Is Winning Next to Godliness?
For one stage on the journey to find God, the Almighty approves of accomplishment. The Protestant work ethic sealed his approval into dogma. Those who work the hardest will get the greatest reward. But did this belief actually derive from spiritual insight, or did people find themselves in a world where work needed to be done and added God’s stamp of approval afterward?
If we take the Bible as our authority, there is ample evidence to support the notion that God approves of work, competition and winning. None of the kings of Israel is punished for going to war. In fact, most of the Old Testament victories require miracles or God’s blessing to be achieved.
On the other hand, Jesus is adamantly opposed to war, and in general to work. The Sermon on the Mount is in favor of letting God handle all earthly needs.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where it grows rusty and moth-eaten, and thieves break in to steal it. Store up treasure in heaven instead … “
This sort of talk was disturbing. In the first place, it undercut the power of the rich.
Even if you ignore the letter of what is being said—society has found countless ways to serve God and money at the same time—Jesus doesn’t equate power with achievement, work, planning, saving, or accumulation. All are necessary in order to build wealth, wage war, or divide the strong from the weak. These were the very goals Jesus did not want to further; therefore his rejection of power makes perfect sense. He wanted the human wolves to lie down with the lambs.
Adapted from How to Know God by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2007).