This week’s sermon passage: James 4: 13-17.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Outliers” makes a convincing case that no talent will rise to the top without a long, arduous effort. He estimates that about 10,000 hours is the effort necessary to separate the excellent away from the also-ran. The idea of a child prodigy who can, for example, play the piano without the grueling hours of solitary practice, is really just an urban legend.
Nevertheless, Gladwell also points out that there is a whole series of extraneous influences that are outside the worker’s control which also contribute to what we call success. To that degree not everyone has a promise of success based upon dedication alone. Prevailing influences like economic cycles, dates of birth and geographical upbringing can all contribute to success beyond the “bootstrap” effort.
Rationalists and people of faith alike fall prey to the thinking that we are blessed because of some special giftedness that makes us worthy. God knows, there are plenty of television preachers who will tell you that you deserve more than you are getting and that God is anxious to bless your life with wealth and favor.
James, on the other hand, says a true believer is someone who humbly receives the gifts that God gives and avoids the arrogance of presumption, boasting and the sins of omission. We, because we are lovers, respond with dedication but we do not take favor for granted. Neither do we place the burden of our own judgment upon others. That is for God to work out.