefs/commitments then you open yourself up to be influenced by them, and you would be vulnerable to a them manipulating your human needs. You must be careful choosing whom to trust, and selective regarding whose opinions you value.

With that said, there are certain people who you should trust. Your spouse, family, and other loved ones are prime examples of relationships that should be cherished, and that can offer you a needed outside perspective. They might be able to see things that you cannot. You may be able to see your reflection in the mirror, but you might not be able to see yourself as clearly as those around you and you might miss things.

I am very good a finding fault and identifying problems. My mind is constantly working and looking for solutions. I am able to think outside of the box and identify areas that are lacking. I consider this to be a positive skill, which allows me to solve problems. However, my wife pointed out that as I point out the faults in things, I am perceived as being highly critical.

In my mind, I think I am helping those around me. By observing situations and pointing out easier or more effective ways to address the issues, I think I am helping others and better equipping them to solve problems. However, my wife pointed out that I am perceived as expecting perfection, which causes those around me to feel intimidated by me – believing that I would be impossible to please, which stresses others out.

My intention is to help others, and I believe that I can use my ability to solve problems to do so. However, without my wife’s outside perspective, I would not have seen the plank in my own eye. If left unchecked, I would be offering others advice while simultaneously making them feel like there is nothing they could ever do that would live up to my expectations.

Proverbs 9:8 Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
Making others feel intimidated or lacking is not beneficial to anyone and is not my intension. I want to build others up, not cause them to question their own sense of worth. After being made aware of this flaw, I am now making a concerted effort to tame my tongue, so that I do not send the wrong message to those around me. I am thankful for my wife’s observations, and for her courage to share them with me. Being rebuked and facing hard truths is difficult (and it must be done with tact), but without correction, discipline, and learning from our mistakes, we would not be able to grow in judgment.

Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are,] extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Thanks to my wife’s observations, now I am truly perfect! Just joking, in no way do I think I am perfect. I am human, like everyone else, I make mistakes, do stupid things, and I regret some of the things I have done. God wants us to work towards perfection, but He does not demand perfection. God judges our hearts, and as Jesus taught in the above verses, being able to admit and learn from our mistakes is much harder to do than it is to boast of our vanity.

If we are going to be a servant fit for the master’s use, we must first remove the planks from our own eyes. We are to live with honor, yet not demand the places of honor. We are to control our vanity and act with humility. In order to be trusted to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye, we must have credibility, which is a sense of respect that must be earned. We must have confidence in ourselves, and live in such a manner that others will have confidence in us.

We will not be trusted to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye if we have a plank in our own. We must be confident so others will be confident in us, but we must also be humble, so that we are approachable. People will not come to you for help if they think they are battling you for ‘the place of honor.’ To be successful in the world, we must know and be content with our places, and must use the opportunities that God gives us to demonstrate our stewardship.

Perception and Humility

Mark 9:33-35 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Philippians 2:3-4 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Matthew 23:11-12 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

In this section, I will discuss the need to balance humility and self-esteem, and how to put some of the principles taught in the last section into practice. God judges our hearts and evaluates our intensions, but humans lack that ability. Therefore, most human judgments are based on perception, which may or may not reflect a person’s true intensions or charactor.

People’s perceptions are largely based on observing the behavior of others, and may include subjective speculations in their appraisals. These observations may be correct, but they will always be somewhat flawed. People have bias and prejudice; I am not talking about racism or sexism here, I am referring to people having their perceptions clouded/influenced by preconceived sets of beliefs or pre-judgments. Perception includes what a person observes, but it is also influenced by what a person wants to believe. They see what they what to see.

People are focused on fulfilling their own needs/desires, and they interpret things/events as they relate to themselves and their own situations. You may not have any interest or intension in competing with a person for a certain position or status, but if the other person considers you as their main opponent, he/she may interpret any of your actions as a deliberate attempt to advance towards the outcome the other person ‘thinks’ you are pursuing.

Subjective perceptions can really lead people on great detours away from reality. Many times, I have fallen victim to this thinking trap myself, but in order to make good decisions, we must use subjective thinking to some extent. Subjective appraisals are necessary in order to make predictions, but such thinking must be controlled in order to prevent us from getting lost in a fantasy world.

Objectivity deals with the facts. It leaves emotions and speculations out of the equation, and focuses solely on what is known. Both Subjective and Objective thinking are necessary, but we must be careful not to rely too heavily on either one. For example, lets say you are walking through an unlit parking lot at night, and you notice a group of unkempt men in their 20s come out from behind some trees and start walking in your direction.

Subjectively, you should at least consider that you might be in danger, so that you can take action to avoid it. You can speculate about the group’s intensions (that they might rob you, or that they are walking to their own cars, etc…), because without objective facts to consider, you have nothing else to base your decisions on. Subjective decisions are based on speculation and are influenced by emotions, but sometimes that is all you have to contemplate.

Objectivity deals with the facts, and leaves emotions out of the equation. My wife has a wonderful saying. She says, “These are the facts”, and then begins to list them. When others (including me) present subjective arguments or justifications for our actions to her, she uses that sentence to separate fact from fiction and intensions from actions. Statements such as, “I was only trying to”, “I wanted to” or “my intension was to” is met with, “These are the facts”, and she list the actions that actually took place (not what we were hoping to do or would eventually get around to doing).

Both Subjective and Objective perceptions are necessary, but they must be balanced. If your actions were based solely on what you see in front of you, then you would not be able to predict what might be on the other side of the door until it is too late. At the same time, you must be able to deal with what is in front of you, and not too focused on what may or may not happen down the road.

Since we are all human, our thoughts are influenced by our emotions and perceptions. When dealing with others, they will not only judge you by what you say and do, but also by how they perceive you. Much of the value that others attribute to you will be based on the persona you project, which is a byproduct of the value you ascribe to yourself. If you think you are worthless, then others will treat you that way. If you have confidence and project self-worth, they will consider a personal or professional relationship with you to be of value to them.

Balancing your pride and humility is important. You need to be confident in your self-worth so that you project competence, but you must not come off as being arrogant – or you will offend others. Humility is crucial, because if people think you believe you are too good for them, they will try to knock you back down to their level. If you actually are too good for them, do not flaunt it, otherwise they may resent you. Since most people are focused on themselves, making them feel inferior to you will repel them from you. If you are content with your current status then others will not view you as a threat to their own positions.

Your self-esteem is your foundation. You must figure out who you are, and you must like that person. If you do not like yourself, figure out what it is that you do not like and fix it. If you do not think you have something to offer, then nobody else will either. Do some serious soul-searching, define yourself, and be proud of who you are. Figure out what you are made of, what you believe in, and do not compromise yourself for anyone. Do not sacrifice your honor for friendships, promotions, profit, or anything else. Take pride in yourself and stand tall.

Be content with your status. Base your self-worth on the standards you set for yourself, and the principles you hold dear. Do not allow others to define you, and do not modify your behavior to gain their approval. If your entire self-worth were based on what you think other people think about you, then you would be on an emotional rollercoaster. Without a firm foundation, you would be like a reed blown about by the wind, whose will bends at the whim of strangers that have no concern for you. A weak foundation would make you weak, and weakness is not a trait others consider to be of value (other than criminals who look for such people to victimize).

1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 For this is the will of God…that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.

John 5:41-44 I receive not honor from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?

My first name is Daniel, which means, ‘God is my judge.’ I base my self-esteem and gauge my success in life on my ability to live with honor, and to be true to my commitment to God. Pleasing others may offer some material benefits to me, but my emotional foundation rests on my feelings about myself – and my commitment to live according to God’s precepts. Fundamentally, it does not matter what others think of me, or whether or not I have their approval. I answer to God alone. With such a foundation, I am not easily shaken, and can stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11).

If you base your core sense of self (honor) on pleasing God and not on the opinions of strangers, then you will not be easily affected by the perceptions others have of you (who may view you as their competition or as a threat to their own needs, regardless of your actions/intensions). In order for you to offer value to others, you must first believe you have something to offer. You build and project that value by first establishing a solid foundation, and by knowing and being comfortable with who you are.

Once you are confident, you will project strength instead of weakness, and strength is an attribute others can benefit from. Most people are out for themselves, so in order to influence or be accepted by them they must believe there is something about you that they can benefit from. Ideally, you want to prolong the feelings of worth/value that others attribute to you, and to do this, you cannot give them everything during your first encounter.

Keep an air of mystery about you. Possess a certain savoir-faire or je ne sais quoi so that others perceive there is something unique and special about you that they cannot really put their finger on or define. Do not cast your pearls before swine or giveaway your value. If you do, then others will not need you anymore, and human interactions are based on wants, needs, values, desires, and worth. You need to pace yourself in regards to the nuggets of wisdom you share with others, and show them how amazing you are in small doses.

You want them to think, “You never cease to amaze me”, and that the more time they spend with you, the more amazing you appear. This will only happen if you control what you reveal about yourself and do so at the right times. Magicians (slight of hand artists) produce feelings of amazement and bewilderment in their spectators. If everyday the magician performed a different trick, his audience would continually be amazed.

If the magician showed his spectators exactly how he performs his illusions and taught them everything he knows during their first encounter then he would have given away his magic. He would no longer be considered amazing. He would have given away everything he has, and would no longer have anything to offer. You must be careful not to give away your magic either. If you have multiple talents or excel in certain areas, let others ‘discover’ your ‘hidden treasures’ over a period of time.

Do not be in a hurry to impress others. If you reveal everything about yourself and flaunt all of your talents too early, then you will come off as an attention-seeker and the impressive things about you will not seem that impressive; people are not impressed, by people who try to impress them. It is always better to let others identify your talents on their own. Then they will think they found a unique/secret resource that only they know about.

To maintain an air of mystery about you, you must control what you reveal about yourself to others. Johari’s Window is a combination of the first names of the two creators of the concept, and is used to demonstrate different aspects of a person’s personality and the information they make known publicly, privately, or what is unknown to them. Certain aspects of one’s personality is shown in a professional setting, and certain aspects are kept private. The following table depicts Johari’s Window.

Public Information

Known to self and shared with others
Observed Information

Known to others but not known to self

Private Information

Known to self but not shared with others
Unknown Information

Unknown to either self or others

In Johari’s Window, there are aspects of a person that are public (that the person freely shares with others), and there are things that are kept private. There is also a section that includes information the person does not know about him/herself, but has been identified and is known to others. Finally, a section containing information that is unknown to either oneself or to others.

In the ‘Art of War’, Sun Tzu stated, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” In asymmetric warfare, one opponent identifies weakness in the other, and finds vulnerable areas to attack. The section of Johari’s Window containing information that is known to outsiders but is not known to the person might contain such vulnerabilities.

By observing others, you can learn about the different aspects of the person’s character. You might be able to identify aspect of the person that he/she is not aware of, and can use your knowledge to fill a void for the person, or you might complement the person on a positive trait/behavior that they display that they might not have been aware. Johari’s Window is a diagram demonstrating the different aspects of a person, and is meant to be used as part of team building. However, for our purposes, we will use it as a representation of your ability to control what information you share with others.

To maintain an air of mystery or a special intangible quality about yourself, you need to have curtains over your window, so that only certain aspects of yourself are visible at any given time. Curtains are adjusted based on the needs of the owner and the time of day. Sometimes the curtains will be completely closed to maintain privacy, but sometimes light is allowed through the window to illuminate what you want seen.

As you build relationships with others, more and more of your window may be revealed, but if you have your window wide-open when others first look in, they would see everything there is to see, and would have no reason to keep looking. They would quickly lose interest. In addition to controlling information about yourself, you must also ensure that you do not lose your value.

Your worth to others is based on what you contribute to the relationship/group. Your talents are what differentiates you from the group, and makes you special. If you are an amazing artist, gardener, electrician, mathematician, computer whiz, or possess any other skill that benefits others, in order to maintain your value to the group, you must ensure you are able to continue to perform that function.

If you give someone a fish then you will feed them for a day, but if you teach them how to fish then you will feed them for a lifetime. There is nothing wrong with teaching others how to fish if that is a skill you wish to share with others to make an impact on their lives. However, if fishing was your sole talent and contribution to the group, then by teaching them to perform your function, you would have made yourself irrelevant, and an unnecessary member of the group.

Do not be in such a hurry to impress others that you make yourself irrelevant. To maintain your worth, you must figure out what it is that you contribute to the relationship or to the group, and you must continue to perform that function. Once people depend on you to fulfill a certain need/function, you will have cemented your place in the group. Do not give away all of your secrets or reveal how you perform your magic tricks, and you will not lose your magic or the intangible quality that makes others interested in you.

Outsiders Followers Leaders

People who try to impress others leave a bad impression. In every group, there are outsiders who are trying to fit into the group, there is a large section of followers, and there are a few people that standout above the pack and serve as its leaders. The leaders are the ones everyone else tries to emulate. The leaders usually have some talent, skill, or quality that impresses others and draws others to them. People recognize the positive traits and desire to be around the leaders in an effort to share in the person’s value.

Usually the leaders are considered ‘cool’, and everyone else copies them because they want to be cool also. In order to be accepted by the ‘cool’ people, the uncool people try to impress the cool people or they end up kissing their ﺍﺹes. There is nothing cool about being an ﺍﺹ-kisser, so those who come off as trying to impress others are doomed to fail. In order to be considered cool, you have to be cool, and there is nothing cool about thinking others are cooler than you are.

If you want others to think you are cool, you need to have confidence in yourself, and appear not to care what others think about you. If you faun all over others, they will think they are better than you are, because you make them think you are eager for their attention. People are interested in want is in it for themselves; they want to receive value from others, they do not want to give their value away. If you appear disinterested or only vaguely interested in others, they will wonder why.
The ‘cool’ people have many people fawning over them all of the time, so if you behave differently than the norm, people will wonder why, and “will think is strange that you do not run with them” (2 Peter 4:4). They will wonder what is so special about you. Once you have people wondering about you, there will be a sense of mystery about you, and you will spark the interest of others. As long as your Johari’s Window is not left wide-open, there will be a riddle about you that others will try to solve.

If you want others to consider you to be cool, you have to play your cards just right. You want people to think you are too good for them (so they will desire your value) without making them think that you consider yourself too good for them (otherwise they will resent you). You need to be humble yet confident in yourself, and appear open to others but not desperate or seeking their attention.

People will only ‘wonder’ about you for so long, before your air of mystery turns into them thinking you are a weirdo. To avoid that, you should open up a little bit to those who are seeking to unravel your mystery. Doing so will keep them interested, and if you show your awesomeness to them in small doses, you will keep them intrigued. As you share aspects of yourself with others, they will feel special, because you have shared value with them that is not shared with others. You can add the concept of ‘interested is interesting’ to your persona to make others feel connected to you, and intrigued by you at the same time.

There is a big difference between what is cool and what is popular. If you think a Ford Mustang from the 60s is a cool car, it will always be a cool car – it does not change its coolness with time or with popular opinion. If it did change, then it was not actually cool but was trendy. Trendy refers to a popular fad that is agreed upon by the masses for a time – usually at the whim of advertisers looking to exploit the mindless populous. There is nothing cool about being led around by propaganda – that would make you a follower and not a leader. If you are cool, then your coolness should be timeless, and not driven by popular opinion.

Do not put too much effort in trying to make other people think you are cool. For one thing, if you were cool, you would not be worried about appearing to be. If you are cool, the process will occur automatically. I included the process of appearing cool so that you can understand the psychology behind it, but being considered cool is unlikely to be a significant factor in how you define success in life. If you are true to yourself and your Christian values, then you will be different from other people without any extra effort on your part. This will occur naturally, because you are a sheep in the midst of goats.

On the Day of Judgment, the Sheppard will divide the sheep from the goats, and the sheep will enter into Heaven (Matthew 25:33-34). If you are a Christian, then you are a sheep in God’s flock. You follow the Good Sheppard and obey the commandments of God. The Goats refer to other humans who exist near the sheep, but who are not sheep – they are a different animal. The world also has wolves in it. Wolves are evildoers that are out to devour the sheep and the goats, and might be likened to criminals.

As a sheep in God’s flock, you are different from the goats, so by living as a sheep, the goats will automatically noticed something special about you, even if they cannot define what exactly it is. In secular society and in earthly groups, the worldly sheep are those mindless followers that are led around by trends and fads. In secular society, you should be a goat. You may be in the same flock as the world’s sheep, but you are a different animal so there is something different about you. You are God’s Sheep and the World’s Goat, and not the World’s Sheep, and God’s Goat.

While you are in the world, you must safeguard yourself from the wolves and the serpents, and although you may need to live and work with the goats (secular society), you must recognize that you are a different creature than they are. We could also include swine (pigs) in this analogy, and consider them as the self-interested lazy gluttons who are looking to take anything they can from you without giving anything back. The swine are the people that you are not to cast your pearls before, because you would be throwing your value away.

The psychological principles discussed in this section are not a big secret. Nor are they difficult to apply. You simply need to identify the value you offer to other people and fulfill their needs for your mutual benefit. These needs are not difficult to figure out. In your marriage, you should provide your spouse with faithfulness, loyalty, and support. You provide wisdom, love, and guidance for your children. Your employer wants someone who does what he/she asks and gets the job done, and your co-workers want you to do your share and to make them look good without advancing beyond them. Your friends want you to be fun and interesting, and everyone wants to feel appreciated and respected.

The wants, needs, and desires of humans are similar, but certain subcultures may place value on different traits. During my life, I have been accepted in many different subcultures; from the hardcore music scene, to construction work, cooking, and military and police work. Each of these different subsections of our culture desire different values, and require different standards in order to be accepted, to strive, and to succeed. In order to earn people’s respect in the various subcultures, different values and character traits are desired. Understanding basic human nature and psychological principles will greatly aid you in not only being accepted, but also in rising to the top (if that is what you choose to do).

The hardcore subculture was a dangerous lifestyle, and in order to simply associate with the scene, one was expected to display a certain amount of toughness. Otherwise, the person would quickly learn that he was not welcome. In that scene, they respected strength and courage, and succeeding meant that you were a bad ﺍﺹthat could not only keep yourself safe, but by associating with you (and the reputation you built-up), your friends were safe/protected by their association with you.

When I entered the work force, I learned that hard work and competence were the desired character traits. Depending on the career field, physical exertion or the ability to produce an excellent product were the desired traits for success. In order to get along with the other employees, you have to be able to hold your own. No one likes a lazy worker; because that means the other employees have to work harder.

If a person is not competent in his/her job, that means the other employees (or managers) would need to expend more of their time trying to assist the struggling employee in learning the basic concepts or duties of his/her position. Since that requires two people to perform one job, productivity decreases, and if the struggling employee does not catch on quickly, then he/she will be fired or find the work environment to be hostile and decide to seek employment elsewhere.

In the military or police fields, competence, courage, and quick thinking are the traits needed for success. In order to accomplish the mission, one must be highly competent and trusted to perform his/her job in fluid and rapidly changing environments – where the price of failure could literally mean life or death. In order to be accepted within those fields, the other military members or officers must be willing to, ‘go through the door’ with you. Going through the door refers to making entry into a house, business, or other location where once inside there may be one or more persons waiting to kill you.

To go through the door together, officers must have confidence in their co-worker. They must trust that the person will have the courage to not only go through the door, but also be competent in his/her job in order to perform under pressure and mentally sharp enough to respond to rapidly changing circumstances. If one lacks the courage to go through the door, or once inside, freezes under pressure, lacks the ability to subdue a perpetrator, or the competence to know what is legally appropriate and tactically sound, then the person would not earn the trust of his/her peers and would be a liability to the group.

Each of these different fields requires a person to possess different value/worth. One’s ability to be accepted or to strive in the different fields requires human interaction to build trust, respect, and reputation. Understanding the different human drives/needs/values makes building these qualities in relationships much easier. Whether you are trying to succeed in a personal relationship or in an occupational environment, your value/worth and the respect/reputation you obtain is based on the value you offer to the other human beings you interact with.

In most work environments, employees are not worried about being attacked by dangerous people, so being a bad ﺍﺹat work does not offer much value to co-workers or bosses. In order to be successful in a working environment, one must be a hard worker, competent in the job, and be able to produce results. Possessing such character traits are important in order to be a successful employee, but in order to be successful, other factors come into play.

Working hard and getting the job done is of value to co-workers, because they do not have to work as hard or spend extra time assisting a struggling employee. However, performing too well or outshining the other employees could be detrimental. Jobs fulfill the basic physiological needs of the employees, so if their jobs or threatened, their livelihoods are threatened. Performing too well, may cause others to consider you a threat to their wellbeing, or they may be expected to work harder in order to keep up with you; either way, your co-workers may come to resent you (for either making them have to work harder to keep up, or by making them feel that their livelihood is at stake).

Succeeding in a working environment is a juggling act, requiring discernment and judgment. If a boss or fellow employee is confident in their own abilities, then they will not be threatened by your success. However, if co-workers are incompetent or become jealous of the spotlight on you, they may resent your success, and may attempt to knock you back down to their level – which is usually done by criticizing any flaw in you they can identify. They may talk behind your back, or even make up lies about you in an attempt to discredit you to the other employees or to your boss. Your best defense against such attacks is to establish a solid reputation that is not easily discredited (1 Peter 2:12, Titus 2:7-8).

