There used to be a fairly common line from stand-up comics in sending up the stupid questions asked at job interviews. You will know the sort of thing, “if you were a Lego character, which would you be?” Personally, I’ve never experienced that sort of question, I suspect that they were only ever the preserve of some of the more arty corporates – ad agencies, media companies and the like.
One long standing reliable that I have been asked though is “what would you say is your greatest achievement?” It can be very revealing what someone prioritises as their ‘greatest’ achievement, although I suspect the answers given are often somewhat less than honest. I mean, even if you can play the guitar using only your teeth while spinning on your head, are you really going to tell that to the head of HR at a future employer?
In an achievement driven world where most of the top rated shows on TV are ‘talent’ shows of one kind or another, what we have achieved in life really does seem to matter to people. It has never really been any different. I’ve been reading Mary Beard’s book SPQR on the history of the Roman Empire and it is laughable to read of the lengths a mature Roman general would go to in order to be granted a ‘triumph’ through the streets of Rome.
At around about the same sort of period in history one of the most famous men in history was languishing in a prison cell in Rome and reviewed his CV. He had been born into one of the most religiously observant Jewish families, he could trace his family history back thousands of years, he had been educated by the foremost religious scholar of the time at Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish world and he had joined the most diligently observant Jewish sect, the Pharisees. So much so that he could claim that no-one could have faulted him in any respect on his pursuit of Jewish law, and there was a lot of it! For a Jewish scholar and religious zealot his CV was perfect. So why did he then say, “but those things that were considered assets to me I have regarded them as losses”? Indeed, he goes on to say, “I consider them as rubbish to be thrown out.” Why such a change? He used to value them very highly indeed. The prisoner in question was Saul of Tarsus, better known to the religious world as Saint Paul, the author of much of the New Testament. He tells us exactly what changed, he got to know Christ. Or as he puts it, he exchanged it for “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Sometimes we too can put great faith in our upbringing – “I was christened as a child”; we can rely on our education and intellect – “I place my reliance on scientific fact”; we can trust that our good works will give us a favourable hearing at the pearly gates. The reality of all of these things, however, is that they bring us not one step closer to God. The Bible says that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” in the sight of God. No, the only thing that has any value before Him is to get a proper appreciation of His Son and of what He has done for us. “Whoever believes on the Son has everlasting life, whoever does not believe, the wrath of God remains upon him.”