Can You Take Advancement?
WHO does not like to make progress? Who does not enjoy receiving recognition? Who does not appreciate being advanced in his place of work, or in the particular group or community of which he is a part? Not only is the idea of advancement appealing because of the prominence, honor or glory that go with it, but it is often associated with material gain, and this makes advancement all the more desirable.
But as a word of caution, do not be too eager for advancement. For with advancement almost invariably go added burdens. Often there are new things to be learned, together with more responsibility and more work. Not infrequently, advancement takes a toll on one’s health, or in one’s family life, or it seriously interferes with one’s worship of one’s Maker. Also bear in mind that the higher one is advanced the keener the competition and the greater the risk of one’s being replaced by a more ambitious or more capable worker. Well has it been said that “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
Should you receive recognition in the form of advancement of one kind or another, take care not to let it go to your head, so to speak, or you may well spoil things for yourself as well as for others. It may well be that others will be a little envious of you and if you are too pleased with your success and show it, you may cause relations between yourself and others to deteriorate. Remember, you will still need the cooperation of others if you are to succeed in your new position. A lofty, heady attitude on your part will make it difficult for others to swallow their pride, whereas a humble and modest mien will win the cooperation of others.
It will help if you do a little reasoning on the subject. If you have an advantage over others, you may well ask yourself to what extent this may not be as a result of genetic factors, that you happened to be born with a good brain and sound body. Then, too, you may have been fortunate to have been blessed with wise and loving parents and so had opportunities for education and acquiring good judgment that others may not have had. Nor is that all. May not your advancement have been on account of fortunate circumstances, what some call “luck”?
Actually, advancement should have a humbling effect upon a person. A man who apparently knew how to take advancement in his stride is the English poet Sir John Betjeman. Of his accomplishments, it is said: “His poetry is best described as simple and direct . . . His themes include childhood memories, middle-class families, love, death, sadness and, of course, nature.” Back in October 1972, he was designated poet laureate of Great Britain, the greatest honor that he as an English poet could receive. Asked as to his reaction to this honor, he stated: “My reaction to the appointment came in three stages. First surprise, then a feeling of being humbled, and then pleasure.” He went on to say: “It is a real honor, especially when I think of my predecessors like Tennyson and Wordsworth. But I don’t mean to say that my poetry approaches the merit of those two.”
This poet is said to be a self-effacing man, although England’s most popular poet; his books of poems having become best sellers. But, as he himself tells it, his success with his poems is largely a matter of fortunate circumstances, although he grants that he has “an ear for music, and people obviously like poems that rhyme and scan.”
Another lesson that might be learned from this poet’s appointment is not to be impatient for advancement. When he was appointed he was past the age when most men retire, being sixty-seven years old. He had much experience and so could take this honor with due modesty. A person lacking experience can easily become puffed up with pride if given advancement, to the detriment of himself and others. For this reason you can see why the apostle Paul counseled that a novice, a newly converted man, not be appointed as an overseer in the Christian congregation. Such an appointment might well lay him open to the snare of pride.—1 Tim. 3:6, 7.
When you receive advancement there is a danger that it might make you big-headed, so to speak, a fact that God took note of when giving instructions to his people Israel regarding their asking for a king. Concerning the one chosen to rule as king in Israel, it was commanded: “When he takes his seat on the throne of his kingdom, he must write in a book for himself a copy of this law . . . And it must continue with him, and he must read in it all the days of his life, in order that . . . his heart may not exalt itself above his brothers.” Now, you probably will never become a king, but the same principle applies in your case. If advanced, never think it is because you are so much better than those working or serving or worshiping alongside you.—Deut. 17:18-20.
There reigned a king in ancient Israel that well illustrated the right way for one to take advancement. This was Solomon, the son of King David. By his modesty and humility he showed that he could take promotion. Upon his becoming king, God appeared to him in a dream and said: “Request what I should give you.” What an offer that was! If it had been made to you, what would you have requested? Wealth, fame, long life? Solomon requested none of these things. What was uppermost in his mind was the big job of ruling his subjects properly. He knew only too well how lacking he was in experience and wisdom. So he replied: “You must give to your servant an obedient heart to judge your people, to discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this difficult people of yours?”—1 Ki. 3:5, 9.
This request of his so greatly pleased Jehovah God that he said to Solomon (by means of an angel, of course): “For the reason that you have requested this thing,” and not made some selfish request, “I shall certainly give you a wise and understanding heart.” And Solomon did indeed prove to be the wisest king that ever sat upon a human throne.—1 Ki. 3:11-28; 4:29-34.
In addition to pride, one more pitfall that you will have to watch if you receive advancement is the temptation to use your new office or position for selfish gain. Wisely Moses of old was counseled that in appointing judges he should choose “capable men, fearing God, trustworthy men, hating unjust profit.” (Ex. 18:21) How few today in high religious, political, judicial as well as commercial positions actually hate unjust profit!
Have you received advancement? Show that you can take it by remaining modest and humble, by not abusing your power and by not yielding to the temptation to acquire unjust gain. Reading God’s Word daily will help you to gain those noble ends.