You can be the best worker, display confidence and competence, but it is hard to compete with a rumor mill – especially if you are not aware of it. The best way that I found to succeed in such an environment and to avoid making others feel threatened by your success is to be ‘Quietly Amazing.’ Produce excellent work and put intense effort in your duties, but do not be a show off or appear to be seeking recognition. You want your co-workers to ‘benefit’ from working with you, by making their jobs easier as you work together as a team.

Let them share in your successes, so that they depend on you for their own self-esteem, and respect you as a key member of ‘the group’ – thereby fulfilling their physiological needs, the need for belonging, and boosting their self-esteems. If you can do that, then the working environment will be better, and the team can move forward to Self-Actualization and achieve what it has not done before. The stages of team development are Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing; once you get the team to the performing stage, the work seems easier and production is at its best.

Being ‘Quietly Amazing’ does not mean that others will not respect you or see you as amazing; it just means that they will not see you as someone driven for success that they will feel threatened to compete with, and/or cause them to feel inadequate about themselves. Your boss and your co-workers will still recognize your excellence, but if you are humble, you will not be fighting against the other alpha dogs for control of the pack.

Be the humble person that is exalted by others, and not the boastful success seeker who attempts to prove he/she is the best. There can be only one alpha dog in a pack, and that dog must constantly be fighting for control against all of the other dogs who want the spot. You do not need to fight for the alpha dog spot in order to be successful or respected. Let the idiots fight for the spot. Let them constantly be stressed out, sleeping with one eye open, and checking their six to prevent getting a knife in their back.

You do not need to put yourself through that. If you are quietly amazing, you will still be noticed. Your boss and the other employees will see the work that you produce. If you do not come off as trying to be the best, then others will not resent you and you will not risk being sabotaged. Others will still recognize your superior performance, and as they watch the others competing for the alpha position, they might think to themselves that you were better than the others and that you should be promoted, the leader, or whatever goal/position people are fighting over.

The concept of being ‘Quietly Amazing’ is in alignment with Jesus’ teaching regarding being humble and exalted. Humility does not mean that your performance is lacking, it just means that you are not arrogant or conceded about what you have accomplished. In the parable Jesus taught, the humble person was still worthy of honor and recognized by others for that trait; he was just humble about it and did not try to claim the best seat for himself.

In the parable, the host recognized that the humble person was worthy of honor, and while the other people may have been fighting with each other over who deserves to seat in the alpha dog’s seat, the host selected the honorable person who displayed a humble character. Your first step towards being both humble and amazing, is to know yourself, and to develop self-respect and a code of honor that you live by. Be confident in who you are, and recognize that although you may be a sheep in a flock of goats, you are not the same as them and should not try to be. Be yourself and remain true to your values, and others will notice that there is something special/different about you.

Understand that others will be judging you based on their opinions and perceptions, which are out of your control. You should be aware of the feelings of others, but your foundation should rest on your sense of honor and your devotion to God, so that you are not easily shaken. Control what you can control, recognize the things that are out of your control, and trust that God is leading you to where He wants you to be.

Being humble will prevent you from being viewed negatively, and you will still be recognized for your positive traits. You do not need to try to impress others, because as you reveal your awesomeness in small doses, others who think they learned something of value about you and will spread the information around. Use office gossip to your advantage. Instead of boasting about your accomplishments to try to impress other, you can simply mention some of them to a co-worker when it is relevant to the conversation, and do so as if it were not a big deal.

Your co-worker will believe he/she has figured out part of your mystery, and in an effort to boast of the value he/she has been given, the person will spread the information around to the rest of the group – adding to your intrigue without appearing boastful or interested in the approval of others. Keep in mind that you do not need to fight with the alpha dogs for the position of honor, because you can still be selected as the most honorable while being humble; besides, when you are dealing with earthly positions, who really gives a ﺷﺕ anyways. Is the trophy or title that important? If you are living an honorable life, God knows it, and you know it. Who gives a ﻓﻙ what the goats and wolves think.

Communication and Interactions

Esther 7:7-10 So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.” Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.” King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?” Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. 7 The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining. The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?” As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.” The king said, “Impale him on it!” So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.

I included Esther’s entire interaction with the king above in order to provide context, but the thing I believe is most important to examine is her petition to the king. It was only three sentences long, but its impact was profound. Had she not been able to convince the king, all of the Jews in captivity would have faced genocide – many of the Old Testament books would not have been written, and history as we know it would be vastly different. Her statement is included again below for us to examine more closely.

“If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”

The king had already expressed his love for Esther and offered her half of his kingdom, so we know that she had ‘value’ to him personally. Esther began her statement by reminding the king of her worth to him. She spoke with tact and humility. She did not come straight out and say, “If you love me then”, but asks in a manner that allows the king to evaluate her worth to himself. As I stated previously, what we say is not as important as what our statements cause the other person to think.

She then expresses respect for the king by referring to him as, “Your Majesty”, followed by a humble appeal to the king’s motivation (“if it pleases you”). Again, she allows the king to contemplate and determine for himself what ‘pleases’ him; she is not telling him how she thinks he should feel or what he should do, but allowed him to come to the conclusion on his own. Since people are inclined to move towards pleasure, the king should have been interested in doing something that ‘pleases’ him.

Next, she clearly made her request, “grant me my life – is my petition and spare my people – is my request.” These are two separate requests, since the king could easily state that the rule would not apply to Esther, since she was the queen. By presenting the possibility of her death first, she focused the king on how the outcome would directly impact him. The king may have been indifferent to the death of the rest of the Jews, but by making the loss personal to him, the king could contemplate how Esther’s death would directly make him feel.

Had Esther asked, “please don’t kill the Jews, because I too am a Jew”, the king might have started objectively planning out his response in his mind, and thought to himself something like, “you don’t understand the complexities involved in my position and sometimes I need to do things that…” However, since Esther’s petition was phrased the way it was, the king was likely focused on the possibility of him losing the woman he loved. He probably had an ‘oh ﺷﺕ’ moment, when he realized the implications of the decree Haman had written.

Esther followed her request by again showing humility and respect to the king. She stated that if the matter were not of great importance, then she would not have disturbed the king. She appealed to his ego, and made him feel reverenced by her; not only would Esther’s death cause the king to lose someone he loved, but he would also lose a person who offers value to him by boosting his sense of esteem.

I would like to think that by Esther personalizing the king’s decree (so that he understood the impact it would have on him personally), that he would be able to empathize with the rest of the people in his kingdom, and understand how they would feel about loss and/or being slaughtered. However, like most people (human nature), king Ahasuerus was primarily concerned about himself – and the effect his decree would have on him alone. In response to Esther’s request, king Abasuerus gave Esther Haman’s house, but Esther would have to ask him again with tears in order for the king to reverse his degree.

Esther 8:3-8 And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews. Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king, And said, If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which [are] in all the king’s provinces: For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred? Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews. Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.

At Esther’s second request the king did reverse his decree, and allowed the Jews to slaughter all of their enemies (demonstrating that king Abasuerus was not empathetic to the pain of others). The psychological needs that king Abasuerus toiled with were the needs for esteem and respect. Prior to Esther becoming queen, the king ordered queen Vashti to appear before him at a feast, because he wanted to flaunt her beauty before his subjects.

King Abasuerus had previously been showing off all of his riches and wanted to show off Vashti’s beauty as well. Vashti ignored the king’s request, which disrespected him in front of his subjects. In response, king Abasuerus ordered that all the beautiful virgins in his kingdom be rounded up so that he can select a replacement for queen Vashti. King Abasuerus wanted to be respected and admired, so when Esther petitioned the king for her own life and the lives of her people, she was careful to be humble and to show him respect when doing so.

Daniel 6:14-16 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.

In response to Esther’s initial request, king Abasuerus immediately ordered Haman’s death and spared Esther’s life, but Esther had to petition the king further in order to save her people. This is understandable, because king Abasuerus seemed to be indifferent about ordering the death of people in his kingdom, yet very focused on saving face and maintaining his sense of esteem. He would not have wanted to appear to go back on his word. As demonstrated in the case of Daniel (above), the kings in that area and living in that time-period could not change their decrees arbitrarily.

King Abasuerus had already sent out the decree throughout his kingdom, so backtracking (or admitting a mistake) was probably something that was difficult for him to do. Just as his subjects pressured him to replace Vashti in order to save face and maintain order, the king’s decree was the law and could not be changed on a whim. In the end, his decision was probably based on his own feelings for Esther weighed against him publically changing his mind. Prior to Esther making her petition, she pointed out how strictly the king followed the rules.

Esther 4:11-16 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words. Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

Entering into the king’s presence without an invitation was a dangerous endeavor. Vashti broke the laws of the land, and the king stripped her of her position, so Esther understood that the king did not bend on his rules, even for the queen. However, Mordecai convinced her that going before the king was worth the risk. Mordecai believed that God would deliver the Jews in some manner, and suggested that Esther could be a part of that deliverance, or might find herself on the other side of it.

Based on how strictly the king’s decrees were followed, being the queen may not have protected Esther from the king’s decree anyways – as evidenced by the fact that Esther believed she needed to petition the king for her own life as well. Esther agreed with Mordecai, and decided to go before the king, even if it meant that she might perish. She was willing to put her life on the line (sooner than later) in order to protect her people.

As Mordecai pointed out, “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” This concept goes back to what I stated previously regarding freewill and predestination. Like Joseph, Moses, and many other people in the Bible, there are certain events in a person’s life that God has purposed for them, and other events are left to freewill, circumstance, or chance. Although, Esther eventually became queen and lived in a palace, her life was not a bed of roses. Both of her parents were dead, she was raised by a cousin, and was basically ripped from her home and forced to be a sex slave in the king’s palace.

Being raised the way she was helped shape her character, and prepared her for the defining event in her life. There is nothing to suggest that she was not brought up in a loving home, but even so, without having the love of her parents, she may have felt somewhat like an outsider, and that her livelihood (basic needs) rested on the charity of her relatives. This would have affected the foundation of her sense of self. Added to that, the fact that she was a woman and forced into the king’s harem, we can predict that her self-esteem was probably not very high.

Regardless of her self-esteem, Esther had the courage to standup for herself and her people. Her predisposition and/or ability to be humble is probably what made her so successful. She was not seeking treasure for herself, and her behavior earned the respect of others and caused the king to love her more than the rest. Unlike Vashti, who was comfortable enough in her position to refuse the king’s orders, Esther’s behavior caused the king to bend the rules for her and to reverse his decree – something he was not willing to do for Vashti.

We can learn a few things from the life of Esther. She seemed to accept her position regardless of her status, and she was not self-seeking or desiring power or wealth. She was loyal to her family, and willing to place her life on the line in order to do what she believed was right. She did not act on impulse, but carefully calculated her actions. She did not petition the king at her first opportunity, but offered him an invitation to dine with her. She set the stage for the encounter, and used carefully selected words to make her petition.

Esther also trusted in God. Mordecai believed God would deliver the Jews by some means (with or without her help). If Esther did not also believe that were possible, then she would have felt safe to hold her peace, continue to conceal her heritage, and safeguard her own security. However, she was not selfish, and although she recognized that the king might kill her for even trying to gain an audience with him, she placed herself in danger in order to protect others.

When Esther sought an audience with the king, she did everything she could to set the stage and carefully select her words, but she did not do it alone. Prior to even asking for an audience with the king, Esther sought God’s assistance, and asked the Jews and her maidens to fast with her for three days to seek God’s help. When Mordecai stated that the Jews would somehow be delivered, Esther had to choose who she trusted more, the safety and favor of the king, or in the sovereignty of God.

Esther trusted in God’s sovereignty over the king’s, yet she recognized that believing in God did not equate to safety in the world. She understood that she could fast and pray and could still be put to death for breaking the laws of the king. In the end, Esther trusted in God, and did what she believed to be the right thing to do – even if it meant that she might fail or perish. She did the honorable thing, and risked death before dishonor.

It might be a coincidence that Esther’s humble and respectful nature meshed well with the king’s desire for honor and respect, but by understanding human nature, we too can improve our chances of success when dealing with other people. If something is worth doing, then it is worth doing right. The setting and time limit allotted for the discussion should be appropriate, and some thought should be given as to how the other person may respond.

If you desire to convince someone of something, then you should consider any objections the person might have, and be prepared to respond to their objections. You must also ask yourself, “what is in it for them”, since that is what the person will be asking himself/herself during your proposal. Your words should focus on influencing the person’s thoughts and feelings, while still providing objective facts to be considered.

If you have prior knowledge about the person and can predict his/her motivations or temperament, then that information can greatly assist you in getting through to the person. However, you must still use tact (tactical communication) when making your proposal, and must understand that other people’s perceptions may not match your projections as to how you think the person would (or should) respond. Try to have empathy for the person to predict how he/she might respond, but be careful not to assume you know how they will.

2 Samuel 4:8-12 And they brought the head of Ish-bosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the LORD hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed. And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the LORD liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity, When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings: How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? Shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth? And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged [them] up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.

The above provides two examples of people greatly misjudging King David’s feelings and predicting his responses. In the first case, the person brought news of King Saul’s death and brought David Saul’s crown. He assumed David would rejoice at Saul’s death and his ability to take the throne. However, David’s feelings for Saul and his respect for God’s anointed differed greatly from what the person anticipated.

In the second example, two men brought David the head of one of Saul’s descendants, thinking that David would be pleased with them. In both examples, David ordered the people’s deaths. Cushi bringing news of the death of David’s son provides another example of someone misjudging his response (2 Samuel 18:32). These examples demonstrate the need for us to tame our tongues and watch our words, because regardless of how reasonable something seems to us, we can never be sure how another person will feel about the situation.

David was a man of honor and he continued to respect Saul as God’s anointed long after he himself had been anointed by Samuel to be Saul’s replacement. David respected Saul’s position as king, and did not try to overthrow him, even after David had earned the respect of the people and had been anointed by God. Instead, David loved Saul as a father; he loved Jonathan as a brother, and married into the family. There is no question that David killed many people during his life, but he was a man of honor, he lived with conviction, and there were certain lines he believed could not be crossed.

1 Samuel 24:4-7 And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privately. And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD. So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.

God delivered Saul into David’s hands, and David was able to choose Saul’s fate. Had he been driven by a desire for power, wealth, and control, David could have killed Saul and taken his throne, but David was patient and respected Saul’s position. He was content in his place and willing to wait to become king, even if it meant he would need to continue to live a life in hiding. As Saul was leaving the cave, David called out to him, and their interaction is worthy of review.

1 Samuel 24:8-22 David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself. And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee today into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed. Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it. The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. After whom is the king of Israel come out? After whom dost thou pursue? After a dead dog, after a flea. The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand. And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? Wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand. Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house. And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.

David was patient and was willing to wait on God’s will to manifest itself at the appointed time. Jesus also, recognized the need to allow God’s will to take precedence over his own (Luke 22:42), and to wait on God’s plan to manifest itself (Revelations 5:12). Saul’s error was the result of his unwillingness to wait on God, and his pride and trust in his own self-sufficiency.

When faced with adversity, Saul did not wait on God, but took it upon himself to make the offerings – disobeying the commandments of the LORD (1 Samuel 13:8-14). Saul continued in that pattern, and later ignored more of God’s commandments and did what he believed to be a better way (1 Samuel 15:13-28), which led to God regretting appointing Saul as king. Saul was unwilling to accept his rejection, and continued to try to control the situation despite losing God’s favor.

Saul became jealous of David after failing to kill him with a javelin, he offered his daughter in marriage as a snare. Saul required the foreskins for 100 Philistines for his daughter’s hand in marriage, hoping their enemies would kill David. Very quickly, Saul’s veiled attempts to have David killed turned into orders for his death, and David had to go into hiding. When David encountered Saul in the cave, he could have killed Saul and taken his kingdom, but despite Saul’s hostility, David still respected God’s anointed.

David got Saul’s attention as he was leaving the cave, and bowed and showed respect for the king. David then said, “Saul, wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying Behold, David seekth thy hurt?” This tactful message infers that the advice others have given Saul was inaccurate, as opposed to saying, “You are wrong.” People do not like to be told their wrong (and may enter a defensive state of mind), but they have no problem accepting that other people can be mistaken. David then provided Saul with objective facts and proof that he could have killed Saul but chose not to.

David portrayed himself as being humble and unworthy of the king’s time, while showing respect for the king, and even referring to Saul as his father. This time, Saul finally got the message. Saul referred to David as his son and wept. Saul recognized that David was more righteous than he was, and finally accepted that the kingdom would be given to someone better than him (1 Samuel 15:28). Saul told David he knew he would be king and asked him to swear not to kill Saul’s descendants once on the throne.

When given the chance to kill Saul, David did not believe it was appropriate for him to lift up his hand against the LORD’s anointed. So when a stranger brought news of Saul’s death (and his own involvement in it), David had him killed. David swore to Saul that after he assumed the throne, he would not cut off Saul’s descendants. Therefore, when people started showing up with the heads of Saul’s descendants, David had them killed. If they knew about David’s encounter with Saul at the cave, they might have known better, but instead they projected their own beliefs on to David, as to what they believed would please the king and get them rewards.

Saul was driven by the need for power and authority. Despite losing God’s favor due to his own arrogance, Saul struggled to keep his position and authority as king. He viewed David as a threat to his honor and esteem, and tried to have David eliminated. After struggling with an evil spirit and against God’s will, Saul finally accepted the fact that David would replace him as king. However, Saul was still unwilling to relinquish his position while he lived. After accepting that his children would not inherit his throne, Saul then requested that his seed be allowed to live on.

When dealing with people, we can speculate about how a person might respond, but without knowing a great deal about him/her, we should be prudent in the words we choose and in the messages we convey. If possible, we should consider the other person’s motivations (what is in it for them) in our assessments, and tailor our words so we do not offend them or cause them to enter into a defensive state of mind.

Showing humility worked for both Esther and David. They were humble, even though their positions were worthy of esteem. Humility does not refer to a person who is unworthy, but involves people who are worthy of respect, yet do not flaunt their position/talents/knowledge over others. Humility considers the other person’s feelings and is not proud or boastful. Living with honor involves honoring others, while remaining true to one’s own virtues.

Romans 13:7-10 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Showing respect to others while living a principled life is a recipe for success. Not only will others respond well to your treatment of them, but they will also respect you for the values, principles, and ethics you embody. Part of respecting others involves not coveting their possessions. Do not be jealous of them and do not make them jealous of you. If you appear to be lusting after the other person’s position or property (or competing with them for something), then you will be viewed as a threat to the person’s well-being and would create and adversarial relationship.

In life, you must choose your battles wisely. Some things are worth fighting for, and some things are worth dying for; but unnecessary conflict does not benefit anyone. As much as it is up to you, live peacefully with others (Romans 12:18). If you treat others with respect and live an honorable life, then your life would be a pleasant one. Enjoy your life, and be content with your present state. Work with those around you toward your mutual benefit. Living in such a manner is in accordance with God’s commandments, and will please him.

Proverbs 15:1-2 a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.

Proverbs 10:19 in a multitude of words sin is not absent: but a wise man holds his tongue.

Proverbs 17:27-28 He that hath knowledge spares his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

Proverbs 21:23 Whoso keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from troubles.

Proverbs 29:11 A fool utters all his mind: but a wise man keeps it in till afterwards.

People judge us by the things we say and do. Actions speak louder than words, but our words can be more destructive. If you put effort into your work and behavior, it is hard to mess that up, but making a foolish statement can quickly change a person’s opinion about you. The more you talk, the greater the chances of you saying something offensive or getting someone angry. You might come off as a know-it-all, an ﺍﺹhole, a fool, or any number of other categories that others might classify you into.

When dealing with other people, it is wise to hold your peace, and withhold your comments. Once you are in a close relationship with another person, he/she may value your input, but until you are in such a relationship, other people will be trying to figure you out and will place you into different categories based on your words and behavior. People make their judgments based on their perceptions, and if you do not know the other people well then it is easy for disagreements to form.

What you say is not as important as how the other person feels about what you say. At the cave, David made Saul feel respected and grateful for his life. He was humble and suggested that he was not even worth Saul’s time. Previously, Saul was jealous of David and viewed him as a threat to his authority and power. Through David’s words and actions, he showed Saul that he had no intension of killing Saul and taking his throne from him, even when given the opportunity.

The interactions between David and Saul were over a long period, and Saul’s perception of David’s intensions was not something easy for him to change. David may have gone to war believing he was serving God and doing his duty, but Saul’s observations/perceptions were that David was winning over the hearts of the people and becoming a threat to his own power and esteem. Recognizing that others may interpret our words and actions much different from our intensions, demonstrates the need for us to watch our words and to control our interactions with others.

When interacting with strangers we should be respectful and behave professionally. The beginning of a relationship is not the time to spout out your feelings about various topics or to share personal aspects about yourself. Keep your interactions professional until you are in a better place to gauge the other person’s personality. Judgments will still take place, but you are better off being the one judging the other person’s words than vice versa.

When I say professional, I am referring to staying on topic and/or dealing with the matters at hand. This is similar to what I teach my children about identifying strangers and recognizing when something becomes inappropriate. I use transactions with cashiers as an example for them. I tell them that when I am at a store, I am giving the cashier money for the item I am purchasing. Talking to the cashier about topics related to that exchange is appropriate.

