Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wisdom vs ???

What comes to mind when I ask, "what is the opposite of wisdom?"  The first thing that came to my mind was foolishness. But I have had to back track and reconsider.  The first thing we need to do is define our terms.  Wisdom has different uses and different meanings in different parts of the Old Testament.  What we are most interested in is the wisdom discussed by Solomon and mentioned in Proverbs and Psalms.  This has been defined as -"the art of reaching one's end by the use of the right means" (Smend).  Godly wisdom would be "achieving the purposes of God in God's ways."  Foolishness can be defined as a "Void of understanding or sound judgment; weak in intellect; applied to general character."   

Frederick Herzberg was a psychologist who did a lot of work on motivation.  He developed research on what motivates us and what can demotivate us.  What he discovered was that what motivates us does not necessarily demotivate us in its absence and visa-versa.  For instance (see chart) having a sense of achievement can be very motivating, but not having a great sense of achievement is not necessarily demotivating to the same degree.  Which brings us back to wisdom.  The absence of wisdom is not necessarily foolishness.  In fact I would argue that the vacuum left by a lack of wisdom leads to rules and regulations (see previous post).  If we cannot count on people doing the right thing then we need to put into place rules to ensure they will do the right thing.  The problem, of course, is that we will never be able to put enough rules into place to ensure the right thing is done.  When rules replace wisdom the absurd replaces the obvious (see Barry Schwartz).  Decisions are no longer guided by common sense and wisdom but by fear of the consequences for not keeping the rules.

Christian ministries need to be guided by wisdom not an abundance of rules and regulations.  If we have staff who are not wise and do not understand the difference between wisdom (focusing on God's interests) and poor judgement (self-interest) then we need to do some major training or find new staff.  Godly living and holiness can never be the by-produce of rule keeping.  This was proven over and over by the experience of Israel through the ages.  Jesus came not to set up right conduct by an abundance of rules, but to change hearts so that the natural choice would be to live wisely in order to glorify God with all that we say and do. Christian organizations need to focus on developing wisdom in their staff to guide Godly decisions. Rules are designed to provide standard responses to situations and is a sure way to kill creativity and initiative. I still like the Nordstrom's rules for their organization:  
Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. No other rules!
I think will rewrite the ICM rules:

Rule #1: Use Godly wisdom in all situations.  There are no need for any other rules!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rules Rule!

The origin of the word bureaucracy is interesting.  It is a French word that means "rule by desk."  According to some sources the word came into being when a German business man complained to his French partner the frustration he was experiencing in shipping products to France.  The response was simple:  we have a government that rules from their desks through rules."  We are constantly seeing this in the world around us, including our ministries.  If something bad happens our rule makers spring into action to make a new rule. Rules have a purpose as Scott Simon points out:
"Scott Simon,  NPR said, “Rules and procedures may be dumb, but they spare you from thinking. "

The counter point to rules is the virtue of wisdom.  Practical wisdom is the combination of moral will and moral skill (Aristotle), according to Barry Schwartz.  Rather than being rule makers theological institutions need to be wisdom developers.  This is not lost on businesses that have huge employee handbooks that cover everything they can think of to cover...themselves against unhappy employees suing them.  Of course developing wisdom, as with all virtues, takes a lot more time and energy...and has a lot more long term value.  Any country that bases its well being on rules will end up ruled by autocrats, bureaucrats and eventually dictators.  We do not want nonthinking people who follow the rules, we want spiritual mature people able to listen to their God and carry out their tasks with passion and compassion.  

Take a few minutes to listen to Barry Schwartz at a Ted Talk:  Recorded

Or read his comments at: Transcribed talk

My friend, Greg, pointed out (more than once) the value of simplicity when he shared with me Nordstrom's Employee Handbook:

Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.