Paul’s Terrible but Wonderful Resume Advice

As graduation approaches, I’m dusting off my resume, giving it some much-needed updates, and wrestling with the age-old questions of how to best present myself on paper.

Yet as I have been studying 2 Corinthians, I have determined one thing: Paul would give some terrible resume advice. 

You see, some well credentialed “super apostles” had come to the Corinthian church. These guys probably had big-name references and impressive resumes touting their spiritual gifts. Their credentials caused some Corinthians to doubt Paul.

So Paul defended himself — in a really unconventional way.

First, while the super-apostles had impressive letters of recommendation, Paul had none. Zero. Nada. Instead, the Corinthian believers were his living, breathing letter of recommendation — because the Spirit had dramatically changed their lives:

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)

Second, while the super-apostles flaunted their spiritual competency (particularly their impressive spiritual gifts), he had none of that either. Instead, he reminded them that any of his admirable spiritual abilities came from God:

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5)

Later, Paul went even further. The super apostles promoted themselves by comparing themselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12). You know, the typical “this guy has a 3.8 GPA, but I have a 4.0″ spiel. Yet Paul refused to boast in his own talents, pointing again to their changed lives and to the Lord’s approval of His work (2 Corinthians 10:13, 18).

Amazingly, the only thing he did boast about were “the things that show[ed] [his] weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30).

Yeah, Paul would give us some really terrible resume advice. Forget your academic accomplishments or job experience. Talk about the way you only got three hits in two years of little league. Or how you forgot your lines in the big play. Or how you decided to discuss toilets at a high-brow scholarship luncheon. (Guilty as charged on each count.)

Good luck even getting employed at your local Seven Eleven.

Because this is not at all how the world works. When we write resumes, we’re supposed to list every possible award or accomplishment; craft every word for maximum impact; twist each menial job function to sound as important as possible — all so others can see how awesome we are. We seek important, respected references with fancy titles like “Director,” “Professor,” and “Executive” before their names — all so others can see how awesome we are. In interviews, we twist our negatives (fear of confrontation) into positives (love of peace-keeping) — all so others can see how awesome we are. And even when we get that coveted job, pat ourselves on the back, shout our accomplishments, and promote ourselves to get a promotion — all so others can see how awesome we are.  

And we become just like the super apostles. 

But God flips the world’s expectations on their head. Paul reminds us that God cares little about our capability — our connections, skills, awards, or education. Instead, He is far more concerned with our availability — that we recognize our great need for and trust Him.

He is not looking for someone who has it all together, but someone who is willing to be used.

As I am working on my resume and face the job search, Paul’s words are a necessary kick in the pants. I don’t have to have it all together (because I don’t). I don’t have to boast about my accomplishments (because they are God’s). I can’t point to any innate spiritual competency (because I don’t have any). I don’t have to puff myself up (because there is nothing worth puffing). I need only point myself and others to God. Anything good I have done or will do will be because of Him.

So, yes, Paul would probably give me some terrible resume advice. But in a way, that terrible advice is probably the most wonderful of all — for it reminds me that ultimately, it’s not about me. It’s about Him.

(Author’s Note:This reflection is the overflow of a lesson I wrote for Treasuring Christ Curriculum. Learn more>>

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