Making polite statements such as, “how are you today” or commenting about the weather is also appropriate. However, if one of the parties starts discussing things unrelated to the transaction the person may be crossing the line into what is not appropriate. Questions such as, “do you live around here” might be acceptable as small talk in some context, but since it is not directly related to the transaction, it should throw up a red flag (the cashier does not need to know where you live). If you are trying to purchase milk and the cashier starts telling you that you have beautiful eyes or asking what you are doing later, that is crossing the line from professional into personal.

As an example of inappropriate behavior, I will discuss an encounter between a high school girl and a teacher she did not know. As the girl walked down the hallway, the teacher said, “Wow, you look really good in those jeans.” The teacher’s job is to provide instruction, and not to evaluate the appearance of students at the school. Such a comment is completely inappropriate (it is personal and not related to a professional interaction). The same teacher approached the student again later, told her that he was the coach of the girl’s basketball team, and encouraged her to join the team. He told her how being on the team is fun and that they regularly go out of town and stay in hotels to play games.

The teacher’s behavior was inappropriate, but additionally it could be a warning sign of a potential child molester. Maybe the teacher was innocent and simply made an inappropriate comment. However, when safety is concerned, it is better to error on the side of safety, than to worry about misjudging a stranger. These are the facts of the situation: the teacher made contact with a student he was not assigned to teach, he made inappropriate comments about the girl’s physical appearance, and he established himself in a position where he would be alone with young girls in hotels and away from their parents or other supervision.

Child molesters use a technique known as ‘grooming’. They do not immediately violate their victim’s boundaries, but test the waters and lay a foundation for future encounters. They cross the line into inappropriate behavior and evaluate the other person’s response. If met with resistance, they hope to explain the situation away as a misunderstanding, and they will move on to a different victim. When their target does not resist, they continue to escalate their behavior and to cross more and more boundaries until their victims are successfully groomed.
They entice their victims by offering to fulfill their victim’s needs. Flattery (commenting on the person’s appearance) boosts their victim’s self-esteem. When such a predator positions himself as a coach or something similar, he gets a lot more tools for manipulation at his disposal. If he succeeds in integrating his victim onto the team, then he has control of his victim’s peer group and needs of love and belonging. The victim initially feels honored by the praise she receives (how nice the coach is) and then becomes part of a team and feels she is a part of something bigger than herself. Her family members may come to her games, and she has her self-esteem boosted from many directions.

Once the predator has groomed his victim, he will escalate his inappropriate behavior, and leverage his victim’s ability to play in the sport (games) against her. The objective is to cause the victim to Cross the Rubicon (the river Caesar crossed when he invaded Rome), and to reach a point (of no return) where it is easier to stay the course than it is to turn around and go back to where you started. Mentally, when people give into something against their better judgment, the concept of cognitive dissonance takes place, which requires the person to reinterpret their beliefs systems as to what is right and wrong in order to justify the change in their behavior.

The above is the same procedure used to indoctrinate terrorists and/or to recruit people into cults. Similar techniques are used by drug dealers to get people addicted to their product, and by pimps to force people into prostitution. The manipulator fulfills certain needs within an individual and then requires the person to keep pushing his/her boundaries in order to maintain the benefits. The targeted person must change his/her fundamental belief system in order to continue to participate, until they reach a point that they are vastly different than when they started (and doing things they never thought they would), and believe it is easier to stay the course than it would be to return to their original state.

If the predator is in a position such as a coach, then he can leverage his victim’s feelings of acceptance in the group against the need for his victim to tolerate his inappropriate behavior. Once enough lines have been crossed, he would use his victim’s compliance to by her silence. The victim would feel guilty about allowing things to go too far, and the victimizer would undoubtedly have caused or intentionally sought to make her feel that way.

Exposing the coach would have ramifications: the victim would be personally embarrassed, she may lose her peer group (and mess things up for the rest of the team), and may feel that she would not be believed (because the coach has established himself as such a nice guy and pillar of the community). The coach would have made her believe that at a minimum, his victim was complicit, if not solely to blame for his behavior.

The preceding was a very long example of inappropriate behavior in order to demonstrate the simple need to remain professional with people you do not know well. I followed the example to its conclusion because it deals with manipulating human nature and is directly related to the concepts discussed in this study. In order to protect yourself from the wolves, you must be as wise as a serpent, and you cannot do that if you do not understand their evil ploys. In order to avoid evil, you must be able to identify potential threats and prevent their escalation.

If in response to a teacher saying, “wow, you look really good in those jeans”, the student replied, “go ﻓﻙ yourself you pervert”, a predator would recognize that his ability to manipulate such a student would be difficult, and would move on to easier prey. Would the student get into trouble for telling a teacher to go ﻓﻙ himself? Maybe, but I doubt it, and if she did, who cares. Any good parent would be willing to back their child up against a stranger, especially when she errors on the side of safety.

If the teacher wanted to get the student into trouble, then he would need to explain his own behavior to his boss as well, and it would be difficult to explain that the student misunderstood his intensions yet still claim she should be held accountable for her response. Self-defense is a concept that is universally recognized. When safety is a legitimate concern, only the unjust would claim you do not have a right to defend yourself.
Even if you do not initially respond to such predators with a “go ﻓﻙ yourself” statement, maintaining your sense of honor is necessary. Do not compromise your core sense of self for anyone, and do not let anyone lead you across the Rubicon. The concept of ‘death before dishonor’ does not need to be taken to the extreme in everyday situations, but it can involve lesser tradeoffs – where you elect to suffer a loss instead of compromising your nature. Maybe you choose not to join the perverted coach’s basketball team, or determine that the promotion at work is not worth spending an excessive amount of time away from your family.

1 Corinthians 6:7-8 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

1 Corinthians 10:21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

We must choose our battles carefully and we may need to make some concessions in life, but our honor and dignity should never be compromised. We cannot let others walk all over us, but unnecessary quarrels are of little benefit. Sometimes it is better to suffer a loss, than it would be to change your behavior or compromise yourself in an effort to get ahead. We are to be as wise a serpents (to protect ourselves from the wolves), but as gentle as doves (and not employ the serpent’s schemes to wrong or defraud others). We cannot drink from the Cup of Christ and the Cup of Demons, so each of us needs to figure out where that line is (which cup is which), and ensure others do not lead us across it.

If you are unwilling to compromise your honor, then the manipulations of predators will not work against you. They can try to dangle a carrot in front of you to lead you in the direction they want you to go, but if you do not really care if you get the carrot then their manipulations would be ineffective. If you do not define success by earning the acceptance and approval of others, then those needs cannot be leveraged against you. Your best defense is to be content with your current position, and to value your sense of honor and your commitment to God above material success or fleeting pleasures.

In the event that you find yourself in a position where a stranger is crossing the line between a personal and professional interaction, telling them to “ﻓﻙ off” may not be appropriate. If the situation seems to be a harmless one, you might simply use evasive answers that do not compromise your security. If you feel you are being targeted by a predator, the first level of resistance is known as ‘verbal non-compliance’.

Do not do what they say, and/or remain silent. Ignore them, but do so with an attitude of arrogance instead of fear. I know that I previously said that arrogance is bad, but in some situations, it is a better response. If you make someone feel that you believe you are too good for him, wouldn’t that piss him off? Probably, but persuasion predators (such as child molesters) are seeking vulnerable victims who they believe they can control.

If you have already been targeted, your ability to ‘live peacefully with all men’ may not be in your power. The world is a dangerous place, and you may need to escalate your level of resistance at some point. However, if the predator is still in the process of selecting a victim, you may dissuade him by showing some backbone and displaying confidence.

If the ‘bad guys’ think you are afraid of them – and that you are ignoring them out of fear – they will think they have power over you, which may lead them to select you as a victim. If they think you would be a challenge to victimize (a hard target), then they may move on to an easier victim. Jesus did not worry about pissing off his enemies, and we do not need to make everyone we encounter happy with us either.

Fear is an emotion that can be manipulated. A manipulator can put you at ease and remove your fear, which would relieve stress and benefit you emotionally – possibly even endearing you to the person for removing the fear that he caused in the first place. Arrogance and confidence is much harder for others to manipulate. If you are already maxed out in those traits, there is no carrot to be dangled in front of you.

The need for physical safety and security is vital to one’s survival, but I am not going to spend any more time discussing actions and responses to physical threats in this section.  For the purpose of this section, I want you to understand that controlling your speech, your responses, and maintaining your convictions can protect you physically and will influence how others respond to you.

In my life, I have worked several jobs and in many different career fields. In the military, I am often required to move every few years, and must start from scratch with a new group of complete strangers. I have done and witnessed the process of gaining acceptance, earning respect/trust, and creating functioning teams/work environments many times. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so you need to do it right the first time.

When starting a new job, you will always feel like an outsider in the beginning. You may be apprehensive, but try not to appear afraid. Project that you are confident (in your abilities) but not arrogant, and act like you are happy to be there. Even if you hate your new job, try to be in a good mood while you are there. A bad mood will bring others down, and people like to be around others who make them feel good. Trusting in God and being content wherever you find yourself will help you in maintaining a positive attitude even while facing adversity.

When you first begin a new job or enter into a new peer group that is not the time to start bossing people around and telling them how they could be doing their jobs better; doing so would only insult them, and would influence how they mentally categorize you. When dealing with strangers, watching your words and actions is particularly important, because if they misinterpret you, it will take a long time for you to undo a bad first impression.
You are better off going with the flow and observing how things operate in the work center until you have established yourself. Once you have proven yourself and earned the respect of others, then you will be in a better position to ‘suggest a better way of doing things.’ Making ‘suggestions’ that benefit the group will be received much better than, ‘correcting’ them or telling them that ‘they are doing something wrong.’

Saying, “Maybe if we tried things this way, we can save time and our work would be easier” would be better received than, “You guys do not know what you are doing, and are wasting your time on this process, I would do it this way…” The first statement includes yourself with the group, and afterwards, the other employees may think that you all came up with the idea together – including them in it and giving them buy-in with the new process. In the second statement, the person comes off as a holier-than-thou-insulting-know-it-all, whose presentation would not be well received, even if it were correct.

When you are first entering a new job or peer group, hold your peace and do not try to change things right away. People are resistant to change, so without first getting the lay of the land, your opinions will hold very little weight. The initial stage of team development is the ‘forming’ stage. While in it, your primary responsibility is to learn your position and establish rapport with the group. You cannot move into the ‘storming’ (fighting for control), ‘norming’ (accepting positions), and ‘performing’ (group cohesion) stages until you first get to know each other.

The concept you need to remember is that ‘interested is interesting.’ When you are the outsider, you do not know how others will respond to your beliefs/opinions, so you are better off safeguarding your personal information, and keeping your opinions to yourself until you are better able to gauge those around you. Answer the questions others ask you, but keep your relationships with them professional – until you have figured them out. Do not project your perceptions onto others or think you can predict their responses – like those who brought King David news of Saul’s death did.

Using the concept of ‘interested is interesting’ is easy, because most people love to brag about themselves. In your initial interactions with others, answer their questions in a professional manner, but appear to be interested in the other people more than you talk about yourself. Ask others questions about themselves, and let them brag to you. By doing so, you will collect information on others that you will need to know in order to influence them later, and they will feel a sense of rapport with you.

By appearing interested in other people and allowing them to brag about themselves, they will open up to you and share personal things with you. After sharing personal information with you, they will feel closer to you and will feel a connection with you – even though you have not divulged anything about yourself. People like people who like them. By appearing interested, you can make a person feel connected with you and trust you, without divulging any of your personal information.

By listening to others, you collect information, build rapport, and learn what drives and motivates them. After sharing personal information with you, they will justify sharing such information with you through ‘Cognitive Dissonance.’ They can either think to themselves that they gave away personal information to a complete stranger and that in doing so was a really bad idea, or they can think that they have found someone who they can really open up to. Since people move towards pleasure and away from pain, they are more likely to choose the option that is easier for them to process (that they did something good and not something bad).

For us, cognitive dissonance is the enemy. Cognitive dissonance occurs when you have two conflicting ideas in your mind, and you attempt to justify your actions by modifying your belief system. As an example, if you gave into temptation and stole candy from a co-workers desk, you may experience a disconnect between your actions and your belief system. You believe stealing is wrong, but you have done it.

Since admitting failure is painful psychologically, many people would elect to redefine their feelings about stealing in order to rectify the opposing feelings/concepts they are struggling with. They make excuses for their actions, minimize their behavior, and tell themselves that what they did was okay. Maybe they tell themselves that they would be open to ‘sharing’ inexpensive things with their co-workers, or some other lie they choose to believe.

As Christians, when our actions conflict with our belief systems, we need to recognize our failures and admit our mistakes. When the Pharisee and the Publican both prayed, the one who went away justified was the one who admitted his mistakes and repented of his actions (Luke 18:10-14). We are justified to God by recognizing are shortcomings and desiring to modify our behavior in order to correct our failures.

Justifying our actions and adapting our belief systems to excuse our sins modifies our behavior, but it does so in the wrong direction. Christians are to learn from the adversity we face and improve in our characters. We should establish and maintain a sense of honor, admit when we fail, and commit to doing better. It takes courage to admit one’s mistakes. Doing so displays character that is commendable, perhaps even more admirable than appearing perfect (since none of us is perfect).

Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
It is inevitable that we will sometimes make mistakes and regret some of the things we do. Even God was sorry that he made man on earth (Genesis 6:5-7) and He repented selecting Saul to be king (1 Samuel 15:35). Admitting our mistakes takes courage, and learning from them allows us to improve. God did not give up when he observed that the thoughts of men’s heart were evil continually, but He started over with Noah. God did not try to justify appointing Saul as king, but He moved forward and selected David to replace him.

When we fail at things, we feel bad. It is hard, and we may be ashamed of ourselves or feel like our self-confidence has been ripped from us. At such times, it is important to trust in God, and to remember that we are on the earth to learn through adversity. If everything were easy, then we could not grow. Justifying your actions is lying to yourself (justify = just a lie). Do not lie to yourself in order to make yourself feel better. Admit your mistakes, and learn from them. You cannot change the past, but you can change what you do in the future. When faced with difficulties, learn from them, improve, forgive yourself, and commit to doing better the next time.

Hints for the stages of team development:

Forming: build rapport with others by listening to them and seeming interested in their ideas. Let people see you as someone that will be easy to work with and not as a threat.

Storming: during the storming stage, people fight for control of the group. If you feel you need to be in a leadership position, then prove yourself first and earn the respect of the group. Allow them to select you as their leader on their own. Let them think it was their idea, and not because you boasted of your experience or advanced degrees. Recognize that you can contribute to the team without being the alpha, and that it is not necessary to fight with others for control. Remain cognizant of the feelings of others. Statements such as, “I should lead this project because I have an advanced degree in…” will cause those who view you as a competitor to think things like, “well buddy, your degree does not mean ﺷﺕ here.” Is that why you spent years in school, so that your degree would not mean ﺷﺕ? Establishing credibility by flaunting your achievements may be necessary at the beginning of a speech or when teaching a seminar, but with people you are going to work with for an extended period of time, it is better to come off as humble and to let them ‘discover’ how amazing you are on their own – by observing your performance. Those who are fighting for control of the group may still start to view you as a threat, by if you are sincere in your work ethics, they will not be able to find anything bad to say about you.

Titus 2:7-8 in all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing incorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, which cannot be condemned; so that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

Norming: during the norming stage of team development people accept their positions and find their places in the team. This is where your ability to be quietly amazing will become apparent. During the storming stage, all of the dominant personalities try to fight for control of the group, in the norming stage, the members of the group have had a chance to evaluate the performance of others, and by demonstrating your competence and work ethic, they may start viewing you as an informal leader. Keep in mind that your success in life is not defined by your success at work. You do not always need to be the leader or to occupy the place of honor. Be content in your position, do your work as though you are working for the Lord, and demonstrate good stewardship.

Performing: during the performing stage, the team is functioning effectively. There is nothing special you need to do other than continue to display a strong work ethic and get things done. Through your behavior, you can win others over, and if you are not promoted in this team, you are able to establish yourself and lay the groundwork for the next team. Always keep in mind that success at work or in a peer group does not equate to being successful, and do not be so focused on pleasing others that you neglect the truly important things in life (keep Uriah the Hittite in mind).

Taking Responsibility

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
- Bill Clinton

Former United States President Bill Clinton is not the person to emulate when it comes to taking responsibility for one’s actions. In his denial of his affair, he used an expanded contraction; changing ‘didn’t’ to ‘did not’, which is a common thing that liars do to emphasize clarity. Innocent people usually do not feel the need to expand their contractions in verbal statements, because they are telling the truth and do not feel compelled to clarify their meaning. In an effort to make lying easier, President Clinton redefined the term ‘sexual relations’ in his mental dictionary, so that it did not include oral sex in his definition. He also used distancing language, and referred to Monica as, “that woman, Miss Lewinsky”, trying to make it seem like he barely even knew her.

Genesis 4:9, 13-14 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?", "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?”…And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

When God confronted Cain about murdering his brother, Cain lied directly to God. He then used another common tactic liars use and asked God a question, which is a misdirection or and attempt to change the subject (liars may also go on the offensive and start accusing the other person of wrongdoing in order to shift the blame away from themselves and/or change the subject). After being caught in his lie, instead of taking responsibility for his actions, he complained that God was being too hard on him.

Genesis 3:12-13 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

When God confronted Adam and Eve for eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they did not take responsibility for their actions, but instead, tried shifting the blame onto others. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Adam did not only try to cast the blame onto Eve, but he also put some of the responsibility on God, for giving him, ‘the woman.’ Unlike Monica Lewinsky, Adam’s wife was not referred to as Eve until after the incident.

Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.

Luke 12:2-3 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

Mathew 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

We all make mistakes, fail at times, and do things we regret, but our ability to learn from our failures requires us to take responsibility for our actions. God judges us by our hearts, and knows if we are lying. There is nothing done is secret that God is not aware of, and we cannot hide our nakedness from Him. It is pointless to lie to ourselves or to justify bad behavior, because we are not fooling anybody.

When the Pharisees and the Publican both prayed, the one who went away justified was the one who recognized and admitted his failures (Luke 18:10-14). We are on earth to learn and to grow, to develop discernment and judgment, and to become vessels of honor fit for the master’s use (2 Timothy 2:21). By facing adversity and difficulties, we are able to grow in wisdom and are given opportunities to demonstrate our ability to choose the correct paths. We cannot grow, if we lie to ourselves, excuse our own sins, or try to blame others for our failures.

2 Samuel 12:5-12 And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

Nothing is kept secret from God, and we will all give an account to Him for our actions. King David knew God’s commandments, and when Nathan presented the situation to David in a parable, David became angry and judged correctly. David was not convicted until Nathan stated, “Thou art the man.” If this were the section on Communication, I would focus on how well Nathan did in controlling David’s thoughts and keeping him out of a defensive state of mind until acknowledging the truth was unavoidable, but this section is focused on taking responsibility for our actions.

2 Samuel 12:13-14, 16-24 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die… David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? Thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. And David comforted Bath-sheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.

David immediately took responsibility for his actions, and admitted that he had sinned against the LORD. He then repented and fasted on the child’s behalf while the child was still alive. Once he learned of the child’s death, David picked himself up and worshipped God. He did not blame God or consider God unfair, but worshiped God immediately following the child’s death. David knew God’s judgments were just, because before David learned that Nathan was talking about him, David’s judgments were not that different. David then recognized that his wife needed comfort, and they moved on with their lives.

David was guilty, but when he was confronted with his sin, he did not deny it. He took responsibility for his actions, and fasted for his child. He then worshiped God, and demonstrated his willingness to follow God even though things did not work out the way he had hoped. He comforted his wife, and the two of them picked themselves up and moved on with their lives. In life, we are all going to make mistakes and sometimes we will fail, but we cannot dwell on our mistakes forever. We need to admit our failures so that we can learn from them, and then pick ourselves up and move forward.

2 Samuel 18:32-33 And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

2 Samuel 19:1-2, 5-8 And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom. And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son…And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines; In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well. Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the LORD, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now. Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told unto all the people, saying, Behold, the king doth sit in the gate.

Cushi was not tactful in his speech and failed to predict David’s response to the news of his son’s death. Obviously, David truly loved Absalom and was devastated by his death. Joab was a leader in David’s army and was the one Uriah brought the letter to ordering his own death. Joab obeyed the king’s command without question in the case of Uriah. However, Joab recognized the king’s failure to place the needs of others above his own, and Joab did not remain silent in this situation.

Joab confronted the king with candor, and gave King David a lesson in human nature. Joab perceived that King David valued the life of Absalom more than the lives of the soldiers who fought and died to protect him. David was being selfish, and was focused on his own feelings and not on the feelings of the people in his kingdom. During the battle with Absalom, 20,000 people died, so David was not the only person to have lost a loved one that day. Many families were without sons and fathers, because they had died in service to either David or his son.

Joab understood human nature, and tried using it to his advantage. He previously recognized David’s sorrow for being apart from Absalom (since Absalom was banished for killing his brother), and Joab tried manipulating David in order to reunite the father and son (2 Samuel 14:13-20). Joab knew that by fulfilling a need within David, he would earn the king’s favor (2 Samuel 14:22). Joab’s willingness to send Uriah to his death was probably also done to demonstrate his loyalty to the king and to earn David’s trust.

