Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.
At the risk of sounding like the (now several years-old) meme of “old man shakes fist at sky”, a recent trip through the books section in my local Target while waiting on a prescription caused me to snap this photo.
After thumbing through a couple of the above-pictured books and recalling the viral moment featuring the title on the left during the speakership fight in January of 2023, I wanted to put thoughts to paper on how we as leaders and believers ought to conduct ourselves in our work.
In a culture seemingly rife with poor-quality workmanship in business consulting, manufactured obsolescence in technology, and absenteeism/laziness in the halls of Congress, the conclusion many folks (myself included at times) fall into is eerily similar to the titles of these books. Instead, I would like to offer a counter-cultural idea of diligent, plodding work toward the goal of caring for others.
As Virginia is rapidly approaching the halfway point of the legislative session, with constant phone calls, committee meetings, votes, and constituent visits building to a fever pitch, I know many of us who work in politics professionally or as volunteers are getting tired. Soon the legislative session will be over, followed by conventions, primaries, and then beginning the legislative cycle all over again in time for a presidential election. This work, as you certainly know, is incredibly important.
Entrusted by the people, and by God (Daniel 2:21), with the duty of governing we can scarcely afford a lackadaisical approach to the tasks set out before us. The work set out before is not easy. Reforming, writing, and enforcing the laws that our society runs off of is critical and sensitive work, requiring our best efforts daily. I propose that instead of tucking tail or mailing it in, we should care even more.
In the book of Proverbs, the author (likely King Solomon, but potentially someone else in the wisdom movement) writes “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men”(Prov 22:9 ESV). In this verse, you see a proverb of undeniable truth: quality of work is noticed. The “Man skillful in his work” is our model in this verse, someone who is diligent and accurate in his work. Instead of falling into the trap of believing that nobody cares, and nobody is watching, the skillful man continues working to produce his best work. Because of this, he is said to “stand before kings”, and exhibit the quality of his work in high places, being worthy of the task before him.
Conversely, it is said of the same man that “he will not stand before obscure men”, as they would be unworthy of such quality work. For example, if in the time that this proverb was written (somewhere between 1000 B.C. if written by Solomon, or as late as 400 B.C. if not completed until the second temple era) what use would a random villager in eastern Israel have for an ornate throne to sit on? By completing quality work, the skillful man progressed to completing work for the most important and powerful of his time.
While today our governmental system has a notable absence of kings, queens, and established nobility, the principle of Proverbs 22:9 remains as true as it has for the past three millennia: your quality of work gets noticed. As we seek to be followers of Christ and leaders in our communities, this is a critical piece of wisdom we would be foolish to forget.
In all you do, no matter if you are collecting signatures for a ballot qualification, drafting a bill, voting on a measure at your city county meeting, or seeking party/public office, make sure your work is of high quality. Remember who we work on behalf of, and remember who you are working for. As political leaders, we work on behalf of the people to make their government work as best we can. Be diligent in that work, no matter your level in the party or government.
As Christians, we are sent as workers to the harvest of God. Our time here on earth is but a vapor, and we must act while we can. Ours is the privilege to complete work of immortal importance, and I implore you to care even more about what you do with the offices and times you are placed in for this end.
Lastly, I leave you with a verse from Paul, writing to the church at Corinth encouraging them to keep fighting against overwhelming cultural pressures: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Cor 9:26 ESV). The prize we seek is the ultimate glorification of God, through the salvation of his people on earth. Run hard, our time is short.
In glorious and eternal victory through Christ Jesus,
P.S. YRFV Lobby Day is happening February 15th, 2024 in Richmond, Virginia. If you are a YR interested in visiting the General Assembly, please sign up here. Also, if you would like to connect on any of my socials, you can find those here.
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