TorahBytes - Back to home pageHayyei Sarah
For the week of October 26, 2013 / 22 Heshvan 5774
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 23:1 - 25:18
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 1:1-31

The Folly of Self-Promotion

Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, "I will be king." And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. (1 Melachim / 1 Kings 1:5; ESV)

Some time ago, I read a comment by a Canadian columnist, Barbara Kay, in which she bemoans self-promotion as a generational thing ( Today self-promotion is the norm: look at me; look what I have done; like me; hire me; marry me! Years ago in job interviews, when prompted, "Tell me about yourself," the response would include such things as where we were born, the makeup of our family, what we studied in school, and perhaps move on to our interests, but not necessarily our accomplishments. Now it's "I was voted the most likely to succeed, so it's no surprise that that my lemonade stand produced the highest return on investment in our neighborhood, since the 1950s."

When I stepped out to pursue Bible teaching more actively almost two years ago, I was uncomfortable with promoting myself. I still am. But it's expected today. I was asked the other day, how my social networking is. Today's online world is like "working the room" at a cocktail party. We won't get noticed if we don't promote ourselves. "Network, network, network," they say. More books than one can count have been written to show us how to leverage relationships for success. But I think there is a fundamental fallacy with such tactics about how life works.

In this week's Haftarah (weekly reading from the Prophets), David is nearing the end of his life. One of David's sons took advantage of this and promoted himself as king and did what he could to make this happen. It didn't work. David under God's guidance had already determined that another one of his sons, Solomon, would succeed him. Through a set of circumstance that you can read about, the situation was rectified and Solomon was enthroned as planned.

The fallacy that drives self-promotion is that we control our own lives. We don't. I am not saying that our actions don't affect our lives; it's that no matter what we do, we cannot guarantee outcomes. The name of God as revealed to Moses at the burning bush on Mt. Sinai is derived from the verb "to be" (see Shemot / Exodus 3:13-17) and stands for "I am who I am" or "I will be who I will be." Only God is self-determinant, meaning he is the only entity in the universe that can unequivocally and absolutely state a plan and fully carry it through. Humans possess no such capability as Adonijah learned.

Every would-be king has learned the same thing eventually. The world doesn't have as many kings and queens as it once did, but still lots of people continue to promote themselves in order to rule over their own kingdoms large or small, be they personal, corporate, religious, or political.

We were not created to promote ourselves. We were made to cooperate with our Creator in serving his purposes. Torah teaches that we were made to rule over the earth (see Bereshit / Genesis 1:28), but under God alone. Our places and positions in life are to be apportioned by him. This is not to say that we should be completely passive in our pursuits. Far from it! We should pursue our God-given callings. But we must do so humbly, trusting him to promote us, accepting that we can't become anything unless he so blesses.

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