2 Samuel 11:18-21 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king, And if so be that the king’s wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? Knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall? Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? Why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.

When Joab sent a message to the king, he was careful to include the news of Uriah’s death in it. Joab safeguarded his esteem and did not want David to think that he was a foolish military tactician. He ensured that David knew the losses in the battle were not due to Joab’s failure in his position, but were done purposefully in order to fulfill David’s request.

Joab succeeded in bringing Absalom back from his banishment, but things did not turn about as Joab had hoped. Absalom returned to Jerusalem for two years without seeing David (2 Samuel 14:28), and he became bitter. Absalom later burned Joab’s fields, and appointed someone else to replace Joab as the captain in the army (2 Samuel 17:25). Although Absalom returned from banishment, David still did not associate with him, so Absalom sought to kill David and take his kingdom. When Joab learned that Absalom was stuck in a tree, he went there and killed Absalom in defiance of David’s direct orders.

Joab recognized King David’s love for Absalom and previously tried fulfilling David’s needs in order to ingratiate himself to the king, but when David was grieving for Absalom at the expense of his people, Joab used his knowledge of human drives to convince David to comfort his citizens. David forgave those who sided with Absalom and reunited his kingdom. Joab continued to serve David during David’s lifetime, and was later killed on the orders of David’s son Solomon.

David was a man of honor, and was willing to kill the messenger who brought news of Saul’s death without hesitation, but he compromised his honor in the incident with Uriah the Hittite. In response, God said he would live, but that the sword will never leave his house and evil will rise up from within his household. The adversity David faced with his sons was a result of his guilt, and his guilt over Uriah probably greatly influenced David’s responses to his son’s misdoings.

When Amnon raped his sister, David was wroth, but the scripture does not state that he took any action against him. Had David immediately put Amnon to death or had he received a sufficient punishment (Leviticus 20:17, Deuteronomy 22:22-27), Absalom might not have felt compelled to murder his brother for his sister’s honor. If in response to killing his brother, Absalom were put to death, then his resentment towards David would not have grown to the point of war.

From David’s point of view, he probably felt guilty about his own sins, and since he had committed a sexual sin motivated my lust and ordered Uriah’s death himself, he was not as hard on his sons as he was on the messenger who brought news of Saul’s death. God’s response to David’s sins was to allow David to live, and to face the consequences of his actions. In like manner, David allowed both of his sons to live, but he disassociated himself from them. David did the same thing with his concubines, and had them locked away in a ward and allowed them to live out their lives in widowhood (2 Samuel 20:3).

David could have done things differently. Had he taken stronger action against Amnon, he may have appeared as a hypocrite for have been forgiven himself yet being unwilling to overlook Amnon’s guilt, but that would be better than appearing to pervert justice. Had David been attentive to Absalom’s needs, lots of pain and many deaths could have been avoided. Absalom originally wanted justice for his sister, and since he did not get it, he took matters into his own hands.

Absalom went into hiding, and his frustration was allowed to fester and grow. Absalom probably thought to himself, “this is bull ﺷﺕ, I did want my father should have done, and I am the one who has to suffer for it”, or something similar to it for several years. Joab recognized David’s longing for Absalom, but instead of being direct with David, Joab tried imitating Nathan’s tactic (by sending a woman to manipulate David). At Joab’s prompting David brought Absalom back, but David still hid his face from him.

Had David been honest with Absalom (either when they lived far or near to each other), his frustrations would not have continued to grow to the point that he believed David was an unjust king that needed to be overthrown. Instead of sending someone to manipulate David in an effort to earn brownie points with the king, Joab should have been direct with him and said, “I can see how much pain you are in over Absalom, it is affecting you and therefore your kingdom, and both you and Absalom need to work out your feelings and come to some sort of compromise.” Instead, Absalom’s frustration grew, until he told Joab, “let me see the king’s face; and if there be any iniquity in me, let him kill me (2 Samuel 14:32).”

Absalom felt a need to get justice for his sister and then he hid himself, but as time went on, he justified his actions and convinced himself that he was not guilty of any iniquity. He then wanted to be reunited with his father or to face death if his father considered him guilty of iniquity. David did not address any of Absalom’s concerns, had he done so, Absalom would not have continued to dwell on what he perceived as unfairness on David’s part. At any point, David could have said, “I understand why you did what you did, I love you, and it hurts me to be away from you. However, since you killed your brother, I need to…”

Proverbs 27:5-6 Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

David did not address the needs of Absalom, and upon learning of Absalom’s death, he did not address the feelings of his people. However, after some prompting from Joab, David did pull himself together, address the concerns of its citizens, and reunite his kingdom. Joab was cognizant of the feelings of others; he protected his own esteem, and tried using his knowledge of human motivations for his own advantage. He tried repeating the technique that Nathan used to reach David, and sent a woman to manipulate David – but he did so for personal gain and it did not have the same impact. Joab would have been better off going to David himself, and speaking to him openly and honestly, as he did when David was mourning Absalom’s death.

God cares about how will live our lives and how we interact with others. In the interactions between David, Absalom, and Joab, they kept their true feelings and intensions from each other, which led to resentment and frustration in the lives of all three. Being cognizant of the feelings of others is important, but it is also necessary to use that awareness appropriately. We should help others when we have the opportunity to, and not because we think we will benefit from it.

Honesty, truth, and candor are important concepts that should be present in any trusted relationship. Many times people will not want to hear or listen to the truth, but sometimes the direct approach is the best means of addressing issues. Sometimes people need to be confronted directly, and presented with objective information (“these are the facts”), in order for them to see the need to change. Once the need is identified, compromise or collaboration may be necessary to resolve the situation to the mutual benefit of all parties involved.

When issues are related to a person’s actions, justifying negative behavior will only prolong the adversity or allow it to grow. Until we are able to admit our mistakes and take responsibility for our actions, there is no hope of improvement. If you are in a relationship that you value, do not allow misunderstandings to fester or continue. Have the courage to address the issues head on. Be open to the other person’s point of view (feelings) and be understanding.

If your objective is to move past the issues and have a positive relationship in the future, then the guilty party needs to admit his/her mistakes, regret them, and commit to improve. Once that occurs, holding on to resentment or dwelling on the past is counter productive. If the baby is dead, there is no longer a reason to continue to fast. It would be better to move forward, and do better the next time.

I want to make it clear that I am not telling you that you need to forgive those who have wronged you, or that you need to continue to have a relationship with them. Which sins are forgivable and which are not is an entirely different topic. Understanding that information is important for your Christian walk, but it is out of the scope of this study.

In the situation with David and his sons, he could have gotten away with either forgiving them or having them executed, but he did neither. It would have been better had he made a decision and followed through with it. If nothing else, he should have at least explained his plan to his sons, and told them why he was handling the issues the way he did. If they knew what he was doing and why, then Absalom would not have needed to speculate about what was taking place; if he knew the plan, he could have dealt with the ramifications, and made peace with them – instead of fomenting in his subjective speculations.

In response to David’s sins, God had Nathan confront David directly with his actions. God explained the ramifications of David’s sins very clearly. God told him exactly what he could expect, and He followed through with what He decreed. David fasted on behalf of his child, but since he understood God’s will and position, David was able to accept his punishment, and move on with his life. The need to accept responsibility for our actions, and the process of discipline is as relevant to us today, as it was in David’s life.

I had a situation where a subordinate left work in the middle of his shift without telling anyone. When we noticed he was missing, I tried calling his cell phone, but he had turned it off. After a few hours, I was able to get a hold of him, and I told him that the next day, he would receive a Letter of Reprimand (LOR). In the military, being ‘absent without leave’ (AWOL), is a crime that can result in confinement, although a LOR is only the first step in the progressive discipine process.

During our meeting, I explained exactly what he did wrong; I showed him the regulations, what his maximum punishment could be, and outlined the recourses available to him. The LOR was about a page in length, but in summary, it stated, ‘you left work without permission, which is a crime that you could get in trouble for. If you do it again then a harsher punishment will result.’ The LOR was just a warning, and the beginning of a paper trail that could be brought up again later, if he continued to violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

During the counseling session, the subordinate was given three days to make a rebuttal or to provide any additional information that he wished for me to consider. After reviewing his statement, I could then have the LOR stand as it was written or I could withdraw it, and make believe it never happened. During the three days, he was able to seek legal council and to get advice from the First Sergeant, his supervisor, and/or anyone else he wished to consult. He spoke with a few different people, and speculated about my intensions. He seems to have convinced himself that I was unfair, he was innocent, and that it did not matter what he did, because I was going to stick it to him no matter what.

On the third day, we had another counseling session, and I reviewed the letter he submitted. He had a very bad attitude during the session, and he failed to take any responsibility for his actions. His statement said the incident was a big misunderstanding that was caused by one of his peers, and that the some of it was actually my fault. He wrote that other supervisors would allow him to seek out of work, and the only reason he was getting in trouble for it this time, was because I did not know how to do my job. He never admitted to any wrongdoing in his statement, he blamed his peers for causing ‘the misunderstanding’, and he accused me of being inept in my duties.

After reading his statement, I provided him with mentorship, and explained exactly what I was looking for, and what he needed to say in his statement to have it removed. My job was to run the facility and ensure good order and discipline in the military. I explained to him that he could not violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice, because what he did was actually a criminal offense. Completely overlooking his transgression would set a negative precedence for the work center. The situation had to be addressed and corrected in some manner; otherwise, all of the subordinates would leave work with impunity.

I explained that LORs provide documentation of negative behavior, so that if he did not modify his behavior, then the next time he committed a crime there would be evidence of a trend (it would not be his first offense). In order to maintain good order and discipline, something had to be done, but I did not have to let the LOR stand. Had he taken responsibility for his actions and promised to correct his behavior, I would have thrown the LOR away, and he would have simply been given a verbal warning.

When speaking to him, he told me that he knew there was no way that I was going to withdraw the LOR anyways, and that he thought we were just going through the motions of a second counseling session for show. I asked him what exactly he thought I was trying to do with the LOR and why, and then being completely honest with him, I explained my position and exactly what I was trying to do.

The bottom-line is that it did not matter to me either way, whether or not he received a verbal warning or a written one. I would have been completely fine tossing out the LOR. My duty was to supervise subordinates and to ensure that they were not committing crimes. For the sake of his peers, something had to be done. If he had learned from his experience, that would have been sufficient – there would be no need for a paper trail. My objective was to correct his behavior so that it did not happen again, that is it. I was not trying to ruin his career or attack him personally, I just needed for him to understand that what he did was wrong, and that he would get in trouble if he did it again.

I told him that I was going to keep the LOR as written for documentation purposes, and I explained to him why. Besides the fact that he was clearly guilty of the offense, the main reason I kept the documentation, was because he failed to take any responsibility for his actions. Nor did he promise not to do it again. He blamed everyone else that was there that day, except for himself. It was his peer’s fault and it was his boss’s fault; he even blamed the fact that he turned off his phone on his wife.

I told him that I was going to maintain the LOR in his records to document the incident, but as long as he does not do it again then he should not have anything to worry about. My duty was to correct his behavior, and at that point, I did not have any evidence to suggest that he was going to make any effort to change. I explained to him why I gave him the LOR, why I decided to keep it, and what I hoped to achieve by doing so. I then mentored him in how to respond in the future, and provided him with the following advice:

‘When you do something to get yourself into trouble, it is your superior’s responsibility to ensure that you correct your behavior. In your response, I am looking for you to take responsibility for your actions, express regret, provide any extenuating circumstances or relevant information that I might not be aware of, and then to promise not to do it again. Take responsibility, express regret, explain yourself, and promise to do better in the future. And then of course, I expect you to actually improve in your behavior.’

The subordinate left the mentoring session in a better mood and seemed motivated to do better in the future. I did not have any more problems with him, but he was kicked out of the military a few months later for other offenses he committed previously. I hope that during our counseling session I was able to make an impact on his life, and to assist him in taking responsibility for his actions with future employers or in personal relationships. I realize that by providing him with the ‘secret formula’ on how to get out of trouble, I may have been casting my pearls before swine, but I am inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt at least once.

Taking responsibility for your actions demonstrates courage and character, and if you look at the situation from the point of view of the person you wronged, you would see that their objective is for you to correct your behavior so that you do not do it again. Saying your sorry and expressing regret is also important, because it demonstrates that you understand the impact your behavior had on others – and that you regret hurting their feelings.

Take Responsibility for your actions. If you are wrong, admit it, people will respect you for it. Lying, justifying behavior, or blaming others are common responses people resort to when they are caught doing something wrong. Whether they are sinning against God or being pulled over by a police officer for speeding, it is rare for someone to own up to their mistakes, so when they do so, it is honorable.

Trying to blame others or make excuses is disrespectful, and no one responds well to being disrespected. Moreover, you set up an adversarial relationship, putting the other person on the defensive, and hindering any future progress. Even if you managed to out wit the other person, you will not succeed in changing the person’s opinion about you, because the best suggestion is the one the person gives to himself or herself. The best way to move forward is to acknowledge your failure and to move on. Being honest is a positive trait, and one that enables you to build trust in the relationship.

In the criminal justice system, judges also respect someone who is trying to take responsibility for his actions. However, in the criminal justice system, if you are guilty of a crime then you are guilty of a crime. By taking responsibility for ones actions, the judge may show the criminal some leniency in sentencing, but those who commit crimes are unlikely to be let off the hook without any repercussions. Police read people their Miranda Rights for a reason, but Christians should not find themselves in such a situation anyways.

1 Peter 4:16 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

God cares about what we do with our lives and how we behave. Sometimes we will make mistakes, sometimes we will fail, and sometimes we will do things we regret. We cannot change the past, but we can change the way we behave in the future. We cannot go back in time and fix the things we have done, but we can go forward and live a life with honor.

OPSEC and Tactical Deception

Operations Security (OPSEC) is a military term that describes the need to prevent the enemy from knowing what you are doing for the sake of security. It is the process of safeguarding critical information, and is often reinforced by phrases such as, “loose lips sink ships.” As an example, let’s assume that a military unit plans to liberate an area held by enemy forces on the other side of a mountain. They know the enemy has 30 soldiers guarding the area, so while out of sight from the enemy they build up a force of 300 to prepare for the battle. OPSEC involves keeping the plan a secret. If one of the 300 soldiers goes onto his facebook page and shares the plan with outsiders, the enemy can find out, and then when the 300 go to the other side of the mountain, they would be met with 3,000 enemy soldiers instead of 30.

Tactical Deception is a similar concept to OPSEC, but it involves intentionally misleading the enemy, so that the enemy thinks you are planning one thing when you are actually planning on doing something else. Tactical Deception involves leading the enemy to the wrong conclusion, and it is not the same thing as lying to them. Lying is considered perfidy, it is a breech of trust, and is against the Law of War because, “it destroys the basis for a restoration of peace short of the complete annihilation of one belligerent by the other (FM 27-10).

Sirach 8:18-19 Do no secret thing before a stranger; for thou knowest not what he will bring forth. Open not thine heart to every man, lest he requite.

When dealing with strangers, do not trust them with your critical information. Use discretion in who you allow to peer into your Johari’s Window. The Bible states that ‘Liars’ will go to hell, but it does not clearly define what a liar is. The serpent in the Garden of Eden was a liar, although most of what he said was true. What makes deception wrong is when it is done with wicked intensions.

Proverbs 21:6 Getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

Isaiah 32:7 Also the schemes of the schemer are evil; He devises wicked plans to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speak justice.

Liars are people who provide false information to cover their own guilt or to take advantage of others. They provide false information to benefit themselves at other’s expense. The 10 Commandments states not to bear false witness, which involves lying, but there was more to it then that. To bear false witness was to falsely accuse someone of a crime that the person could be put to death over.

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Exodus 23:1 “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.”

Proverbs 24:28 Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, for would you deceive with your lips?

Deuteronomy 19:18-19 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you.

The Bible clearly teaches that lying is bad, but it also provides many examples of the positive use of OPSEC and Tactical Deception. To differentiate between good lying and bad lying, one must examine the motivation behind the lie, and whether the other person is owed the truth. When dealing with strangers, children should lead potential predators to believe their parents are in the house sleeping, and not that they are at home alone.

In the case of strangers or potential predators, false information may be provided for the purpose of safety. Just as nations at war with each other do not need to disclose their strategies in advance, when dealing with outsiders, you do not owe them the truth. Misleading a potential enemy/threat for the sake of safety is acceptable. If you are considering making a major purchase, and the salesperson asks you to disclose exactly how much money you have in the bank, you are not obligated to provide him/her with information that might be used against you.

When dealing with outsiders, bending the truth, misleading them, dodging their questions, or even directly lying to them may be appropriate. However, as a general rule, honesty is the best policy. If you lie too often and to the wrong people, then you will have difficulty remembering what you said to whom and you will eventually get caught in your own web of lies.

Being caught in a lie destroys your credibility, and any trust that you may have built up in the relationship. Aside from misleading potential threats to your safety, telling the truth is usually best. Since you are living an honorable life, you should not have anything to hide, and you do owe the truth to those you are in a relationship with.

Colossians 3:9-10 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

Matthew 5:34-37 But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Members of the Body of Christ (Christians) are told not to lie to each other. To those you owe the truth, tell the truth. The Matthew verses are from the Sermon on the Mount, which was part of Jesus’ public ministry. Many of the things Jesus taught openly needed to be clarified to the disciples in private later. However, the portion of His sermon on swearing was straightforward. Swearing is usually done to convince others of your honesty or of your commitment to follow through with whatever it is you are swearing to. The point Jesus was making is that you should not need to swear. If you live with conviction and have credibility, your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ statements should be trusted.

Esther 2:10 Esther had not showed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not show it.

Proverbs 12:23 A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.

Proverbs 13:3 He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.

Amos 5:13 Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.

Esther provides a good example of OPSEC in practice. She controlled what information she disclosed publically, and what she kept private. She did not reveal her heritage until she felt it was the right time to do so. Not only did her ‘secret’ prevent others showing bias towards her during her life, but when she finally did reveal her secret, she was able to save her people. When dealing with outsiders, it is prudent to limit the information you reveal and to practice good OPSEC.

Mark 4:10-12 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

Jesus did not reveal his true purpose on earth until after he accomplished what he set out to do – he even hid that information from the 12 disciples. Jesus had a public ministry and a private ministry. He would often intentionally mislead people during his public ministry, but would later clarify his teachings to those who were part of his inter circle. During the Last Supper, Jesus explained his teaching regarding the need to eat his flesh and drink his blood, but when he first taught those concepts, even his closest followers had trouble with it (John 6:52-60).

Jesus was sent for the lost sheep in Israel (Matthew 15:24), so when speaking publically, he avoided being direct in his teachings, and used language to mislead or confuse the hearers. He did this, so that the goats, wolves, and pigs would not be converted nor have their sins forgiven. He spoke in parables, and sometimes he did not even provide enough information in the parable for it to be understood without attending a follow up session in private (such as the flesh and blood concepts).

King David was anointed by Samuel to replace Saul as king when he was a young man, but he kept that information to himself. He did not reveal it during countless encounters when David was alone with Saul, as Saul’s musician. When Paul was taken before the Chief Priests, he used diversion to escape the situation (Acts 23:1-7).

Paul recognized that in the assembly there were both Pharisees and Sadducees, and claimed he was being held for his belief in the resurrection of the dead, when he was actually arrested for his testimony about his encounter with Jesus. The Pharisees and Sadducees disagreed concerning the resurrection, so Paul used his knowledge to divide the assembly into two groups, and caused them to start arguing with each other instead of ganging up on him.

When Abraham travelled to Egypt, he instructed his wife to claim to be his sister, so that the Egyptians did not kill him in order to take his wife (Genesis 12:11-13, 20:2-12). Isaac repeated that tactic with his wife as well. Their deception was not done out of greed or to cover up a sin, but was done out of the need for self-preservation. In Abraham’s deception, he told a half-truth, because Sarah was also his sister – he just neglected to tell the Egyptians that she was also his wife. That is referred to as lying by omission. In lying by omission, the person does tell the truth, he/she just leaves out important facts. Abraham provided the truth, but not the whole truth.

Genesis 34:15-17 But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.

Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi used Tactical Deception to avenge the rape of their sister. They tricked their enemies into being circumcised, and then as they were recovering, they killed all of the men in the city. They may have been telling the truth in their deception; they just left out the part about them planning to kill everyone who agreed to be circumcised within the next three days. After all of the men were dead, they kind of did become one people, because they took their enemies children, wives, livestock, and all of their wealth when they spoiled the city.

Sometimes lying is necessary for survival. God will be the judge of what is appropriate or not, and God judges people by their hearts and intensions. Instructing a child to lie to a stranger for the safety of the child is entirely appropriate, but lying to cover a sin you are guilty of is evil. Deceiving your enemy may be necessary, but lying to your spouse (or someone you owe the truth to) will only harm your marriage/relationship.

Christians are instructed to be honest with each other, and to conduct themselves beyond reproach; however, the Bible provides several examples of God’s followers misleading or deceiving others when necessary. Lying to cover up guilt is sinful. Lying to either set someone up for a crime, or to blame them for a crime they did not commit is clearly evil. Determining which type of lie might be acceptable before God takes discernment, but the motivation for the lie is probably the most significant factor. God judges us by our hearts, so lies done in order to protect someone from harm will be looked upon differently than lies done out of greed, lust, malice, shame, anger, or with some other evil intension.

