Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let another praise you and not your own mouth, a stranger, and not your own lips--job hunting

Sometimes I wonder if in ancient Isrelite culture people had anything equivalent to resumes. Resumes are supposed to be great big, grand, brief, but honest advertisments for why YOU ... SHOULD HAVE THIS JOB. I so wish I was thinking about this topic for abstract reasons!

Ancient Jewish culture just doesn't come off like the kind of place where anyone wrote resumes saying, "This is why I am qualified for this job." Or is that supposition possibly mistaken? Is it possible there were ways of getting the word out you were actually good at something? There had to have been because David was quickly reocgnized is a capable young men. Paul, after the resurrection of Christ, could say to one of the churches, "You are our letter [of recommendation]". Clearly in ancient societies there were ways of having one's renown established.

If a person were particularly skilled they would rise to particular prominence. There is, after all, another proverb that says: Do you see a man skilled in his labor? He will serve before kings. He will not serve obscure men. So we know that people who are truly distinguished in their work rise to be distinguished in who they serve.

This is the part where I can't help thinking about Paul's admonition to assess yourself with sober judgment. The job I had until recently was a job I liked, mostly, but a job that I admit could sometimes have been more intellectually challenging and had me more active. God willing, I hope to have a more intellectually stimulating and active job when next I am able to work.

Now I wonder about the tension between the literal reading of the proverb and the principle that may be applied in one's job search in America these days. I've got nothing. I have no particular wisdom about this stuff. It sometimes seems as though Christians in America may say that the proverb applies to a culture that doesn't fit our time, much as evangelical Christians have said C. S. Lewis reflected his ignorance of the goods of capitalism when he pointed out that biblical Jewish laws about lending money at interest either forbid the practice outright (Deuteronomy) or place important restrictions on it (Exodus, Leviticus).

If we take the Torah as a narrative whole it becomes apparent that restrictions on lending at interest progressively become complete prohibition against lending at interest within the people of God (which got no mention by Driscoll during his unfortunately miserable Nehemiah series, where he said that lending money at interest was necessarily against the laws of those times, even though for a group attempting to return to Torah practice after coming back from exile Nehemiah could reasonably have been expected to freak out once he realized he and other prominent leaders among Israel were breaking the law of Moses by lending money at interest to their own people). In other words, popular pastors can sometimes find ways to skate over teachings in Scripture that indict someone in Scripture he implicitly cast himself as. Nehemiah's response was serious and took the relevant biblical texts seriously by his own account, which is at least what we can say about the author of that book in the scriptures.

My impression is that Christians today would say that a resume should be a good sales pitch for yourself, honest, but still a sales pitch.

I have plenty of time to wonder how this proverb about not praising yourself and letting another do it applies in job hunting. I suppose the most obvious application about be professional references. People want to be sold on your qualifications but they also want to know you're not making things up.

I have to admit that because of the kind of Christian I am I have NO IDEA how any Christian can take Proverbs 27:2 seriously and then go into marketing!

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