We continued our study of the way God desires our faith to interact and affect our chosen profession. For this we are using Timothy Keller’s book Every Good Endeavor (2012). Tonight’s session covered how work can lead us toward selfishness and can uncover our idols.
We began by discussing the underlying root reasons that as physicians we work so hard. An example of people working hard for the wrong reason can be found in Gen 4:1-4 which is the story of the building of the Tower of Babel. The text clearly says these people wanted to make a name for themselves and to bind them together so they would not be scattered. These two motives speak to their desire for self worth and identity as well as power and influence over others. This is not unlike what drives many of us today. We discussed how this is true to some extent in our lives.
Another great example of how power and self interest can try and lure us from doing the right thing is found in the story of Esther. If you are not familiar with this story I urge you to spend the 10-15 minutes to read through the book of Esther. Esther was living the good life as the Queen of Babylon (the king did not know she was a Jew). When an edict is about to be decreed that would have put to death all of the Jews, Esther’s uncle Mordecai comes to her to beg her to intervene for her people with the king. Esther realizes that if her request is not acted upon favorably she will also meet her death. Her uncle convinces her that “who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” After much prayer and fasting Esther risks everything and makes the request of the king and he grants what she desires.
We then spent much time discussing how we are in a similar position as Esther. We agreed that we have each been enormously blessed to be physicians and been given great opportunity, knowledge and wealth. We are very much like Esther, in the palace. In what ways do we need to use our influence on others? We discussed instances in which we were asked to do something that could seriously cost you in some way. We came to realize, as Tim Keller says, unless you use your clout/position in service to people outside the palace, the palace will be your prison.
We then switched gears a bit and talked about how work can become harmful if it becomes an idol for us. We discussed that an idol can be a physical or mental thing and is often a very good thing but we turn it into our idol when we make it our ultimate thing. Ex20:3 lists not having idols as the first commandment. Martin Luther says it is the first commandment because you have to break it before you break any of the other nine. We talked about how that was true. We then discussed instances in which we can see working as a doctor can get in the way of everything else and rob us of our true calling to place God first in our lives.
Keller makes the point that there can be corporate or cultural idols that impregnate our society and we can easily get indoctrinated into thinking that these ideas or values will supposedly give life meaning and which, if ignored, can get you ostracized. Medicine as a whole also has some of these potential idols and we discussed what they are and how to respond to them.