Joseph provides another good example of the need for OPSEC, but we will discuss his story in the next section. Now we will examine the life of Samson. Before Samson was born, an Angel of the LORD appeared to his mother and father and told them to dedicate him to the LORD, because he would begin to free his people from the hands of the Philistines. Samson’s parents complied with the instructions of the angel, and Samson grew to have great physical strength.

Deuteronomy 7:3-4 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

Joshua 23:12-13 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.

Samson never cut his hair, which was the source of his strength and represented that he was a Nazarite unto God from his birth. Samson was faithful to God in this area, but by doing so, he also directly benefitted from it, since he received great strength for doing it. Not cutting his hair offered value to Samson. In other aspects of his life, Samson was not faithful to God. He ignored God’s commandments not to intermarry with the other nations.

Judges 3:1, 3-7 Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, …Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baal-hermon unto the entering in of Hamath. And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God

Judges 14:2-4 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Because of their unfaithfulness, God did not drive out all of the nations before Israel. He left a few of them to prove Israel to determine their faithfulness. The Philistines were one of those nations, and clearly, God did not want Israel intermarrying with them so that they would not be led astray. Samson did not cut his hair, but he was not faithful to the Commandments of God. He also did not hearken unto the voices of his parents, but persisted that they arrange a marriage for him to a Philistine.

Samson did not honor his mother and father’s request to look for a wife within his own people, but his parents did not know that it was part of God’s will to use such an occasion to begin the deliverance of his people. God did not finish driving the nations out of the land, because Israel was unfaithful and they intermarried with the other nations. Therefore, God used Samson’s desire to commit that same transgression as the means to begin to deliver his people.

This is another example of freewill and predestination. Samson could have followed God’s commandments and God could have still used Samson to deliver his people. However, God used his foreknowledge of the kind of decisions Samson would make as the avenue to begin Israel’s deliverance. Samson’s birth was foreordained. Just as God knew he would hate Esau and love Jacob before they were born (Romans 9:11-22), God knew what kind of man Samson would become.

Like Jesus and John the Baptist, Samson’s birth was announced to his parents in advance by an angel. However, unlike John the Baptist, who the angel said would “be great in the sight of the Lord”, (Luke 1:15), there is never a mention of God approving of Samson’s actions, or any statements concerning him being a man after God’s own heart as David was. Samson did not cut his hair, but he also did not listen to God, his parents, or learn from his experiences. He was driven by lust and practiced sexual immorality.

Judges 14:15-18 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? Is it not so? And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

Judges 16:1 Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.

During the celebration for Samson’s marriage to the Philistine woman, he challenged the Philistines to a riddle. The riddle was almost impossible to figure out, since it was based on a random event from Samson’s life. Samson’s wife was pressured to provide the Philistines with the answer to his riddle, and that made Samson feel betrayed and angry. Samson responded by killing 30 Philistines and taking their possessions to pay the debt he owed over the riddle.

When Samson’s anger subsided, he went back to the home of his Philistine bride to be reunited with her, but learned that due to his actions, her father assumed he would not want her anymore, so she was given in marriage to someone else. This made Samson angry again, so he burned the Philistines fields. These events were opportunities for Samson to learn from and grow in wisdom, but Samson responded only with violence and anger, causing the Philistines to get equally angry with him.

Had Samson followed God’s commandments not to intermarry with the Philistines, then he would not have been exposed to their traps, snares, scourges, or thorns that God had warned about. The same could have been avoided if he listened to his parents, or if he learned from his experiences. Samson lived by his emotions, and his actions were dictated by lust and anger. Had he used objectivity, recognized his mistakes, took responsibility for his actions, and used his experiences as a means of personal growth then he would not have continued to repeat the same mistakes.

Samson wanted to fulfill his lust for foreign women despite God’s warnings against it. Samson’s parents recognized the behavior to be wrong, and encouraged him to select a more appropriate spouse. Samson was vulnerable to being manipulated by Philistine women, and now his enemies knew it – they found the chink in his armor and the weakness to his strength.

Samson directly caused all of these events. He was the one who pursued the Philistine woman, and he was the one who unnecessarily challenged the Philistines to an impossible riddle. He was arrogant, believing that just as the Philistines could not match his strength, he thought that it would be impossible for them to outwit him either – being that the riddle was unsolvable without knowing Samson’s mind. The Philistines did outwit him, by figuring out that the only way to get an answer known only to Samson was to find a way to pry it from his mind.

Because of Samson’s riddle, his wife was threatened, and she was pressured to extract the information from Samson. She was able to get the information from Samson by acting displeased with him and feeling unloved. If Samson learned from this experience, he would not have fallen for the exact same ploy when Delilah used it on him. Was his wife right, did Samson truly love her? He probably thought that he did, because when people are overwhelmed with desire they are unwilling to accept reality, and will see only what they want to see. At the beginning of romantic relationships, people believe the person they desire can do no wrong, and are willing to overlook many faults.

Samson’s wife was right to believe he did not trust her with the answer to his riddle. Samson responded to her by telling her he did not even tell his father or mother, so why would he tell her. Leaving one’s father and mother to become one flesh with one’s spouse is another basic Biblical principle that Samson did not practice. He was selfish, and placed his desire to win a bet with strangers over the feelings of his wife, so that instead of celebrating their union, he watched her weep continually until he got tired of it.

When Samson lost the bet he initiated, he was a sore loser, he threw a tantrum, and killed 30 people so that he would not have to pay his losses out of his own money. Had he kept things in perspective, he might have thought, ‘oh well, I lost a bet, but I still achieved my stated goal, I am married to the woman I wanted, and now we can start our lives together.’ However, Samson did not think objectively, he was led about by his emotions. He was egocentric and thought only about himself and his immediate feelings. He kept attacking the Philistines and then he justified his actions, and convinced himself that he had not done anything wrong (Judges 15:3).

He later realized that he still wanted the woman to be his wife, but by then it was too late. Samson’s wife could have been honest with him, and told him that her family had been threatened over his stupid riddle. She could have asked him to let it go so they could move on with their lives and be happy, but their relationship obviously lacked trust. Due to his temperament, she might not have considered him very approachable. Samson was not about meeting his wife’s needs, and his childish behavior ultimately caused her and her father’s house to be burnt – just as she feared.

Aside from the fact that Samson was not emotionally mature enough for marriage, their relationship was doomed to fail from the beginning. Samson’s actions contradicted God’s instructions, so God was not going to bless their forbidden marriage. The facts are that Samson was a sheep trying to mate with a goat, and he was not going to be able to succeed at it no matter how hard he tried. Additionally, Samson lacked discernment, was unreasonable, childish, and succumbed to his emotions. He was arrogant; he justified his behavior, and kept doing the exact same things and expecting different results.

Judges 16:15-21 And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? Thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth. And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; that he told her all his heart, and said unto her. There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man. And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand. And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. And she said, The Philistines [be] upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.

The Bible does not tell us much about Samson’s life aside from his lust and anger, but as far as OPSEC goes, Samson was not very good at concealing his critical information. He cast his pearls before swine by giving away his most valuable possession (the secret to his strength) and the swine actually did turn on him to tear him into pieces (Matthew 7:6). Samson provides very good examples of what not to do in life.

Samson had one positive attribute (his strength), and with it, he could bully others. He never learned to get along with other people, or to consider their viewpoints. The Philistines were offended that they were invited to celebrate Samson’s marriage only to have him try to trick them out of their possessions. Samson did not consider their feelings, or the feelings of his wife. His behavior not only ruined their marriage, but also caused her and her family to be burned alive. Samson did not take any responsibility for his actions, and kept escalating the conflicts.

From the Philistines’ point of view, they were invited to celebrate a wedding, only to have the groom try to trick them out of their possessions. They managed to solve his riddle, and in response, Samson went into their city, robbed, and murdered 30 Philistines. Due to Samson’s treatment of his wife, he ruined his marriage, but he did not take responsibility for his actions. Instead, he burned the fields/crops of Philistines who were not members of his former wife’s household. When they inquired as to why their fields were destroyed, they learned it was because Timnite gave Samson’s wife to someone else. They did not go after Samson, but burnt the ones who caused his anger against them. It was only after Samson initiated another attack against them, that the Philistines started pursuing him.

Samson was not cognizant of the feelings of others. He did not invest in his wife emotionally, or treat her as if he were leaving his father and mother to be joined with her. He focused only on himself and his own feelings. When things did not go his way, he blamed others and lashed out at them. He did not consider the consequences of his actions, and he justified his behavior and blamed others for their responses to the things he did to them. His relationships were shallow, and probably not much deeper than the relationship he had with the harlot.

He was not able to build trusting relationships or provide any value to the women he lusted after. I do not know what ‘value’, Samson contributed to his relationship with Delilah, but she determined whatever ‘needs’ their relationship filled within her was worth less to her than the money she was offered to betray him. Samson placed some value on his desire for the Philistine women he interacted with, but their appeals to his desire for them seems to have been outweighed by him simply feeling annoyed by listening to their repeated requests. Even Samson’s final act was motivated out of selfishness – so that he could get revenge over his eyes (Judges 16:28).

Bad things happen in life, and it is possible to fall into the hands of evil men despite your best efforts. However, if you are going to suffer while on earth, do so for the right reasons. Suffering for your commitment to God or your willingness to do the right thing is honorable, but if you have to suffer, do not let it be due to your sins (1 Peter 4:12-19). It would have been heroic for Samson to recognize the error in his ways and then to sacrifice his life in order to do one final thing right for his people, but that is not what happened.

Samson’s honor was based on his physical strength, and in him being the biggest and the strongest. He was led around by his emotions, and he used the one positive attribute that God blessed him with to avoid taking responsibility for his actions or learning discernment. He was arrogant and thought that he could out wit the Philistines, but when he failed to do so, he fell back on his strength and physically attacked them. He refused to accept responsibility, he lied to himself, justified his actions, and when all else failed, he relied on physical violence.

The Bible does not provide us with very much detail about Samson’s life, but maybe that is all there was to him. God needed to prove Israel and to teach them how to fight back against their enemies (Judges 3:2). Samson fulfilled God’s purpose by being the person God used to start the deliverance of Israel. Maybe God needed someone that lacked the ability to solve problems or to collaborate with others; He needed someone who was a hothead, who was willing to fight the enemy, even if it was not necessary.

We can learn many things from Samson’s life, but most of it is on how not to behave. We are to be good stewards with the gifts that God provides us. Samson was given great strength, but he used it at the wrong times, with the wrong intensions, and he relied on it instead of developing discernment or wisdom. Samson picked and chose which commandments of God he wanted to follow, and only did the things he felt directly benefit him.

Had he lived by all of God’s commandments, they too would have benefited him; he would have had different encounters with the Philistines, and he would have had more trusting relationships with his partners, so that they would not be as willing to betray him. It is praiseworthy to suffer for doing what is right, but it is not impressive to suffer for doing wrong. The three main points I want you to take away from the life of Samson are to; follow God and live an honorable life, recognize the feelings of others and be aware of the exchange value/worth in relationships, and practice Operation Security – keep your critical information safe and do not give what is holy to the dogs.

In life, it would not be prudent to be completely honest with everyone you meet. In order to navigate this world successfully and to prevent yourself from being taken advantage of, you may need to mislead certain people at times. There are however certain people, such as your spouse, that you have a moral duty to be honest with. If you are not honest with your spouse then your marriage will suffer. Knowing when to use deception takes discernment, and its appropriateness should be determined by the motivation behind it.

Safeguard your critical information, and if you have to reveal it, do so at the right time. Do not show all of your cards too early, or you will lose the game. Remember Esther and Samson; Esther held her secret until she was able to get where she needed to be to save herself and her people, and Samson gave away all of his secrets until he found himself blind, imprisoned, and hoping for one last chance for revenge. Esther could have kept quiet and maybe survived the death of the Jews, but she was willing to risk her own death to preserve the lives of others. Samson acted impulsively, caused his wife to be burnt alive, his own eyes to be gouged out, and his last request was for God to give him the strength to avenge himself over the ramifications of his actions.

This study is about living with honor, following and trusting in God, and understanding empathy, human nature, and how wants/desires/needs/values/worth/motivations influence behavior. In life, we are to learn discernment and wisdom, and are to be good stewards with the blessings God provides us. Honesty should be the norm, but there are certain times when prudence dictates that we omit the whole truth, allow others to come to the wrong conclusions, or deliberately deceive or lie to them. Jesus did not reveal his entire purpose to his closest followers until after his resurrection, and he was intentionally vague in his teachings so that only a few people would understand his messages. Part of being successful in life, involves learning which information to reveal about yourself, who to reveal it to, and when.

Jealousy and Lust

Jealousy and lust are the building blocks of many sins, and are emotions that need to be controlled. Not only do you need to control your own feelings, but also, as much as possible, you should avoid causing others to be jealous of you or to covet your possessions. Flaunting your possessions or leaving the packaging from major purchases sitting curbside for a week can cause burglars to target you. Flashing large amounts of money in public may attract the attention of robbers. To avoid inspiring crime or your own victimization, you should practice OPSEC, and control what critical information you release to the public.

Luke 12:15 And he said unto them, take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.

1 Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

Life is not about material possessions, and you certainly cannot take that stuff with you into the next life. What you can take with you is your honor, and the dignity you acquire by serving others and living a life devoted to God (Revelations 3:18-21). Your deeds will follow you either way, so it is in your best interest to master your behavior while on earth and to control your lusts. Wisdom, discernment, and stewardship are other attributes that may not only follow you, but may be useful to you once you are there (1 Corinthians 6:2-3, Revelations 2:26).

While living in the world, you must attain a comfortable amount of material success, without becoming envious of others, or causing them to covet or be jealous of you. If you continually lust after or are coveting something more, then you will not be content with what you have. Being satisfied is an important aspect of happiness. If you are not satisfied/content with your current position/status, then you will be left always wanting more.

There is always another level to complete, or another step to take on your journey. If you are hiking along a path, it is important to stop, look around, and enjoy the position you are in. Smell the flowers, look at the stars, and enjoy the beauty in the world. If you are only focused on getting to the end of the trail and seeing what is there, then you will miss all of the things to see along the way.

You do not need to be in a hurry to get to the end of the trail. You will get there eventually, have patience, and enjoy your journey. King David was patient and waited for Saul’s death before he assumed the throne he was anointed for as a boy. You may receive a crown at the end of your journey also, but there are many things to learn and do along the way (1 Peter 5:4, Revelations 2:10). As you work towards success in life, be happy with what you already have, and do not be in too big of a hurry get more.

Be patient and trust in God. He will reward your stewardship and use you as he wills. Be content with your current position/status, and be happy with the blessings you have received. Be thankful and be humble. As you interact with outsiders, remain cognizant of their feelings, try to avoid stepping on their toes, and try to be quietly amazing without causing others to be jealous of you or to resent your abilities.

1 Samuel 18:6-9 And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.

David kept the fact that Samuel had anointed him secret from King Saul, but David could not hide the fact that God was with him. David’s talents were clearly visible to the public, starting with the fact that as a boy, he stood by himself against the Philistine army and defeated their champion. David behaved wisely while living among Saul, but he could not control the actions of others. Saul perceived that his kingdom respected David more than him, and he became jealous.

David made the mistake of outshining his boss, and therefore, Saul sought to bring him down. It is important not to make your boss jealous of you or inferior to you. Keep your boss’s needs in mind, and try to be perceived as an asset and not as a threat. David was an asset to Saul, by winning Saul’s battles for him, but Saul started to view him as a threat when he realized that David was getting more praise and credit for their successes than he was.

If a superior is comfortable in his/her position, having an excellent worker is beneficial. However, if the superior is struggling with his/her own esteem issues, appearing better than the person may cause him/her to resent you or to view you as a threat. God was with David and blessed his undertakings. David was prudent and conducted himself wisely while interacting with Saul, but he could not hide his talents or the blessings God gave him. God also favored Jacob’s son Joseph, but Joseph lacked the discretion that David possessed.

Genesis 37:3-5, 8-10 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more… And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

Joseph was naďve and grew up in a sheltered home. He was Rachel’s son, which was the wife that Jacob loved. He was the favorite son and was spoiled. While his brothers were out working in the fields, he was in the house receiving gifts from his father. Joseph was not cognizant of the feelings of others, probably because he never had a reason to be.
Since he did not understand the need to be tactful, he was completely honest with his family members, and told them of the dreams he had in which they would all bow down to him. His brothers already resented/hated him, because it was apparent to them that their father loved Joseph more. So when Joseph told them that one day they would all bow down to him, it only caused them to resent him more; even Jacob was offended by Joseph’s statement.

Genesis 37:18-20 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

Genesis 37:23-24, 26-27 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it… And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

Joseph’s brothers hated him and were willing to kill him, but Judah convinced them to sell Joseph for profit instead. The brothers would benefit by having their perceived enemy/competition out of the picture, but they also sought to benefit materially. To the brothers, Joseph was of little value, and served as an obstacle to their father’s love. When Joseph did work with his brothers, he reporting the things they did bad to their father. He did not help them with their work, and he received more love and affection from their father.

Genesis 39:1-4 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.

Joseph was his father’s favorite, and although he lacked tact and discretion in his speech, he did not do anything wrong that warranted him being murdered or sold into slavery. Joseph lacked discretion and made others jealous, which caused him many troubles. However, Joseph maintained a positive attitude, trusted in God, and thrived while facing adversity. He did not wallow in self-pity, but he made the most of any position that God placed him in. He was a good steward, developed a strong work ethic, and became a valuable asset to those he served.

Genesis 39:7-9 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Genesis 39:12, 19-23 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out… And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.

As a slave, Joseph prospered, but that is not were his journey ended. Joseph made the most of his current position, but would need to face more challenges before God’s will was finally fulfilled in him. During his next trial, Joseph faced sexual harassment from his master’s wife. As a slave, there was no recourse for him. Either he could submit to her advances and maintain the status quo, or he could stand firm to his values and risk losing everything he had obtained.

Joseph was not willing to compromise his honor. He recognized that his master was very good to him and that it would be wicked to betray him or to sin against God. Joseph stood firm on his values and refused to compromise his principles, even if it met that he might lose everything. Joseph was a good worker and a valuable asset to his master, but his master placed more value in his wife than in his slave; therefore, he believed her and had Joseph put in prison.

Again, Joseph maintained a positive attitude and made the most of the situation. Whether he was sitting at the bottom of a well waiting to be murdered, was being marched across a desert to be sold as a slave, or was sitting in prison after being falsely accused of a crime, Joseph not only avoided feeling sorry for himself, but he thrived in adversity. He did not compromise his honor, and the effort and diligence he displayed was identified and utilized by those who saw the value in him.

To Joseph’s brothers, he was a threat, and was a competitor for their father’s affection. As a slave, Joseph was not a threat to his master’s self-esteem – having a competent and dedicated worker was an asset. However, if his master knew that his wife was attracted to Joseph that may have threatened his master’s sense of esteem. Her attraction was not something Joseph could control, just as David could not prevent the women in Saul’s kingdom from respecting him more.

When Joseph was put into prison, the prisoner’s keeper did not consider Joseph as a competitor for his position, so he was able to appreciate what Joseph had to offer. In all of the challenges Joseph faced, he never gave up. He kept doing the best he could, and made the most of any situation he found himself in. He did not compromise his honor, and he trusted in God.

Genesis 41:38-40 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art. Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.

Genesis 50:18-21 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

Wisdom 10:13-14 When the righteous was sold, she forsook him not, but delivered him from sin: she went down with him into the pit, and left him not in bonds, till she brought him the sceptre of the kingdom, and power against those that oppressed him: as for them that had accused him, she shewed them to be liars, and gave him perpetual glory.

Through Joseph’s interactions with other prisoners, he eventually gained the attention of the Pharaoh. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, and was appointed to a high position in Egypt. He managed the food supply during a famine, and his brothers came down to Egypt to purchase supplies. Joseph’s dream was finally fulfilled, and his family members bowed down to him as in his dream. They had to rely on the position Joseph obtained through his adversity in order to save their family.

Pharaoh was not at risk of Joseph outshining him, so he did not become jealous or resent him. Instead, he recognized Joseph’s value and skills, and used them to his advantage. Since he appreciated Joseph, he was kind to him and supported Joseph’s requests. Joseph’s life was not an easy one, and at times seemed very bleak. Throughout all of his challenges, Joseph made the most of the situations he was in, and effectively utilized the opportunities God provided him.

Joseph’s life provides us with multiple examples of how value and behavior can influence our ability to succeed in the world. The first thing to understand is the importance of not making others jealous. Joseph made his brothers jealous and it caused them to hate him, and to plan his murder and/or enslavement. Do not make your boss or your peers jealous of you, or cause them to view you as competition or as a threat to their needs.

Tactful speech and discretion is an area Joseph lacked during his youth. He did not consider the feelings of others while boasting about how one day he would be their master, and he shared information with others that they did not need to know or would want to hear. He later improved in this area and in his ability to interact with others. The need for discretion, empathy, and tactical speech are key elements in human relations, and help us to understand and influence how we are perceived by others.

