You’re a Tart!

burgerYou are what you eat.

Well, that was how the advertisement campaign went.  Their point was clear, if you eat healthy you’ll be healthy.  If you eat fat, guess what, you’ll be fat.  It stands to reason that if you eat tart, you are a tart:)  (I am a dad now, you know).

A little closer to reality is the idea that you are what you do.  That is, your value is inextricably bound to the role that you carry out in society.  If you are a doctor then you get treated like a doctor.  If you are a plumber then you get treated like a tradie.  If you are a cleaner then you get the cleaning treatment.

And so we’ve had this somewhat generous revolution in the past 20 years that has seen the role of mothering move from being considered as ‘just’ mothering to the full-time job of mothering.  And rightly so, I might add.

old teachers3The opposite has been cast on nurses, teachers and the police.  These once respected roles are now mud.  Ok, some will pipe up here and tell me that they are needed and are a vital part of society’s proper functioning, but that is not my point.  The kudos associated with such roles has depleted considerably over the past 20 years.

I understand this well.

I am a teacher and my wife is a doctor.  The stark reaction in the past when we were quizzed as to out occupations was deafening.  If I was the first to say (my preference), then people would respond with, ‘Oh, that’s great.  Do you enjoy it?  I could never do that.’  Then Katie would say that she is a doctor and she would be met with, ‘Oh, wow, etc, etc.’.  If Katie was to respond first, she would get the same reaction.  Then came the let down, ‘I’m a teacher.’  It was weird to say the least.

Here we are being defined by what we do.

I wonder if this attitude has crept in the church too?

Paul would turn in his grave and Jesus would shuffle on his throne to hear that such value was being derived from what one does, the role one plays, or the badge one wears.

Paul writes in Colossians 1:2,

To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ

One’s identity here is not determined by their capacity to do this or that.  They are defined by whom they indwell, that is, Christ.  By their own merit they are not holy or faithful, but because they are in Christ they are holy and faithful.

JesusIn Christ they are holy and faithful.  We have to get a grip of ‘in christ-ness’.

When reflecting upon my last post (here) and the subsequent discussion that occurred around the traps, I could not help but think that much of the reaction was due (at least in part) to connecting the role and person.

In other words, if role is synonymous with person then any kind of priority that is given to a particular role (by God?) necessarily depreciates those without it.  But this should not be the case.

I admit that doctors are more important than teachers – they are!  Keeping someone alive is much more important than anything that I can teach someone.  However, if Katie and I were to attach our respective roles to our persons then she would be more important than me.  But we all know that this is not the case, though not because I am more important than her.  Nor am I equal to Katie by some measure based on our roles.

In God’s economy, there may well be roles that are more valued than others, after all there are some gifts that should be desired because they are greater.  The possession of these roles (or not) has no bearing upon one’s value as a person (before God and therefore other believers) in the positive or negative.

If our identity is bound by our roles there is cause for hierarchy, but this is not the divine economy.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

graphThere you have it again – in Christ Jesus – the great equaliser!

Instead of trying to find or create personal value in the roles that we (or others) are engaged with, and  even given by God, perhaps we should be focussing our attention on finding value in whom we dwell.

I think this ontological orientation might just free the church to engage with God’s economy even if it places greater emphasis or value on certain giftings or roles in the church.

3 comments on “You’re a Tart!

  1. Darren says:

    This is off your point a bit… But if keeping people alive is a key “measurement” of a role’s importance, then the humble “garbologist” is more important than the doctor. Garbage collection, sewerage, dog-catchers, street-sweepers, and all the other hygienic services … these are why we live longer as a whole society. (Thanks Tim Thorburn for that observation).

  2. Deb K says:

    Thanks for the thoughts, Dan. ‘You are what you do’ is certainly rife in our culture. There’s quite a lot of polemic material out there for Christian mothers, to resist some feminist values that would have us begrudge the mundane and ‘small’ things, but really I think all Christians need to be frequently exhorted to not measure themselves by the world’s values, no matter the worldly status of their ‘vocation’.

    So, do Theol colleges run classes on ‘dying to self’?! Though theoretically I guess studying the Trinity, if done properly, should have the necessary impact.

    Tim Keller’s preaching series on the fruit of the spirit has some fab stuff relating to these issues, especially the one on ‘humility’, that slipperyest of virtues… as soon as you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it! I’ve recently bought his book ‘The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness’ but haven’t had a chance to read it yet – I imagine it covers (and elaborates on) the same sort of content.


  3. Deb K says:

    Actually it’s just occured to me that the ‘polemic material’ that I referred to re motherhood actually does not go far enough in terms of challenging the idea that your worth comes from what you do, because all it is saying is, “The world doesn’t think what you do is valuable but according to what God values it is extremely important.” So… that’s still ‘weighing’ the importance of what I do. I guess that may not necessarily be intended for me to then measure my worth by what I do, but it doesn’t explicitly charge me not to.

    An analogy: Because my daughters are really beautiful to look at, I frequently tell them how gorgeous they are. I have wondered before what I would do if I had a child who was physically unattractive, perhaps with a facial deformity or disabilities that meant they didn’t even come close to our culture’s idea of physical beauty. It’s confronting to wonder whether I would still so readily and compulsively tell them they were pretty/gorgeous/beautiful/handsome… and if it didn’t come easily, would I say it anyway, and would that be right/honest. When I’ve gone down that track in my mind I find myself wanting to pare back the ‘compliments’ with the gorgeous children that I do have and instead be more intentional about affirming other aspects of their person, particularly any hints of kindness, gentleness etc – the fruit of the Spirit I suppose! And just the fact that they are made by God and are precious to Him and us. Because when I think about what I want to communicate to my kids about their worth, it doesn’t really seem satisfactory to go with “you are all equally beautiful”, because that doesn’t challenge the idea that physical beauty is what matters. And the fact of the matter is, some people are not physically beautiful – but they are still just as valuable! So if I really want my kids to believe that, I need to communicate it.

    So to take that back to vocation/roles etc… I think this is what you’re arguing, and if so I agree: Saying “delivering junk mail for a job is just as important as engineering” seems well-intentioned but is actually (a) untrue, and (b) unhelpful – because what we should be saying is “some jobs really might be more or less important/valuable than others, but that makes no difference to your value as a person”. ?

    To go back to the Trinity though, and the differing roles therein, I don’t think that ‘more or less important roles’ thing would actually apply to the persons of the Godhead, would it?

    Eh… bedtime.

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