Are You Building a Resume or Writing a Eulogy?

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Are You Building a Resume or Writing a Eulogy?



In 1976, America celebrated our Bicentennial.  That year, Jimmy Carter was elected president.  Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl, Boston won the NBA title, and the Yankees won the World Series.  The Winter Olympics were held in Austria.  And on April 11, Steve Jobs built the first Apple-1 computer in his parents' garage.  It was the first pre-assembled personal computer ever sold.  Next month it will be sold again, this time at a New York City auction for $400,000 to $600,000.


We seldom know today what will matter most tomorrow.  Yesterday, Americans voted in elections for 435 members of the House of Representatives, 36 members of the Senate, and 36 governors.  What matters today is not so much who won as what they will do now that they have won. 


David Brooks is my favorite New York Times columnist.  He recently gave a talk that began: "I've been thinking about the difference between the resume virtues and the eulogy virtues.  The resume virtues are the ones you put on your resume, which are the skills you bring to the marketplace.  The eulogy virtues are the ones that get mentioned in the eulogy, which are deeper: who are you, in your depth, what is the nature of your relationships, are you bold, loving, dependable, consisten[t]?  And most of us, including me, would say that the eulogy virtues are the more important of the virtues.  But at least in my case, are they the ones that I think about the most?  And the answer is no."


Initially I agreed with Brooks that eulogy virtues are most important.  But upon reflection, I'm not so sure the distinction is valid.  Clearly character matters, today and eternally.  But eulogy character is built by resume actions.  When Paul was planting churches and writing half of the New Testament, was he building a resume or writing a eulogy?  The answer is yes.  Every act of obedience today bears significance forever.


In 1 Kings 17, the word given by God through his prophet defied a king and caused a national drought for three years (v. 1).  God's word gave a widow flour and oil until the drought ended (vs. 14-16).  When Jesus told a crowd that a girl who had died was "sleeping," the Bible says that "they laughed at him" (Matthew 9:24).  But at his touch, she was raised to life (v. 25).  When we speak and heed the word of God no matter what others think, something powerful happens.


Oswald Chambers notes that when a believer obeys God's word, "that second the supernatural rush of the life of God invades him instantly.  The dominating power of the world, the flesh and the devil is paralyzed, not by your act, but because your act has linked you on to God and his redemptive power."


I'm praying today for our newly elected leaders to seek and obey God's word for their lives and responsibilities (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  And I'm praying that I will do the same.  As we build our resume, we write our eulogy—both to the glory of God.



Publication date: November 5, 2014


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