The positive traits Joseph displayed were honesty, trust, competence, honor, and perseverance. If anything, Joseph was too honest, and needed to limit what thoughts and opinions he shared with others. His openness probably went a long way in establishing trust with those he interacted with, but his honesty could not out shadow his master’s respect for his wife and did not save him from being falsely accused and sent to prison. Joseph was a competent worker who was appreciated by all of his superiors.

Joseph trusted in God and did not compromise his honor, and God was with him throughout all of his ordeals. Joseph recognized that what his brothers purposed for evil, God used to cause all things to work together for his good. Joseph trusted in God’s will, even in what appeared to be dire situations. Joseph persevered through hardships, and never gave up. His attitude is probably what helped him rise to the top. When dealing with slaves or prisoners, one would not expect them to be the most committed/devoted workers.

Joseph’s positive attitude and willingness to do the work is probably what differentiated him from his peers, and allowed him to rise to the top. Force is the least desirable management style that is used on unmotivated employees. Force will only get the employee to do the bare minimum, and even then, only when the manager is directly supervising the person’s actions. Most slaves and prisoners were probably not trying to go above-and-beyond what was required of them. Joseph’s willingness to do the work and put in the effort would naturally have pleased his superiors, and they would have encouraged him to continue in it.

Being humble and content will go along way in helping you to maintain a positive attitude. If you feel that your job is beneath you, then it is unlikely that you will put much effort into it. You are evaluated based on your stewardship, by both your earthly bosses and by God. If you are only interested in a paycheck, or are willing to ‘tolerate’ working a job you feel is beneath you until something better comes along, then you will probably have a long wait.

No one is going to appoint you as the president of a company/business if your only work experience was being a marginal employee at a taco stand. Joseph made the most of and performed well in any position he found himself. Whether he was a slave, a prisoner, or government official, Joseph performed well and demonstrated competence. He rose to the top with each of his earthly bosses, and God used Joseph’s experiences to build him into the man he needed to become in order to save his family.

1 Samuel 17:35-36 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.

David did not simply walk onto the field of battle and slay the Philistines’ greatest warrior without any preparation. Prior to David reaching that point in his life, God built him up through his life experiences. As a Sheppard, David needed to fight off a lion and a bear, and those encounters prepared him to face Goliath. Without working as a slave or as a prisoner, Joseph would not have been prepared to govern a country.

As a slave, Joseph proved he could manage an estate, and as a prisoner, he managed a larger facility and all the people in the prison. Joseph progressed towards the position he would eventually fulfill, and developed his skills and abilities along the way. Joseph displayed a positive work ethic, regardless of the duties he performed. He did not feel sorry for himself, or act as though working as a slave or prisoner was beneath him. He was competent and put effort into his work, produced results, and he offered value to this superiors. He was a valuable asset for whomever he worked, and God built him up and rewarded his stewardship.

Joseph proved to be a competent employee, and eventually learned to control his speech. Throughout all of his ordeals, Joseph trusted in God, and God stood by him and blessed his efforts. God did not (physically) rescue Joseph from the pit or from prison, but blessed Joseph’s efforts and observed Joseph’s stewardship.

When Joseph was young and naďve, he was not prepared to manage a country; he needed to experience life in order to grow, and that met being sent into the world as a sheep in the midst of wolves. We too will face adversity in the world, as we grow in wisdom and discernment, but to avoid unnecessary conflict, we should avoid causing others to be jealous of us or to covet what we have.

Deuteronomy 5:6-16 I am the LORD thy God…Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image… Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments…Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain… Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee…Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

The Ten Commandments are concerned with the concepts of jealousy and coveting (lust/envy). The first five commandments address the need to respect God and one’s parents. God is a jealous god, and does not want to be taken for granted or disrespected. Like a husband, he does not want his wife to commit adultery against him – by creating and/or worshipping other gods. Keeping the Sabbath was done out of respect for God, and as a reminder for the Hebrew people to allow their servants and animals to have a day off from work (they were just freed from slavery, and should not start mistreating their servants).

Deuteronomy 5:17-20 Thou shalt not kill…Neither shalt thou commit adultery…Neither shalt thou steal…Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour…Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

The last five commandments cover earthly crimes, and the motivations for them. Serial Killers may murder for the pleasure of it, but such people are very rare. Most murders are done with a motive, and the motive is usually tied in someway to jealousy, envy, lust, or coveting. If a person murders out of anger, the anger is probably rooted in jealousy, lust, or something else closely related to the person’s self-esteem. People steal, because they ‘want’ what they do not have. Bearing false witness may be done as a way to murder someone, or for financial gain. Adultery cannot be done on accident, and is always done out of lust. The final commandment is not an overt act, but an instruction not to mentally covet anything belonging to your neighbor.

Keeping the Ten Commandments is easy if you are able to follow Jesus’ advice and love your neighbor as yourself. If you were content with what you have, and are not acting out of selfish motivations, there would be no danger of your mental coveting manifesting into physical crimes. Control yourself, be satisfied with want you have, and trust that God will give you what you need and when you need it (based on your stewardship and purpose). When dealing with the concepts of coveting and jealousy, you must master your ability to control yourself, and should take steps to avoid causing others to lust after what you have.

If you want to have a strong relationship, do not make your partner jealous. Definitely, do not commit adultery, but also take measures to avoid the possibility of it ever occurring. In the Ten Commandments, God provides an outline to avoid committing adultery against Him. He begins by reminding the Hebrews of his value/position (He was their God and had just rescued them from slavery), so they do not take Him for granted. The next commandment is not to make a graven image.

Making a graven image provided an avenue for further sin. After being told not to even make the graven image, the commandment is followed up with further instructions, so that if you did somehow happen to make a graven image, then you are reminded not do bow down to it or to start worshipping it. Punishments and Rewards are tied to the actions to reinforce positive behavior. Adultery is always a deliberate act, and can be avoided by committing not to do it out of respect (for God or your partner). To safeguard yourself against the possibility of committing adultery, remove all avenues for it to occur – do not make a graven image that you may be tempted to bow down to and worship.

Platonic relationships cannot exist between members of the opposite sex. If you are trying to maintain a relationship with a member of the opposite sex and are claiming that you are, ‘just friends’, then you are lying to yourself; especially, if you are a female. Do not even possess a graven image, and then there is no chance that you will accidently bow down to it one day. If you are married or are in a committed relationship, then your friendships with members of the opposite sex should be finished.

Even if you ‘think’ that both you and ‘the friend’ can handle your interactions without lusting or coveting, you ‘will’ make your partner jealous, which will affect your relationship. You may not commit adultery, but the amount of trust between you and your partner will be put to the test and your relationship would be weakened. Having a ‘friend’ of the opposite sex during such times to ‘help’ you through the difficulties you are having with your partner is a recipe for disaster.

Murder, theft, false witness, and adultery can be motivated by jealousy or lust; do not invite either into your relationships, and you will avoid many problems. In my marriage, we do not maintain friendships with members of the opposite sex, nor are we ever alone with them. If I do interact with one of my wife’s friends through email, I always courtesy copy my wife the email chain, so that she knows exactly what was said. Being transparent and having nothing to hide will avoid causing your partner to be jealous of your innocent actions. In life, we must avoid making God, our spouses, our bosses, or our peers jealous, and we need to stand firm in our values.

Susanna 1:23 It is better for me to fall into your hands, and not do it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord.

Susanna was a character in the Apocrypha who had two elders lust after her and they attempted to blackmail her. They told her that if she did not submit to them sexually, then they would bear false witness against her and have her put to death. Susanna did not compromise her honor, and elected to risk death before sinning against God or committing adultery against her husband. She was sentenced to death, but prior to it, Daniel rescued her and proved the men were lying. Susanna and Joseph provide examples of being unwilling to compromise themselves sexually, even if they risks death or other negative repercussions (Psalm 56:4, Matthew 10:28).

1 Timothy 5:6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
Proverbs 9:17-18 “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.

Proverbs 6:24-35 To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.

The advice given in Proverbs to avoid falling into the snare of the adulterous woman was straightforward, ‘keep away from her.’ If you do not make a graven image then you would not be tempted to worship it (Sirach 9:9). It also mentions that you cannot play with fire and not be burnt, and then states the ramifications of the sin. It will destroy your soul, and if you compromise your honor, your reproach will not be wiped away. There is nothing you can do to satisfy the rage/jealousy of the woman’s husband, and your sin will not go unpunished. Stolen water may seem sweet, but it is just water, and is not worth compromising your honor or sinning against God over. Do not make others jealous, and do not give in to your own lusts or jealousies.

Sirach 14:8-9 The envious man hath a wicked eye; he turneth away his face, and despiseth men. A covetous man’s eye is not satisfied with his portion; and the iniquity of the wicked drieth up his soul.

Mark 7:20-23 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

James 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Matthew 5:27-29 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Being content with our status and being satisfied with our portions will aid us in not coveting, lusting, or being jealous or envious of our neighbors. One is tempted when he is led away by his own desires, and if the desires are allowed to grow, they will produce sin, and bring forth death. Jesus suggested that if your right eye cause you to sin, then it would be better to give it up than it would be to have your entire body destroyed in hell because of it. As Joseph and Susann demonstrated, sometimes it is better to suffer for doing what is right, than to compromise oneself by engaging in sin.

Determine who you are following, where your commitments are, and stick with them (do not interact with other Gods or maintain relationships with members of the opposite sex once you have committed to a relationship). Keep away from the adulterous woman, and do not fall for evil ploys (it is just water; do not compromise yourself for it). Do not indulge in wicked thoughts and they will not grow into sins (if you do not spend time making a graven image then there is no chance of you bowing down to it later). If you find yourself caught in a snare – as Joseph and Susanna both did – do not compromise your honor or sin against God, ‘fear none of those things which you might suffer…be faithful unto death, and you will given a crown of life (Revelations 2:10).’

Gaining mastery over jealousy and lust is part of the discernment you are learning on earth. These concepts are important, and are directly related to the 10 Commandments. People want what you have, they want your donkey, they want your wife, and may be willing to lie, kill, or steal to take it from you. Be Content, control your own lusts and jealousies, and avoid inspiring those feelings in others. Be Humble, do not show off or boast about your possessions or accomplishments, and safeguard your critical information. Life is a balancing act, you must expose people to enough of your talents that they believe you have value, but not so much that they resent you for want you have.

Work Ethics

God evaluates our stewardship, and we grow by facing challenges and interacting with other people. Since your job requires you to do both, that aspect of your life is significant. To be a good employee, you must be competent in your job, but in order to be successful, there is more to it than that. You must be amazing, yet humble, build rapport with others, yet safeguard critical information, and you must control your speech, influence how others perceive you, and use empathy to predict and fulfill the needs of others.

So far, we have examined the lives and behaviors of David, Uriah, Joseph, Esther, and Samson. Each of these people provides us with different lessons on how to interact effectively with others, and to balance the different aspects of your life. This section is not going to focus on any one individual, and it is not going to be all-inclusive. Covering everything you must do to be successful at work is outside the scope of this section, and is an accumulation of principles taught throughout this entire study.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

John 17:15-18 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

How you behave at work is important, but it is just one aspect of your life and most likely, an area where you limit the person information you share with others. Your job provides a source of income and is a necessity. Since your job is based on your skills or education and not on your values or religion, the working environment is the area of life where you are most likely to be unequally yoked with nonbelievers.

Jesus and the Apostles recognized that in order to exist in the world, we were going to need to interact with nonbelievers. Jesus did not pray that we should be removed or separated from the world, but that God would help us stay away from evil. This was done by being sanctified by the truth, living by God’s word, and interacting with the world while maintaining your honor.

We are not to be unequally yoked with nonbelievers, and since we have little control over who we work with, the work center is the one aspect of life where you might find yourself as a sheep in the midst of wolves. You have more control over whom you associate with in other areas of your life, so when you are off-duty, you should not be electing to hang around with fornicators, coveters, drunkards, or extortionists. If you are associating with such people, then you are not being sanctified by the truth, because scripture states not to associate with a Christian who does such things.

Matthew 25:22-29 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

While living in the world, God evaluates our stewardship, and observes what we do with the opportunities He gives us. Stewardship is not only about employment, but includes all aspects of life; such as how you raise your children, treat your spouse, or help those in need. In the above parable, Jesus compares stewardship to a master trusting his servants with talents. Obviously, those who doubled their master’s investment did well, but there is more to learn from the slothful servant beyond not being lazy.

The slothful servant was only given one talent, because the amount given was based on their ability (Matthew 25:15). Since he had not proven he could handle much in the past, he was entrusted with less than the other servants. When the slothful servant entered his master’s presence, he spoke first, and delivered what sounded like a rehearsed speech. He instantly started justifying his actions. He went on the offensive and blamed his failure to do anything with his talent on his master’s personality – stating that his master was so lazy and cruel that he was afraid to take any risks with his master’s property.

As a servant, he did the bare minimum that he thought he could get away with. His service was of no benefit to his master, and since the talent did not even accumulate interest, it was probably worth less then than it was when the master left on his trip. Jesus referred to the servant as being wicked and slothful. The servant was lazy and had bad intensions. The servant had a list of grievances against his master, which he shared without tact in his explanation/diversion/justification for his actions. The servant obviously was not content with his position, and allowed his feelings toward his master to affect his performance.

Jesus then pointed out that the servant knew his master; he knew what his master wanted, how his master behaved, and what the master expected from him. The servant understood his master’s wants and desires, but instead of fulfilling those needs and pleasing his master, the servant used his speculations regarding his master as a justification for him not to do what was expected of him. In the parable, the master responded by restating everything the servant said about him.

The master did not argue with the servant or attempt to refute the allegations, but spoke as though everything the servant said and believed about him was completely true. The point being, that if the servant identified those traits and believed them to be true, then why did he not use his knowledge to perform well, instead of as a means to justify his failures. Maybe the master in the parable was everything the servant stated he was, or perhaps it was just the servant’s perception. Either way, the lesson here is to figure out what your boss wants accomplished and to work towards that goal. Use the information to help you succeed, and not as a means to justify laziness.

Some bosses might be ﺍﺹholes, but you still have to do your job. Recognize that it is just a job, and that you are a sheep working with goats and wolves. Do not take it personal. You are not supposed to be yoked together with these people, so you only need to get along with them on a professional level. Get the job done, accomplish the mission, and then go home. Fill their needs and keep a good attitude. You may get satisfaction from your job or a feeling of accomplishment, but working is not supposed to be fun.

Genesis 3:17-19 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and released sin/evil into the world. Now thorns and thistles grow, humans die, and in order to survive, we must navigate a world full of dangers. The ground was cursed, and in sorrow, humans would need to earn their substance through sweat and effort. The need to work in order to survive originated as a punishment, but in modern times, you can go to school, choose your training, develop skills, and choose what you want to do for a living. You still need to work in order to survive, but now you have more options as to how you earn your living. Regardless of your chosen career field, you are likely to be unequally yoked with nonbelievers, and will need to interact with them.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Christians are expected to provide for themselves, and for the members of their households. The Bible also provides guidance on how Christians are to behave while at work. Christians make an impact in the world through their behavior. It is not about knocking on people’s doors and handing out pamphlets, it is about living in a certain manner (with honor), so that through your behavior, you make the faith look appealing and shine as a light in the midst of darkness.

Ephesians 6:5-7 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.

Titus 2:9-10 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

Christians should be outstanding employees, and put effort into their work. Comply with your boss’s instructions, and work as if you are trying to impress God and not your earthly boss. Do a good job, be obedient, and be a trusted employee that can be relied upon to get the job done, even when the boss is not watching. Be happy and pleasant to work with, and not pouting, griping, or complaining. When we are working, we are working for the Lord. Our stewardship is being evaluated, and we are being built up and prepared for greater things. We should perform for our earthly bosses, because we are actually working for God.

God is the actual master that we are serving on the earth. By being an outstanding employee, we can bring praise to God. As Christians, we represent the faith and are to work wholeheartedly, so that we make the Christian faith look good in order to bring glory to God. If your co-workers know you are a Christian, they will judge the faith by observing your behavior. If you are lazy, rude, do not take your job seriously, or are a bad employee, others will judge you and the faith by your actions. Do not be one of those Christians who puts a fish emblem or WWJD sticker on their car, and then cuts everyone off and drives like crap.

1 Peter 2:15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

1 Peter 2:18-20 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

Colossians 3:22-24 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

You must work in order to survive, but working is also a way for you to serve God. Having a job provides you with opportunities to represent God to others, or for you to grow spiritually through your interactions with the world. If you have a mean boss, do your work whole-heartedly, because doing so is praiseworthy to God – and by well doing, you may even win over your mean boss.
Keep in mind that God is the one who you are really working for. If your earthly boss is a jerk, yet you still put in one hundred percent effort everyday, the mean boss will have nothing bad to say about you. Work hard for your earthly bosses even if they are jerks. Even if your behavior does not win over your boss, God will reward you for your work.

Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.

Titus 2:7-8 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-10 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.

While living as a sheep among goats and wolves, there should be something noticeably different about your character – and how you conduct yourself. You are to be honest, trusted, and set an example, so that others cannot find anything to complain about you. These attitudes are to be applied in your entire life, and not just in the working environment. Paul did not live off the Thessalonians he preached to, but set an example for them by providing for himself. He earned his own keep, and conducted himself ‘unblameably’ among them.

Colossians 4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

If you demonstrate good stewardship and progress in the work environment, you will eventually be given positions with greater authority. This does not mean that you have finally made it and can now relax, because with more responsibility brings more challenges and more will be expected from you. As God trusts you with more talents, He wants to see what you can do with them.

If you occupy a position of authority, be fair and just. Remember that you still have a boss in heaven that you will have to give an account to for your actions. Do not become arrogant, but consider the feelings and the needs of your subordinates. Do not become the ‘mean’ boss, but use the opportunity to make a positive impact on those around you.

Galatians 6:2-5 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

Some people believe they are too good to do certain jobs. They think that if they cannot instantly be the president of a company then why work at all. Many people think they are above cleaning toilets, moping floors, or earning minimum wage. They refuse to get a job that they feel is beneath them, and instead live off the charity of others, while complaining about the economy, and justifying their laziness. They are like the slothful steward, who made excuses for his laziness and blamed his master for his unwillingness to put in the effort or do the work.

It does not matter what job you do to earn a living. You can be a slave, a prisoner, or a governor; you always have the same boss. God can evaluate your stewardship if you are delivering the mail, making tacos, or healing the sick. Your job provides you with an income, and gives you opportunities to demonstrate stewardship and to learn and grow through your interactions with others. You do not have to be appointed to a position of honor, in order to live with honor.

If you think that you are too good to work a certain job, then you are deceiving yourself. Christians are supposed to be humble. If you lack humbleness, perhaps you are not suited to be in a leadership position. We are in the world to serve God, and to learn the lessons given to us in the Bible. We are expected to work and bear our own burdens. It does not matter what you do for a living. As long as there is nothing morally wrong with your occupation, you can use it to provide for your substance and as an opportunity to serve God and grow in your wisdom, discernment, and stewardship.

Making a difference

Your life has meaning and God has a purpose for you. While you live in the world, you will interact with many people, and will have opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those around you. God will use your interactions to make an impact in the lives of others, and He will use other people to influence the events in your life and to shape your character.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

Romans 9:22-23 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory

God’s will is going to be accomplished, and what he has purposed will be manifested, with or without your help. What you do with the opportunities God provides you will determine whether you are considered a vessel of honor fit for the masters use, or a vessel of dishonor that will serve its purpose and then will be destroyed. Strive to be a vessel of honor, sanctify yourself by living a holy life, and learn and apply discernment, so that you are prepared for every good work.

Life is not about accumulating possessions or obtaining worldly success (Luke 12:15). Our lives are but a vapor that is here one day and gone the next (James 4:14-15). We can achieve success in many areas of life, but we cannot take very much with us out of this world (1 Timothy 6:7). What we can do, is plan for our futures, set up treasures for ourselves in Heaven (Luke 12:31-34), and ensure that because of our righteous acts and honorable lives, we will have something to wear when we get there (Revelations 3:5, 3:18, 19:8).

You can build up treasures for yourself in Heaven or face judgment based on how you live your life and what you do with the opportunities God gives you (Revelations 20:12, 19:8). Your works/deeds will follow you into the next life, and you will be evaluated on your stewardship. Your life, and lives of those around you are inevitably intertwined, and your ability to grow or cause others to grow is influenced by your interactions with others.

Matthew 13:24-29 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.
Matthew 13:38-43 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one. The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Matthew 13:47-49 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just.

There are different aspects of your character, and while in the world, you will interact with many different people in several environments. On a personal level, you may be able to limit the amount of nonbelievers who you interact with, but in many situations, you will not be able to avoid being unequally yoked with them. Evil exists in the world, and you are given freewill to make your own decisions.

You will face temptation, jealousies, and will be confronted with many challenges. How you respond to the opportunities presented to you, and how you choose to behave, will demonstrate the effectiveness of your stewardship. Based on your character and actions, you will be classified as a sheep, goat, or wolf, as fruit or a weed (Matthew 17:16-21), and/or as a vessel of honor or as a vessel of dishonor.

Matthew 25:32-46 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

The only true difference that we make in the world is in the impact our lives have on those around us, and how pleasing our actions are to God. We serve God by serving others. We are good employees, because we believe we are working for God. We are a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), living on earth to do God’s will, and ready to respond appropriately to the opportunities he gives us.

