When uttered contemptuously, there are few more hurtful things to be said than that. It cuts to the core of one’s identity. And that, actually, is the problem.
The truth is, I desire deeply to be useful. I learned from a very young age an important lesson: production gets rewarded.
That lesson was first taught like this: “Clean your room, and you will get a star sticker on the chore chart that is on the refrigerator.”
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Later, the lesson was reinforced. A good report card meant praises from parents. A’s in high school translated to a college scholarship.
We were quizzed throughout our childhood, “What do you want to be when you are an adult? A teacher? A doctor? An engineer?”
Then, after college, there was another kind of review other than exams: job performance reviews. And again, the lesson was repeated. Productivity gets rewarded with praise from supervisors to salary raises and promotions.
Being useful pays off.
The only problem is, if we form our identity around our usefulness and productivity, we are setting ourselves up for ultimate disappointment. Because sooner or later, skills diminish. Minds diminish. And there will always be someone else who is outperforming everyone else.
What do you want to have as the foundation of your identity?
The truth is, God did not create you fundamentally so that you could be useful and productive.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe God gives us gifts and talents and passions, and when we exercise them, we can be highly productive, and that is a good thing. In fact, Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship, created in Jesus Christ for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
But, my ability to do good works is not the foundation of my identity. God did not create human beings because he needed a labor force. He created us fundamentally so he could love us. The foundation of my identity and your identity is someone who is deeply loved by God, regardless of how useful we are.
I’m all for clean rooms and good grades and scholarships, for working hard, and for pay raises merited by being a valued employee. But ultimately, who I want to be is a child of God, deeply loved by my Father in heaven. Be refreshed by his love.
Rev. Greg Brady, pastor
First Congregational Church, Highland