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.


  1. The origin of bureaucracy was not known by many people including me,thanks for bring that to our knowledge.I found your article too much interesting.Love the way your explain things in your article.

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