Hebrews 13:1-2 Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Human encounters with angels are rare or are not clearly understood/recognized, but some people have encountered angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2). Angels are messengers from God or beings sent to do God’s will. If you speak with enough people (who have establish a sense of trust with) you will hear accounts of miraculous situations and/or possible angel encounters. Perhaps, someone got a flat tire in the middle of the desert on a rarely traveled road, when a stranger showed up fixed the person’s tire and then seemed to disappear.

In such circumstances, God does not need to send an angelic being from another dimension to answer the prayers of those in need. Sometimes, you are the angel God sends. You are a member of the God’s holy priesthood, and are here to do his will and to fulfill His purpose on earth (1 Peter 2:9). God gives you opportunities to serve him by serving others. One of the biggest complaints atheists have regarding the existence of God is all of the suffering in the world. They ask questions such as, “If there was a god, then why does he allow suffering in the world?”

God is not indifferent to the suffering in the world; the scripture clearly states that God hates it and will in no way excuse the wicked (Nahum 1:2-3). Atheists wonder why God does not do something about it, and the answer is that he has and he does. The commandment to love your neighbor, to support the widows and orphans, and to establish justice are taught throughout the Bible. God is not indifferent, but he sent you to make a difference. Whatever event or situation you (or an atheist) believe is morally wrong and needs to be remedied, you have an opportunity to correct.

If you know of a situation that requires action, do not ask yourself why God is not using some supernatural means to remedy the situation (which is probably the result of humans using their freewill to choose evil), but instead ask yourself what you can do about it. God has sent someone to correct the problem. He sent you, and many other humans just like you. Not only you, but also people of other faiths and even atheists have the same opportunities to make a difference in the world and to end suffering. What humans do with these opportunities, will demonstrate their stewardship, and separate the sheep from the goats and the fruit from the weeds.

If you see people starving on television, do not wonder why God does not feed them, wonder why the no one else in the world does. If events are occurring on the other side of the world then you may not be able to physically hand the people food, but there is probably a charity you can contribute to that will. Situations in other countries and on the other side of the world are handled by your government and through nonprofit organizations, but there are many opportunities where you can make a difference in your immediate environment.

The poor, orphans, and victims of crime exist in every community. Organizations try to protect battered wives, provide food and shelter for the displaced, and deliver food to shut-ins. Groups meet to assist others in overcoming addictions, or to recover from violent crimes. You can volunteer to feed the hungry, assist the sick, or even build houses for the poor. If there is a certain cause that you feel strongly about there are probably many things you can do to make a difference.

For example, if you are against sexual assault, you can work directly with victims to aid in their recovery, or you can expand awareness to aid in prevention. You can volunteer with organizations to provide people with safe rides home, participate in neighborhood watch programs, or join lobbying groups that try to prevent criminals from being released on parole. You can volunteer your time, or you could donate money to organizations so they can provide the assistance you do not have the time to do personally.

If you are willing to volunteer larger amounts of time, you can attend training and volunteer as a police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical technician, or with the community emergency response team. There also opportunities to assist the elderly, provide cooking or cleaning services, work with special needs children, or mentoring programs for women, children, handicap, children in need of care, etc… There are many ongoing opportunities where you can make a difference in someone’s life.

You do not have to volunteer your time or go out of your way to make a difference. You can also make an impact on the lives of others through your normal interactions. By providing a positive example, you can mentor your peers, help their careers, or aid them in their spiritual growth. Your life is intertwined with the lives of others, and you may influence others in ways that you are not even aware of, and without setting out to do so.

Even if you do not purposely try to make a difference, God may use you to influence the lives of those you interact with, just as God used the evil intensions of Joseph’s brothers to shape his life and produce positive results. God has a purpose for you and he will use you to influence those around you, with or without your help. You can make the most of the opportunities presented to you, and can love your fellowman, demonstrate stewardship, and make a difference in the world, or you can be a vessel of dishonor that will serve its purpose and offer little other value.

James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

Proverbs 21:13 Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

You do not have to spend your entire day looking for someone to help. If there is a cause you champion, an organization you support, or an opportunity you volunteer for, like everything else in your life, you need to balance your activities. Intentionally supporting a cause may be looked upon more favorably by God, but you do not need to actively seek out opportunities; you just need to be prepared for every good work, so that when you recognize an opportunity, you do not ignore a person’s cries or walk by those in need.

Luke 10:29-37 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The above parable was delivered in order to answer the question, “who is my neighbor?” The person who acted as a neighbor in the parable was the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan had mercy and showed kindness to the victim of a crime. Jesus instructed his followers to do the same – meaning to come to the aid of those in need. The parable was about having compassion and empathy for someone who is clearly in distress, which is different from giving money to a beggar because he does not want to work. While interacting in the world, we must do so with discernment and discretion.

The parable of the Good Samaritan not only provides us with an example of who is to be considered your neighbor (Mark 12:31), but it also defines those who are not our neighbors. Clearly, the thieves in the above parable were not the victim’s neighbors. Neither, were the people who simply passed by and left the person for dead (ignoring the person in distress). The ‘neighbor’ was the person who showed kindness. For us to be a neighbor, we too need to show kindness to those who are in need.

Just as we would want someone to come to our aid if we were in distress, we should help our fellow humans when they are in need. Such acts of kindness are not without limits. Clearly, Jesus did not define the thieves and heartless individuals in the parable as neighbors, and we are not required to love such people as we love ourselves. We might demonstrate acts of love towards them – as we would our enemies – but bringing the thieves to justice would be a more appropriate act of love on behalf of the victim and for the betterment of society.

Jeremiah 21:12 O house of David, thus says the LORD: “Administer justice every morning; And deliver the person who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor, that My wrath may not go forth like fire and burn with none to extinguish it, because of the evil of their deeds.”

Ecclesiasticus 12:1-7 If you mean to do a kindness, choose the right person, then your good deeds will not be wasted. Do good to someone devout, and you will be rewarded, if not by that person, then certainly by the Most High. No good will come to one who persists in evil, or who refuses to give alms. Give to the devout, do not go to the help of a sinner. Do good to the humble, give nothing to the godless. Refuse him bread, do not give him any, it might make him stronger than you are; then you would be repaid evil twice over for all the good you had done him. For the Most High himself detests sinners, and will repay the wicked with what they deserve. Give to the good, and do not go to the help of a sinner.

Matthew 7:6 Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

When interacting with the world, you must use discernment in determining who to help and when. We are to love our neighbors, but we are not to cast our pearls before swine. The victim in the parable of the Good Samaritan was a person in distress. The thieves and heartless were not considered neighbors and our not people that we should love as we love ourselves. The world we live in is evil, so you must use caution when approaching strangers.

A vehicle by the side of the road may represent a person in distress, or it may be a snare criminals use to lure victims. You do not need to place yourself into danger in order to help others. If you see a broken down vehicle, you do not have to stop or place yourself into danger in order to help. Call the police and report it. The police will respond and will be better equipped to handle the situation; they can provide security for the stranded motorists, while waiting for a tow truck or for the vehicle to be repaired.

Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 John 3:10-11 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 5:1-2 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.

As we have opportunity, we are to do good to all people, but especially to those who belong to the family of believers. When the goats and the sheep asked the king, ‘when did we see you thirsty or naked’, he replied, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” The people you are to be good to are ‘the brethren.’ When you see someone who is clearly in distress, such as in the parable of the Good Samaritan, you do not know whether the person is a follower of God, but you can error on the side of safety and take action.

In modern society, calling 9-1-1 will remedy many situations. The police can look into the situation and address any crime, medical assistance can be provided, and the person can be connected with mental health workers, housing referral services, food, and other community resources. You can help by making the phone call. Most people assume that someone else has or will make the phone call, so they do not make it. If it were your house on fire, you would want someone to call the fire department. Maybe if you call, the operator will tell you that the situation has already been reported, but if no one calls, a rescue/response cannot be sent.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

1 Corinthians 5:1-2 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles-that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.

1 Timothy 1:18-20 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Christians are not supposed to be unequally yoked with nonbelievers, but they are allowed to associate with them as necessary to exist in the world. On the other hand, Christians are instructed to reject and disassociate with other Christians who engage in evil. Paul kicked people out of the church (handed them over to Satan), so they could be disciplined and learn from their behavior. He who spares his rod hates his son. Sometimes, ‘tough love’ is necessary.

If you love someone, you would seek his or her good. The Ten Commandments state that we are to honor our mothers and fathers, but that does not mean that you need to respect your parents if they are bad people or are engaging in evil. For example, if one of your friends or relatives becomes a crack-whore, showing unconditionally love and letting him/her know that you accept her/him just way they are, does not honor the person. Leaving the person in a state where he/she is addicted to drugs and needing to prostitute him/herself to support the habit does not demonstrate love – it shows indifference to suffering or hate.

Mark 10:19-22 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

Jesus loved the rich man by being honest with him and telling him the truth. Jesus pointed out the man’s faults, and told him what he needed to change in order to be saved. He did not spare the rod, but used candor, even though the truth was not something the person wanted to hear and caused him to walk away sad. Sometimes, tough love is necessary. If someone you love is addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or engages in sexual immorality or any other sin, you do not honor the person by looking the other way. In such situations, forgiveness and acceptance equates to hate, and correction, honesty, and rejection are acts of love.

During a victim’s of crime seminar I attended, a substance abuse counselor spoke about the process of recovering from addictions. I do not recall his name or the exact phraseology he use, but it was something like this, “People will never change their behavior until they perceive the pain of remaining as they are is greater than the pain and effort needed to change.” People are motivated to move towards pleasure and away from pain, so they are apt to choose whatever is easier, even if that means maintaining their addiction.

Luke 15:13-19 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

Luke 15:30-32 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

People will not see the need to change until the hit rock bottom. They must face the consequences of their behavior, and decide that they cannot live like that anymore. Sometimes tough love is necessary, which is why Paul handed some of his brethren over to Satan, or why the son of the prodigal son was cut off from his family and considered dead to his father. This is another reason why you must be selective in whom you provide assistance. A person’s family may be hoping that their loved one will finally hit rock bottom and see the need to change, but they will not do so, if they beg from you and you give them money to buy more drugs or indulge in their sinful behavior.

The victim in the parable of the Good Samaritan was clearly in distress, and there is nothing to suggest that it was the result of his own misdoings. Homeless people on the other hand, may be that way simply because they do not want to work. There are many resources in cities in place to care for homeless persons. They are provided housing, food, and job resources; so if they are standing on a corner asking you for money, they do not need to be, and the money that you give them will is unlikely to go towards food, housing, or a job search (since that stuff is already available to the person at no cost).

Making a difference in the world is important, and is one of the reasons you are here. Your life is intertwined with the lives of those around you, and through your interactions you can influence, learn, grow, and serve each other. You serve God by serving others, and your empathy, compassion, and willingness to love your neighbor as yourself, demonstrates stewardship and differentiates the sheep from the goats. You are to love and support your brethren, and use discernment in helping others. Do not give what is holy to the dogs, but also do not without resources from those in need if you are able to help.

Since you cannot be sure who is saved and who is not, you should give others the benefit of the doubt and err on the side of safety. For all you know the person you help could be an angel (Genesis 19:1). In some situations, you are the angel that God sends, so use the opportunities God places in front of you appropriately. Be prepared for every good work, and perform them with humility, so that your left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. If you do come to a person’s aid, do not seek praise or recognition for your charity (Matthew 10:8). You will receive your reward from God later. Provide assistance and disappear, it will make a bigger impact on the person you help.

Matthew 6:3-4 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Sharing your faith

Proverbs 8:12-16 I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discernment. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. By me kings reign and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.

As we journey through life and face challenges, we will increase in our understanding and grown in wisdom and discernment. The wise dwell with prudence and live cautiously. When dealing with unbelievers, you should behave in a professional manner, and safeguard your critical information. Do not give what is holy to the dogs. Like Esther, do not reveal you heritage/faith, and do not share your faith until you have first established credibility and built up trust.

As you interact with others, they will judge you based on their perceptions. If you tell them, or if they find out, that you are a Christian upon first meeting you then they will categorize you into their preconceived idea of what that means to them. You would face prejudice and bias, and it would be hard for you to change the person’s prejudiced view of you. If you are unequally yoked with nonbelievers, you need to realize that they are nonbelievers for a reason. They have probably been exposed to the concepts of your faith, but through their own experiences or upbringing, they have rejected God.

Some unbelievers may be goats or wolves that are unable to hear the message, or are incapable of understanding it to them – no matter how clearly you explain it. It does not matter how much you talk to a deaf person, he/she will never be able to hear you. Other nonbelievers may have grown up in the church and rejected it later. They may have never had their questions answered, and/or only been exposed to a superficial version of Christianity. Others may perceive church members to be hypocrites.

Some of those people you might be able to get through to, but you will not be able to do so initially. If they learn of your faith before they have made up their minds about you, then they will view you as another one of the hypocrites from their past and they will project the negative traits associated with those people onto you. Never lose sight of the fact that you do not need to get through to such people, and trying to do so may be completely inappropriate. Altering your peers’ religious beliefs is not your job, and is not what your boss is paying you to do.

Attempting to evangelize when you are supposed to be working crosses the line between appropriate and inappropriate behavior. As I stated early about what is an appropriate conversation to have with a cashier, if the topic is not directly related to the transaction, then it is probably not a professional one that you should be having. As a Christian, you are expected to be a good worker, so you do not want to make others view you as a poor employee by engaging in inappropriate behavior at work. If your job is to sell someone a toaster, make the transaction without sexually harassing the person, telling racist jokes, or forcing the customer to accept your religious beliefs.

Some nonbelievers are hostile to Christianity, so letting these people know about your faith will create unnecessary enemies. Many atheists are not simply ignorant regarding spiritual matters, but are well read and have studied counter arguments in order to attack the faith. Maybe such views were instilled in them by their parents, college professors, or something they developed on their own; regardless, atheists consider God to be a make believe fictional character similar to the tooth fairy. If you tell them that as an adult you still believe in the tooth fairy, they will think you are an idiot, and creating an effective team at work would be more difficult, if your co-workers think you are an idiot.

Live with prudence and control what information you share with others. If you are unequally yoked with nonbelievers, you can maintain a professional working relationship that serves the purpose of your employment without ever sharing your faith with them. Doing so might only do cause them to be prejudiced against you. I am definitely not saying that you should deny Christ if someone asks you about your faith. You should always be ready to give an answer if someone asks (1 Peter 3:15), but do not cast your pearls before swine unnecessarily.

If you are going to share your faith with people at work (or with anyone else), then do so at the appropriate time. You will need to be able to recognize when the perfect opportunity presents itself, but if you want people to attribute any value to what you tell them, then you will need to have established credibility first. People are not going to listen to you if they think you are an idiot. If you want to share something special with others, then they must believe there is something special about you to share.

If you come off as a normal person or an average employee, people will not be lining up out the door to find out your secret. People want to add value to themselves, and will not come to you in order to learn how to be mediocre. They will listen to you if they want something that you have (even if they do not know exactly what it is). If you want others to place value in what you have to say, then you must first establish yourself as someone possessing value. Through your behavior, allow others to see that you are amazing.

What constitutes being amazing is subjective. Since people see what they want to see, they may identify different aspects of your character that may be unrelated to your job but seems significant to them or their situation. They may have peered into the section of Johari’s Window that is observed by others yet not known to self, and may have seen things in you that you were not aware of disclosing.

Maybe they are impressed with how you conduct yourself; your confidence, ability to remain calm under pressure, to bounce back after problems, or your ability to maintain a positive attitude in spite of hardships. Maybe they observed your traits such as honesty, trust, or empathy, or your ability to succeed in different aspects of your life, such as in marriage or in parenting. You should live with honor and display multiple positive traits, and people will latch onto the aspects they consider important to themselves. Your intension should not be to impress others, but if you are living in order to maintain God’s approval, others will be impressed also.

After someone believes you are amazing and wants to know your secret, he/she will be open to what you have to say. If you then reveal that you are a Christian, they may be shocked, but you will have already moved them past the point of their prejudice. You will have proved that you do not fit into their preconceived ideas about what a Christian is supposed to be like.

The person’s initial response might include statements like, “I always thought Christians were…”, or “Every Christian I’ve every met…” which will reveal the person’s misconceptions. They will probably tell you stories about hypocrites they have known in the past, or start asking you questions that they have never received a satisfactory answer to, such as, “why does God allow suffering in the world?” You can answer their questions, clarify what the scripture says about Christianity, and explain the differences between what is Biblical and what are cultural practices.

If you are going to share your faith with others, make sure that you have earned the person’s respect first, that way they will associate your faith with the respect they feel for you. After developing your credibility, they will see there is something different about you, that you are not just another mindless sheep that supports the hypocritical bias they have been exposed to in the past, but there is something unique about your understanding of God that they have never encountered before.

If you share your faith prior to establishing yourself, you will be categorized by the person’s bias, and may never have a chance to prove yourself. Always be ready to give an answer for your faith, but do not be eager to share your faith when unequally yoked with unbelievers – it may be inappropriate to do so and if you have not proven yourself first, it would be futile anyways.

If you do share your faith, do so at the right time, and only with the right people. Not everyone is meant to be saved. Evangelizing to people who are incapable of understanding what you are saying is a waste of time, and may only serve to strain an otherwise professional working relationship. It could also cause others to resent you, and believe you are behaving inappropriately at work. You go to work in order to support yourself and/or your family, you are not called to evangelize to everyone you encounter.

Mark 16:15 and He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

The Apostles were told to preach the gospel around the world, and the Apostles fulfilled that mission during their lifetimes (Romans 1:8, 10:18, Colossians 1:23, Acts 28:22). Jesus spoke the ‘Great Commission’ to the 11 Apostles (Mark 16:14) and the signs that identify believers (Mark 16:17-18) were the signs of Apostles (Acts 2:4). These signs served to identify Paul as an Apostle (Acts 28:4), and do not protect Christians from snakebites or drinking poison. If you do not feel a desire to evangelize, do not let that shake your faith. You are not an Apostle, and were not given the Great Commission.

Reaching out to every sinner is not necessary. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles evangelized to all sinners, and if they did speak openly in public, they spoke in a manner to confuse those listening to prevent them from understanding there teachings. Many modern day churches focus on evangelizing, but that was not the focus of the early church. Aside from the four gospels, the New Testament consists of letters written to the early churches. In none of the letters do we find the Apostles instructing Christians to pass out pamphlets, knock on people’s doors, or try to win more converts to Christianity. In the Book of Revelations, Jesus makes a final appeal to the seven churches, and there is no mention of the need to evangelize in any of them (the messages focused on behavior).

Not every Christian is supposed to fill the role of an evangelist (Ephesians 4:1). Christians win converts through our behavior (1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 3:1-2, 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8, Titus 2:10). It is through our behavior that we can lead others to Christ, and not because we knock on their doors and pass out pamphlets. You should pray with and share your faith with your loved ones, but you do not need to evangelize to everyone that you meet.

If you do not first build rapport and trust, then strangers are not going to listen to you anyways. Do not behave in an unprofessional manner by attempting to force your religion on others. If you do wish to share your faith in situations where you are unequally yoked, then only do so when you identify the right opportunities and even then, only after first establishing yourself as someone amazing and possessing some secret value the other person desires.

First let the person be impressed by your behavior or work ethic/performance, and desire to know what your secret is. If given the right opportunity, share your faith, and use that occasion to clarify any misconceptions the person might have had about the faith. Enable them to take a fresh look at the faith, and view it without past prejudices. Remove Christianity’s association with hypocrites, and answer the tough questions. It is doubtful that you will be the first person to share your faith with the person, so unless there is something unique or special about you, then the person will not perceive what you tell him/her to possess any special value.

People who have lost their faith growing up, may have concluded that forgiving people or being nice to everyone sounds good in theory, but that is not the way things happen in the ‘real world.’ You can prove them wrong with your behavior. Live with honor, be confident in your actions, and succeed in your endeavors. Once you impress others and they desire to know your secret, you can share your faith with them if you choose.

The reason you are successful at work is because you believe you are working for God, so you put effort into what you do. You share your experiences with God, journey through life together, and with God on your side who can stand against you (Romans 8:31). Your attitude, marriage, talents, or anything else that appears praiseworthy to other people can be directly credited to your belief in God and your willingness to live according to your faith. Live with honor, trust in God, maintain a good conscience, and if you have opportunities to share your faith you can do so, but do not feel compelled to or believe that your religion requires it of you – especially when you are unequally yoked with nonbelievers.

1 Peter 3:13-16 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

Trust God and Enjoy Life

You are in the world to serve God and to fulfill the purpose he has for you. God will use you either as a vessel of honor or as a vessel of dishonor, depending on your stewardship. As you go through life, you will interact with many people and you will have opportunities to influence their lives. There were only 12 Apostles. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, and Jesus were rare individuals. Do not expect your purpose to involve parting the sea, raising the dead, or saving large groups of people. Through your interactions with others, you can make an impact on their lives without even being aware of it.

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

You are in the world to be tried with fire and to grow in wisdom and discernment. You will be disciplined at times, and you will be given opportunities to demonstrate what you have learned. Through all of the events in your life, you can learn about God and understand him better. Once you love God and commit to keeping his commandments, he will conform you into the image of Christ, and all things will work together for your good. While living in the world, you must obtain enough worldly success to live comfortably, while maintaining your sense of honor and remembering to put God first.

