Competing with Competence

"What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!"  Romans 7:24-25

Unchecked competence can be fatal.

For those that are competent in what they do, that competence is the default position when faced with any circumstance.  Truth be told, that is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself.   We need the competencies that we have to do what we do.  God gives us gifts, abilities, and resources to accomplish many things - and our desire to amp up our competency level in what we do is perfectly acceptable.  In fact, in many job or school environments, it is expected and/or required.  Fair enough.

The problem that emerges with this, however, is that we lose sight of our own weakness and need for God as we up the ante on our skill sets and competencies.  This is where the danger lurks for the believer - we take a big bite out of the same forbidden fruit as did our earliest forbears.  We buy what the serpent is selling - "You can do this without God" - you've got the skills, the abilities, the resources, the relational capital, the competence to do it.

Good thing for us, then, that we have a clear-headed, highly competent guy to show us the way through this.  If anyone would have been considered competent in the time of the Bible, I think that Paul would rank pretty high on the list.  He was a Class-1 Pharisee who studied under one of the great names in Pharisaism, Gamaliel.  He could maneuver intellectually with the philosophers of Greece, or debate the law with the scholars of Judaism.  He was multi-lingual, and even knew how to use his hands to build tents if necessary.  Certainly, Paul was a picture of competence.

But...................this was a guy that was relatively comfortable with his weakness.  He notes in the large part of Romans 7 how he ends up often doing what he wishes he wouldn't do, and can't seem to get done the good he wishes he could do.  He notes that he is living in a body of death - the idea being that he would never really "arrive" in this life because something was broken.  It was, in fact, not something that was broken, but someone.  Paul discovered that people don't have problems - they are the problem.  So, a guy this competent, this intelligent - what does he do when faced with the circumstances of life?

He falls face first in dependence on Jesus.  He notes that the only rescue from the incomplete body of death is in Jesus.  While this has huge implications for the bodily resurrection on which the Christian sets his/her hope (which, as an aside, IS the hope of the believer....."heaven" was not the great hope of the believers of antiquity - it was the bodily resurrection........with heaven being the location where that is realized and played out), I won't run that track right now.  For now, the reminder is simply this - don't fall back on your competence first......fall into Christ.  That is not an encouragement to short change your abilities or skills - simply, it is a reminder to us all that we are broken and no amount of skill or ability is going to fix it.......we must have Jesus.

Here's hoping that we never graduate from dependence on matter how talented you are.