BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Saved from Meritocracy (Part 1)

Americans pride ourselves on our system of meritocracy. We believe that if you work hard, you can achieve anything. We affirm that we got where we are because of our own skills and dedication. We accept the implication that anyone who has not achieved such heights simply did not put in as much effort.

But much of what we love about meritocracy is fundamentally opposed to the grace of the Cross. There is none among us who can claim that we deserve what has been given to us, none who can say we have earned our reward. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" (Corinthians 4:7)

Indeed, Christ grants us freedom from meritocracy. We no longer have to earn our reward.  We can let go of our obsession with 'fairness' that simply does not exist in scripture. We are no longer slaves to the rat race of achievement. We can rest in the promise that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Every breath we draw in is a moment of grace. So too is every meal we eat, every paycheck we receive, every new idea we have. Each minute we live is every bit of an undeserved gift as is our ultimate eternal salvation. So why do we create an idol out of this 'meritocracy'? 

Certainly, it makes sense to offer rewards in order to motivate good behavior. But to think that we deserve this reinforcement belies our witness as sheep of His flock. We become self-reliant, even prideful in our own making. We determine that we have worked hard, and then demand our reward. This is not the model of the Cross.

Not only is meritocracy a false idol that divides us from the One who is truely responsible for our successes, but it's not even a reality-based system in the secular world. Continue to part 2...


  1. First got the idea for this series after reading Morgan Guyton's "Why I'm not offended by so-called 'socialism.'" Check it out:

  2. I read this and immediately thought "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
    All that I am, all that I have accomplished, all that I will accomplish, is only through God's Grace. I play by the world's (my job's) rules of meritocracy but know in my heart that I've already received the greatest reward. Knowing this helps me get through the hardest of days.
    I'm looking forward to part 2.

  3. Another great verse that holds such relevance for this topic. Thanks!

  4. Excellent piece, BTSF! I was discussing this with a colleague the other day. Our society judges everyone based on intellect, skills, abilities, looks (and of course possessions and status). Qualities like kindness, generosity, and sensitivity are being eliminated from the gene pool. It seems it is mainly the a-holes who make it to the top. There are too many of those in my field already. How are the meek going to inherit the earth if all of them get trodden into the dust?

    At least we can choose what we do ourselves... we can choose to reward people for being nice, and we can avoid becoming a-holes ourselves... I guess you might be addressing this in part 2!

  5. Ha! Interesting perspective. Do you think the qualities you mentioned (
    kindness, generosity, and sensitivity etc) are actually being eliminated from the gene pool, or just from the elite CEO class? The section pressures in the work place may be different from those in courtship. Inevitable though that status and finances will maintain influence regardless.

  6. I know this post was not meant to be political, but this reminds me a lot of the "You didn't build that on your own" comment by the President and the immediate backlash from conservatives. I wonder why the idea that all of us have had help reaching our goals in life is so violently opposed? You do touch on some of here....

  7. Great thoughts! I had this thought while reading: C.S. Lewis once said that we are made worthy by His sacrifice. My brain has continued this thought... that because He is the embodiment of all worth, and if all worth was willing to give up it's very self for all men, who were not worth anything, we have been made, once and all to be worthy of His sacrifice and His salvation. There is no longer a man who "deserves" less than salvation, because we are worthy of it. Whether we take up that salvation is obviously within our realm of will, but nevertheless, we are still worthy of salvation. There also is a converse truth to this, but I will let you see it for yourself. Again, great post!

  8. Good connection. Such individualism and self-reliance that is simply false, and does a disservice to the beautiful aspects of community. Also plays into collectivism vs individualism mindsets.

  9. Thanks @46a884fc4e059d470da97a22cf034825:disqus. Interesting way of thinking through these paradigms.


Creative Commons License
By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at @BTSFblog