Luke 12:29-32 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knows that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

James 4:14-15 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. For that we ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Proverbs 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

God knows what you need in the world and it is his pleasure to give you what you need. However, we are to seek God first, and all of the other things will be added unto us. Without God’s help and blessings, we would not make it very far in the world anyways. God wants to be a part of our lives, to have a relationship with us, and for us to trust in him and be faithful to him. Your journey through life should include God, just as our lives become joint ventures with our spouses once we are married.

Ultimately, what we do in the world is according to God’s will, and we need to learn to trust in it. Just as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42), we need to trust in God’s will, and believe that even if the trial we are facing is painful, God will be with us, and things will work out for us in the end. That does not mean that we will be successful in all of our earthly endeavors, sometimes we will fail, and sometimes we will be victimized.

Following God does not prevent bad things from happening to us, but it does provide us with opportunities to stand firm in our faith, to resist evil, and to demonstrate our commitment (Matthew 10:16, 1 Peter 5:8-9). After Jesus prayed that God’s will be done, Judas betrayed him with a kiss, and then Jesus was tormented and crucified. Jesus suffered and died at the hands of evil men, but he trusted in God, and was later glorified and received honor without end.

James 4:7-8 Submit therefore to God, Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

Nehemiah 4:14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses."

Psalm 56:3-6 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. Everyday they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

Revelation 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

God wants us to trust in him. He does not want us to worry (as to what we will eat or drink), and he does not want us to fear (want evil might befall us). If our priorities are correct, we should not even fear our own deaths or being killed by evildoers. They can kill the body, but they cannot kill our souls. You can experience hunger or pain, but no one can take away your character. How you live, your sense of honor, your personality, and your deeds will follow you into the next life. Those things cannot be taken from you; they can only be given away.

Do not deny Christ or compromise your honor. Be faithful unto death, and you will receive a crown of life. Do not compromise your honor since it is not easily restored, but realize that being taken advantage of is not the same thing as compromising your honor. Sometimes we will fail in life; we will make bad decisions and do things we regret. This stems from being naďve and not possessing the same cunning as the serpents we are combating. As we face hardships, we will grow in discernment and improve in our judgment/prudence.

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

God knows that we will fail sometimes. Life is a learning process. If you make a mistake, try to correct it, and do the best you can. You do not have to be perfect, because God judges you based on what is in your heart and in your tensions. If you do something that you regret, repent of your sins, and move forward. Do not dwell on your mistakes, but commit to doing better in the future. Do not justify your actions, but take responsibility for your shortcomings, and seek improvement. Ask God for help, you do not have to do it all by yourself, God wants to be part of your life.

Understand the ploys of the devil, live prudently, and be prepared to stand firm in your faith. Be as wise as a serpent, and use discretion in your interactions. Safeguard your critical information and choose your battles wisely. Do not compromise your honor, but do not be willing to fight to the death over trivial things either. Do not be afraid, but do not be stupid. You do not have to fight with the other alpha dogs for control, as much as it is in your power, live peacefully with others.

If you are going to be successful at anything, you cannot be afraid to try. Fortune favors the bold and you cannot win if you do not enter the race. Your endeavors do not need to be perfect; they just need to be accomplished. Some people are not satisfied with anything less than perfection, and if they do not think they can live up to their self-imposed high standards, they will not even try. If you do not try, you will always fail.

Have the courage to pursue you dreams and attempt to capture you visions. Life is about risks, and if you do not take some, there is no chance of success. If you enter a race, you may not finish in the top three positions, but you will get a lot further than the spectators will. You should not expect to win your first race; athletes train and enter many races before they start winning. If you want to accomplish something, you will need to put effort into it, you may need to do some research first, and you must have the courage to try. Do not hide your talents in the earth as the slothful steward did, but try to double them.

Do not be afraid to take risks, but also know when it is time to quit. Sometimes we fail, and when we do, we must recognize it, take responsibility for our actions, and then move on and try to do better in the future. Everything must be done with balance. Samson never learned that his behavior and his attraction/trust of Philistine women were getting him nowhere. While yoked with unbelievers, do not spend too much time in unproductive relationships.

If you are a sheep, do not keep trying to mate with a goat or a wolf and wonder why things are not working out. Be as wise as a serpent, identify wolves that come to you in sheep’s clothing, and do not be led astray by them (Matthew 7:15). Do not be afraid of what men can do to you, because even if they kill you, they cannot take away your sense of self. Your character and deeds are the only things that will follow you into the next life, and no evil person can take that from you by force. Only you can compromise your honor or choose to engage in unsavory activities. A wolf in sheep’s clothing may lead you in the wrong direction, but they cannot make you sin.

As you interact with humanity, you will build bridges and may burn some bridges. This too must be kept in balance. Having a bridge that allows you to cross a river at a certain point may be of benefit, but having fifty or sixty bridges all lined up in a row to cross at the same location is a waste of time and resources. Maintaining an excessive amount of relationships is not necessary, and spending hours each day communicating with hundreds of people you have networked with in the past – just in case you may need to walk across their bridge someday – is a waste of your time. Choose whom to trust, what bridges to keep, and know when to let some relationships go.

I once had a subordinate who I needed to mentor after he had gotten into some trouble. He enjoyed playing online videogames with another military member and the other military member’s wife. At some point in the relationship, he engaged in sexual activity with his friend’s wife for several hours. The other military member ended up making several threats, and abused his wife and choked her to the point of unconsciousness several times before the police arrived and arrested him. The husband was charged with domestic violence, causing him to be kicked out of the military and sent to jail. His wife also divorced him.

The subordinate also got into some trouble, because adultery is a crime according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. However, while counseling the subordinate, he told me that he really missed all of the fun they used to have playing together online, and he hoped that his friend would get over it pretty soon, so things can go back to the way they were. At that point, I had to tell him, “these or the facts”, and pointed out that he had sexual contact with his friend’s wife, which ruined his friend’s marriage, destroyed his career, and had him sent to jail. Expecting forgiveness was probably not realistic, since being around his former friend could be dangerous for him. I told him that is the meaning of the phrase, “do not burn bridges”; because once they are burnt, they may no longer be safe to cross.

If you do things that you regret, accept responsibility for your actions, learn from them, commit not to do them again, and move forward. You do not need to maintain an infinite amount of bridges, and if a bridge is burnt, do not try to go back over it. Know when to quit, and when you need to find an alternate route. Trust in God, and allow him to direct your paths. Have patience and wait on God’s will to manifest itself at the appointed time. Trust that God is working in your life, building you up, and leading you to where you are supposed to be.

Psalm 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Numbers 14:3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Trust in God and believe that since you love him and keep his commandments (John 15:10), he will cause all things to work together for your good. When God freed the slaves out of Egypt, they were afraid, and feared the worst things they could imagine would happen to them and their families (Numbers 14:3). However, those who had faith in God were led into the Promised Land. It was not easy; there were dangers, and the Hebrews did need to put in effort, but God went before them and helped them to conquer and take back their land.

2 Esdras 16:75-76 Be ye not afraid neither doubt; for God is your guide, And the guide of them who keep my commandments and precepts, saith the Lord God…

Romans 12:18-21 “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Trust that God is directing your paths and leading you to where you are supposed to be. Live humbly and peacefully in the world, and when bad things happen to you, maintain your trust in God. Joseph trusted God while as a slave and in prison and God led him to where he needed to be. Joseph did not understand what was taking place at the time, but in hindsight, he determined that what his brothers meant for evil, God used for good. Sometimes we will face challenges because God is disciplining us, but other times, we might fall victim to evil as a consequence of evil being in the world.

When bad things do happen to us in the world, know that it is not God’s will, and that he is not the one doing it to you. Because we are given freewill, some people in the world use their freewill to choose evil; these are the wolves and serpents we are warned about, but sometimes, good people fall into the hands of evil men.

Jesus was crucified, the Apostles were martyred, and right now deplorable acts are taking place all around the world. It is not God’s will that bad things happen, in fact, he instructed us to establish justice and come to the aid of our fellowman. Although God may not have caused the evil, he can use it to build our character. In Joseph’s case, he left the shelter of his father’s home and found his on place in the world, but if there is nothing to learn from a situation, we can at least demonstrate stewardship by being faithful unto death.

God is a god of Justice (Job 37:23, Psalm 89:14, Deuteronomy 32:4). He “avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies; The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. (Nahum 1:2-3).” Jesus will lead the Armies of Heaven, and “out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. (Revelations 19:15).” God is longsuffering with the vessels of wrath, but he hears the cries of their victims (Revelations 6:10) and he will avenge them at the given time (Revelations 19:2).

Trust in God’s vengeance. Understand that God hates evil, and will punish the wicked for their deeds. He does not want humans to be evil to each other, and when they are, their deeds are recorded and will be used on the Day of Judgment to hold the wicked accountable for their actions. An unfortunate truth is that bad things happen to good/innocent people. Such acts are contrary to the will of God, but are a consequence of evil existing in the world.

When someone is victimized, God documents the perpetrator’s actions, and will punish the evildoer on the Day of Judgment for what he did. While on earth, it may appear that evil is allowed to prosper, but the wicked are storing up wrath for themselves. God did not cause or want any innocent person to be harmed; that is a consequence of us having freewill and being able to understand good and evil, but when such events occur, God can use the event to influence the person or others affected by the events.

The victim can respond in different ways. He/she can give up, feel defeated, and live in fear of similar events occurring again, or the event could motivate him/her to make a difference in the world and to prevent such things from happening to others. The event can break you, or make you stronger. It will influence your feelings, and may improve your judgment/understanding, or it could fill you with anxiety and fear – maybe both. You may learn about hate, anger, jealousy, forgiveness, compassion, or empathy, and it may alter what you felt was appropriate in different situations.

When bad things happen, good does not necessarily come from it, but things will occur and many people may be affected by a single event. As Christians, we can trust that God will definitely punish the evildoer – he/she will not get away with the evil he/she did. By-standards and those who identified the situations and failed to act will also be judged by what they did or failed to do (when did we see you naked or thirsty?).

If a crime is reported to the police, then officers, lawyers, judges, prison guards, and probation officers will each have roles to play, and their stewardship will be judged according to their performance. Concerned citizens, neighborhood watch groups, awareness campaigns, advocacy agencies, mental health workers, victim’s advocates, internet sites, the news media, and other groups/individuals may all be involved in some way, and everyone will have the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of those around them.

When bad things happen, it is not just a matter of one person choosing to do evil to another, but the event can affect the lives of many people and each person will have their stewardship graded separately. Nobody wants the bad thing to happen to them or their loved ones, but when events do not directly effect an individual, it is easy to be indifferent to the suffering of others. A person may read about a horrible tragedy or a heinous crime taking place, but if the person is not directly involved, he/she may move on to a different article and not give it another thought.

Many people are offended by the fact that God permits evil to exist in the world, but the majority of people in the world are indifferent to the suffering of others. People barely think twice about such things when they see it in the news, and even fewer are willing to champion such causes. I am just as guilty as others are in this area. We are bombarded with so much evil and suffering in the world, that we become overwhelmed. We think the problems are too big for us to address, so we ignore things or become indifferent to it in order to cope. So many things in the world need fixing. Where do we start, and what can we do?

We cannot fix everything that is wrong with the world, just as Jesus did not try to save everybody. However, when we have opportunities to help others (or to demonstrate love for our neighbor), we should do what we can, and use the talents that God has blessed us with. If we lack the resources to do something about a situation ourselves, we could at least pray about it.

Whether we are praying for God to grant us justice against those who have wronged us, or if we are asking him to comfort those who have experienced a tragedy, praying is something we can always do. We can always pray and we can pray about anything. God answers prayers, but only when people pray. If you dial 9-1-1 the police or an ambulance will be dispatched, but only if you make the call.

Luke 18:1-8 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a Judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust Judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"

Revelations 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You Judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Jesus taught his disciples always to pray and never to lose heart. Trust in God and be patient. Our prayers are not answered right away. King David was anointed by Samuel years before he finally became king, and Sarah became pregnant many years after God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations (by then Abraham had already questioned God’s promise and had a thirteen year-old son with this servant girl). As in the case of Daniel, our prayers may be heard right away, but God’s will is fulfilled in his own timeline (Daniel 10:10-14).

When it comes to obtaining justice, we are not promised either safety or justice while living in the world. God instructed us to treat each other fairly and to establish justice on the earth, but he is withholding his final judgment until the appointed day, so that he can observe our stewardship, and so that the wheat is not uprooted with the weeds (Matthew 13:24-29). Nevertheless, in his parable regarding prayer, Jesus taught the elect to cry out day and night for God to avenge them. The woman in the parable stated, “Get justice for me from my adversary”, and Jesus reminded his disciples that God is not unjust and will certainly avenge and get justice for his followers (do not lose faith).

I am not a member of any certain denomination of Christianity, so I have heard the parable of the woman and the unjust judge taught at various churches and by different denominations, yet, none of them have addressed the content of the parable. They focus on being patient and persistent in prayer, but ignore what the woman was asking for or that Jesus told the disciples to pray for justice. You are in the world to grow in wisdom and to learn to use your judgment. You cannot do that if you ignore Biblical teachings and focus only on the fluffier parts of a message.

The parable of the Good Steward is also told in Luke 19:12-27, but in the Gospel of Luke, it concludes with, “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me (Luke 19:27).” ‘Bring my enemies here and kill them in front of me’ is part of the parable, but it is a part of the parable that is likely to be overlooked or not mentioned during a church service. Ignoring the unpleasant parts of Christ’s teachings and focusing solely on the loving and forgiveness aspects is one of the reasons there is so much confusion regarding the nature of God in the world today.

One of the major problems with truly grasping the teachings of Christ is that people/churches focus only on the pleasant messages of the Bible while glossing over or ignoring other parts of the message. Jesus did not pull any punches in his teachings. He spoke of forgiveness and of God’s love, but he also condemned inappropriate behavior, and promised judgment and punishment to those that did not heed his message/warnings. Jesus did not contradict himself and the Bible does not contradict itself. If a topic does not make sense to you, it is probably due to you not considering the context of the message, or the content of the message.

When I am at work, I am a representative of the organization I am working for to the public. If I am asked a question in an official capacity, I will provide the official answer. If asked about controversial topics such as gun control, abortion, civil unions, freedom of religion, free speech, or other topics in an official capacity, I might quote the Bill of Rights or certain State Statutes. What I say publically, may be vastly different from my personal opinions that I might share with my friends or loved ones in private about the same topics.

The context has to do with the topic Jesus was addressing, and is influenced by the location of message was delivered and whom he was speaking. Was Jesus speaking publically to a large crowd of unbelievers, or was he speaking privately to his followers? What was the intent of the parable? In the parable of the woman and the unjust judge it was about having faith, patience, and perseverance in praying/seeking justice, and the parable of the Good Samaritan was designed to answer the question, ‘who is my neighbor.’

The content of the parables is also important. The fact that a Samaritan was considered the neighbor over the priest and Levite addressed prejudice and bias of the day. In addition to answering the question as to ‘who is my neighbor,’ it also demonstrated who was not considered the person’s neighbor. The parable was told in response to the commandment to love they neighbor as thy self, and demonstrated that criminals, priests, and even fellow Jews may not be worthy of love based on their behavior. In the parable of the woman and the unjust judge, Jesus purposely addressed the concept of crying out to God for justice; if he only wanted to address the need to ask for something more than once, he could have used a different topic in the parable, such as praying for rain.

The content of the message may also include whom the parable was talking to or about. Jesus told Peter to forgive his, ‘brother’ seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21-22). Brother could refer to a family relation or a member of the Body of Christ (another Christian), but it would not apply to those of the Synagogue of Satan or even your neighbors. You are to love, ‘your neighbor’ as yourself, but not every human is considered your neighbor. The Lord’s Prayer states to forgive debts and trespasses, not crimes or atrocities.

Trespasses were minor violations of the law, such as lying about found property or committing an unintentional sin (Leviticus 6:2-5, Leviticus 5:15-16, Numbers 5:6-7), these were minor things that required the person to pay a debt or make an offering. Major sins under the Law of Moses required the death penalty. Jesus did not tell us to forgive atrocities or crimes, but to forgive actions that a believer might unintentionally commit against their neighbors.

If a subordinate is ten minutes late for work, that may violate the policies of your work center, but as long as it is not an ongoing problem, it might be overlooked. Have empathy and compassion on others, because you too might be stuck in traffic or your power might go out in the night and turn off your alarm clock. If a subordinate is caught stealing from work, that is less forgivable, and the employee should probably be fired. You have a responsibility to maintain justice and good order and discipline at work, which takes precedence over forgiving a person’s wrong doings.

If you are the judge/manager, you need to be able to use your judgment/position appropriately. The fact that the Lord’s Prayer says to forgive others, does not negate the other teachings in the Bible regarding establishing justice. As you study the Bible, pay attention to the location where Jesus is speaking, whom he is talking to, what he is talking about, and what he actually says. Do not overlook the context or content of the messages. Do not read into verses things that are not there, but do not ignore things that are clearly stated. Scripture is written so that those who are not called will not understand what they read, but the chosen are to study to show themselves approved, being able to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Matthew 7:15-19 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Christians are to understand and rightly divide scripture, and to learn and use judgment and discernment in the world. We are to live prudently, because others may try to lead us astray or devour us. We need to examine the facts, and use objective and subjective thinking appropriately. We should trust in God, allow him to direct our paths, and trust in his vengeance and wrath. As we are able, we should live peacefully with others, and trust that God will not excuse those who wrong us. We must understand and use judgment appropriately, and know whom to forgive and whose sins should be retained, because what we bind on earth will be bound in heaven (Matthew 18:18).

Ecclesiastes 3:10-13 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

Life is not always easy. Sometimes it is very hard. Nothing remains the same. Things are constantly changing, and change can be scary. Going into the unknown is frightening, but we are told not to be afraid. We must trust in God that we will not fall by the sword and that our wives and children will not be taken as plunder. However, we must understand that we are not promised safety in the world, and that bad things can happen to us through no fault of our own. We were warned that we are in the midst of wolves, but by being as wise as a serpent and living prudently, we can navigate the world successfully.

During our journeys through life, we will face many challenges, we will interact with many people, and we will earn our livings by the sweat of our brows. We must study to show ourselves approved, and must demonstrate good stewardship with what God gives us. Life can seem very laborious and taxing, but we must maintain a positive attitude, keep our faith, and have hope for the future. Life is not only about work, and although evil exists in the world, the world can be a wonderful and beautiful place. God so loved the world that he allowed his only son to die for it (John 3:15).

Everything must be done with balance. We must balance our emotions, the information we share with others, and the activities we engage in. We must establish priorities, and not be so focused on a certain aspect of life, that we neglect the other areas. Life is not only about work, which is why having a day of rest was included in the Ten Commandments. We must never lose sight of the fact that God wants us to enjoy life, to be happy, and to be thankful for the blessings he provides us.

John 10:10-11 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Matthew 13:11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Jesus did not come in order to give us a bunch of rules to live by and to make our lives more challenging. Following him may require some effort, but if we learn from him and live by his teachings, life will be easier for us. Trust in God, and he will take care of you. Follow Jesus, and he will give you rest. Life is not only about working, struggling, learning, managing, and balancing, Jesus came so that we might live more abundantly and have rest. We are to enjoy the fruits of our labors, because they are a gift from God.

Ecclesiastes 3:22, 24 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion…There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 9:9-10 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might...

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.

Psalm 23:1-6 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Trust in God’s will and in his guidance. Jesus came so that you can live life more abundantly, and if you love God and follow his commandments, he will cause all things to work together for your good. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, because they are a gift from God. Live your life joyfully and enjoy the love of your spouse and family. Dwell with prudence, but do not fear evil. Trust in God’s guidance and correction, and know that he will avenge you against your adversaries at the appropriate time. Have patience and trust, enjoy life and be thankful for what you are given.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 128:1-4 Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walks in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.

Find the appropriate balance in life. Do not neglect any one area or aspect of your life. Include God in your journey, spend time with your family, pursue your goals, and remember to take some time for yourself and to have fun. Enjoy life and enjoy God’s blessings, but do not become lazy or a glutton. Everything must be done with balance. Work hard, but remember that life is not only about work. Be successful in many areas of life, but keep your definition of success in perspective. Engage in hobbies and activities you enjoy.

Hebrews 13:1-6 Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

We can make plans and pursue our goals, but we do not know what the future holds for us. We are but a vapor, and if it is God’s will, then we will go to different places and succeed at different things. Many times, I have been amazed at where God has led me, where I found myself, and the things I found myself doing. I have been to places and done things I never thought I would as a teenager, and I have learned so much along my journey.

Do not think that you have ever figured it all out, because as you grow in wisdom, you will look back and think to yourself, “Wow, I used to be so stupid. I thought I knew want I was doing, but I knew so little.” There is always more to learn. We can never be sure of where we will end up in the world, but if you trust in God, he will not let you down. You may face difficulties sometimes, but at other times, your cup will runneth over. Trust in God and enjoy the fruits of your labors. Jesus came so that you can live life more abundantly, and it is God’s pleasure to give the kingdom to you. Have faith and hope, be content with what you have, and live with honor.