Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 May 2017

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10, verse 24

I’m a project manager.  I manage a team of people working on a project to remove Social Security numbers from older peoples’ Medicare ID cards.  Because I work remotely, I’ve never physically met most of the people on my team (though I do know some from previous jobs).  It’s tough to get to know people you don’t see face to face, and that makes. even more sense because I’m the new kid on the block.  On a work team, you’re drawn together by the commonality of your tasks and the fact that you’re employed for the same reason by the same people.  Yet in a virtual work environment, you never see your co-workers or team members in person.  Unless you know your co-workers from previous interaction, you don’t have common ground.   That makes motivating a team difficult.

So Hebrews 10, verse 24 is perhaps some of the best project management advice ever written, especially for virtual teams.

“Let us consider” is a call to friendly action.   Notice that it doesn’t say “do this” or “you will.”   It isn’t directive in nature and yet it places the reader in a position as if they had been directed.   “Let us consider” are three words that are swung as a velvet hammer.   They don’t force you to do anything yet place the burden of inaction squarely on you and you alone.   They ask you to do something without commanding you to do something.   They appeal to your reason and your sense of belonging.  That shouldn’t be surprising because that’s usually how Jesus operates.

“Spur” (according to means “anything that goads, impels, or urges, as to action, speed, or achievement.”  The King James version of Hebrews uses the word “provoke” but no matter what version is used to translate the word, the intention is clearly to convince others to move.   A manager spends most of his time doing just this.   A good manager will do it in such a way as to inspire you to act on your own to do your part in a larger mission.   As managers, we spend most of our time spurring people forward to support the tasks we oversee.   As followers of Jesus, we should be spending most of our time doing the same thing, and the task with which we’re charged is sharing the Gospel.

And we are to spur one another TOWARD love and good deeds.   Sure, we are to comport ourselves in love and righteousness.   Jesus gave us both of those things and we’re to use them in living our lives.   Yet when we manage and lead others, we are to inspire them in the direction of love and good deeds.   We aren’t supposed to do other peoples’ love and good deeds for them.  Helicopter parents beware:   you aren’t responsible for living your kids’ lives.   Your job is to inspire them by parenting them, teaching them, preparing them.

Helicopter managers beware as well:   you’re responsible for the efforts of your team, but it isn’t your job to do their work for them.   It’s your job to spur them toward doing it.   It’s our job to serve a greater good by helping those around us serve it as well.  May I suggest that, whether you have Jesus followers on your team or not, some practical advice on why, even how, to do that is found first and foremost in the Bible (and not in the PM Body of Knowledge?)?

Best of all, we get to do these things while relying on the foundation of faith in Jesus’ true good news.   Love and good deeds are both the reason and the by-product of living in Jesus’ presence where love and good deeds become standard operating procedure.  In working with them we find it’s the journey and not the destination that matters most.

I don’t know whether my team-members are believers or not.   In today’s super-sensitive work climate, it’s almost taboo to discuss matters of faith.   Yet whether they’re believers or not, more often than not I find myself asking “what should I do” of my Savior when I have even the slightest question about work.   I’m learning to entreat Him into my routines, involving my faith more and more as a practical tool for managing my work team.   There is no downside to that.

For further reading:  Titus 2:14.

Lord, be involved in my work.   Lead me and teach me so I may lead and inspire others.

Daily Proverbial, from Ruth, 5 February 2014

 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.  Ruth 1, verses 3 through 5.

The Lord’s ancestors moved to a new land where the inhabitants didn’t love them, and then several of them died.  What kind of cruel god allows that to happen?   Answer:  our God.   He tolerates terrible things to occur in our lives that we might draw closer to Him, lean on Him, love Him, and grow in Him.  Does not this same tragedy play itself out in our lives as well?  Good people die every day and our media fawns, instead, about twerking celebrities, the latest political scandal, and how badly global warming isn’t happening.   Don’t you think that, if there were mass media in Ruth’s time, the same thing would have happened?  I do.

I know a young man, not even forty, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease:  a death sentence.  I’m sure you’ve heard about young mothers whose husbands never came home from war; you may even know someone.  In Africa, today, thousands of young men will die of disease, starvation, and war, leaving behind young widows.  In all of this, God stands by, watching it happen, yet providing comfort to us in the face of a world of murderous sin.  We don’t have to put up with sin, but we do.   We allow it.   Through it, we can grow in God.

So it was with Naomi as well.   Through no fault of her own, her husband died.   We don’t know how old she was when this happened, simply that she was a mother.   At some later time, her sons grew up and married foreigners.   Perhaps this caused grief for Naomi; perhaps it would for you or I because it means a difference in cultures.   Perhaps it didn’t; it’s another thing we don’t know. 

What we do know is that, in days of old, sons provided for their widowed mothers.   There was no Social Security survivor benefit, no Salvation Army.  Naomi couldn’t rely on extended family, or the members of her congregation, or even on an Israelite patriarch.  All she had were her sons, who started families of their own, and this must have been a feeling of security for Naomi…until, that is, her sons both died.   Now, without means of support and with new widows of her own, Naomi was left with few good choices on her hands.   The men who would provide for her were dead and gone, and Naomi found herself, even more, as a stranger in a strange and unfriendly land.

She had no idea she was never alone, that the Lord would soon provide for her, starting in the most unlikely person.

Jesus, thank You for my family.   Thank You for providing people to love me.

Once again, read Ruth 1, verses 1 through 5.


Who provides for you?

Who do you provide for?

Have you ever lost a spouse or a child?