Castles in the Sand

When the waters rise, will our castles remain?

Our world often gets caught up on the idea of qualifications. As I’m currently going through a job search, one of the most important pieces of any job post is the list of qualifications. Within a few bullet points, I can quickly discern whether or not I have the required experience and expertise. If not, it’s time to move on to a different job listing.

The reason behind this makes a lot of sense. I know when I hired students to work for me in my previous position, I wanted to know about their past experience with sports and writing. I wanted to see if they would be able to quickly pick up on the tasks I needed them to fulfill. And nobody should ever want to hire me with my communication degree to work as a surgeon.

But I find it fascinating to look at these qualifications lists and compare them to the early chapters of the book of Acts. To be honest, the first few chapters of Acts are some of my favorite in the Bible because they show just how quickly and powerfully the hope of Christ spreads when we get out of our own way and allow the message to do the work. On a side note, I encourage everyone to regularly review Acts 2:42-47 and 4:23-37 as a reminder of what we should be doing as the Church.

But back to the idea of qualifications. Here’s the thing: most of the apostles didn’t have any. Jesus plucked people from every walk of life – except the religious elite, the only ones who, by the world’s standard, would have been qualified – to be his closest followers and the people who would lead the first generation of the church after his death and resurrection. To fulfill Jesus’ plan, they didn’t have to have great speaking skills or great education or upbringing and experience. They only had to have an open heart.

Once the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples in Acts 2, we see Peter stepping up and addressing a crowd of people. This is the man who, less than two months earlier, denied Jesus multiple times when called into question in one-on-one interactions. He definitely did not have the qualifications and experience to be standing up in front of thousands and saying anything.

But not only is Peter suddenly a great public speaker, he also becomes a wise church leader. He answers questions about salvation and prophecy and helps oversee a community of believers that grew by thousands each day.

Once Peter and John heal a crippled man at the temple gate, they are called before the religious leaders and questioned. Peter again reaches back into the prophetic texts known to these leaders and delivers a poignant message about Jesus’ salvation. And here’s my favorite part, found in Acts 4:13: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

These men who had been raised in deep religious traditions, far more educated than anyone else in that time, had just been taken to task by a pair of “unschooled, ordinary men.” Peter and John should have been cowering in fear at being called before these church leaders, not only in terms of their earthly authority but also their supposed spiritual authority. These two ordinary men possessed no qualifications in this situation.

Except one. They had been with Jesus.

I am so thankful that our qualifications don’t matter when it comes to Jesus using us. As I apply for jobs and try to figure whether I have a version of the 5-7 years of experience the company is looking for, or if my expertise in one field applies indirectly to the knowledge they want, it can be a painfully demeaning process. My humanity is wiped away and replaced with a matrix of years, classes, duties and honors. And the majority of the time if they don’t like the way I present these qualifications after a 10-second glance at the resume, they throw it out and move on.

We’ve all been through it. It’s a process of evaluation that makes sense on one level but eliminates so much potential for growth. It’s not interested in who you really are and how you can learn and contribute, unless that information can be summed up in neat bullet points with hard data of support. Of course, if your entire being can be summed up in neat bullet points you likely would not actually be a vibrant contributor to any workplace.

But God doesn’t narrow you down to your qualifications. Oftentimes God throws them out entirely, because when he calls you to do something beyond your means you have to rely on him to succeed. And that always ends up better than when you find a way to do it yourself.

Peter and John had been with Jesus, and that made all the difference. Suddenly their lack of education was meaningless; the Holy Spirit gave them the words to say when they stood in front of crowds of thousands. And this is only one of thousands of examples from the Bible where God calls people beyond their means. Instead of worrying about your qualifications, focus on being with Jesus. That’s the only qualification he requires.

One thought on “When qualifications distract from what’s really important

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