One of my favorite scenes from NBC’s The Office is in episode 220, Conflict Resolution, where cold cases from the HR file are dealt with in the open air. Just like in real-life office environments, the employees of at Dunder Mifflin filed complaints about each other. The accumulated records, which should’ve stayed in Toby’s folders, end up being dealt with one by one in a large group setting. How dangerous. How hillarious.
Complaint is based on disappointment or frustration with another person not measuring up to their expected character potential. Social norms have been violated, and justice must be done. Instead of actively pursuing resolution with the other party, the cast of the Office passively filed complaints. Again… how dangerous and how hilarious.
In a roundabout way the book of Proverbs 22 (from this week’s lectionary) refers to this:
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
Our character — who we are, how we carry ourselves, how we treat others, how we live — is of utmost importance. We talk about ethics in our organizations, but these lessons are often motivated only by keeping our job. Our culture (here in the west) is more concerned with material wealth than character, though those tides are turning with the emerging generation, who seem to be more attuned to doing something they’re passionate about rather than whatever seems like a safe career path.
The best thing to pursue as a follower of Jesus is character, not cash. To be esteemed (viewed as a person of integrity and generos relational capital) is better than silver or gold (cash money).
There are plenty of ways to make extra money, and that’s fine IF your aim is proper stewardship. The ultimate goal, however, is character, not riches. Jesus was a person of character. His Name is the Name that saves! Because I carry that Name, I want my name to be one of esteem, not for my glory but for His. “Success” has a totally different meaning in the Kingdom of God, having less to do with making money and more to do with how we use that money to help others in need (see Proverbs 22:9, 22:22).
I’m not so ignorant as to think that everyone likes me. Chances are good that someone somewhere uses the name R. Adam Davidson as a swear word. But this Proverb reminds us that how we treat others — especially the disenfranchised — counts toward the development our character. Why do I want to have a good name? Because I carry the Name of Jesus, and I want to be like Him. A good name is more desireable than any material wealth we could amass for ourselves in this life.
Judas Iscariot, in a moment of evil intent, sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas Iscariot, in a moment of remorse, threw the money back at the people who paid him. He made an exchange and got exactly what he asked for. Not many parents name their children Judas. Coincidence? I think not.
Lord, help us to chase character, not cash. Help us care about our reputation because of your reputation. Help us resist the temptation to make ourselves secure, especially at the expense of others — and ESPECIALLY at the expense of our own character.