Getting Ahead

I realized again last week how much our language really signifies how bad of a state our culture is in. This time I noticed it in the words “getting ahead.” When we are trying to get ahead we mean we go to a reputable school, get a good job, get financially stable, get married, have kids, go on good vacations and make sure you are always pouring into your retirement plan. I’ve heard this terminology a lot and it scares me a bit to think where we are placing our value. When I express the desire to rent for a long time and really want to look into it; there has not been one person who said it was a good idea or said it doesn’t matter, everyone said that I need to focus now and early on getting ahead and owning now. I need to jump into the cycle like everyone else because it’s smarter. Then I look suspiciously at everyone else, and I wonder why everyone doesn’t look as smart as they think it is.

We take cultural standards and make them the standards to our lives and we base our success and failure on those. If you don’t get into a good school right out of high school, in most people’s minds you have fallen behind. If your thirty and not married, you’ve fallen behind. If you don’t have a retirement set up then you’re not doing so hot. If you are renting and not buying then you’ve fallen behind until you own. Then we base our worth on all of these things. If we get ahead or not will determine how successful or not we think we are.

This terminology also doesn’t just make us insecure when we don’t meet these standards, in the process we make everyone else who you’ve gotten ahead of be worth less also. It puts us all on a line somewhere and places people on that line. Where further down means a better human being and the other way means the opposite. I wonder if there was ever meant to be a line. I wonder if the idea of “getting ahead” in life is something we’ve created to encourage us when we do something great.

If we must use this way of talking and we must think of life as getting ahead or falling behind with every breath we take, may we look at it as Jesus looks at it. Getting ahead means serving everyone, selling everything and taking your ambitions and making them about other people. If we really want to get ahead then I suggest we learn to fall behind.

9 Comments

  • there is a whole feild of study that centers around the issue of metaphors in culture. the main thrust of the feild is that we can learn about the presuppositions of a culture by looking at the metaphors used within that culture. a professor I once had would always say, “everything is metaphor” – it gets pretty scary when you think of a word like “religion” and how its definition has “gone down the drain” in the last decade/century
    and… that website you posted is “killing me” – I’ve watched so many episodes of The Office…

  • Ahh I know your telling me, I just finished a bunch of Scrubs, I was thinking the Office next actually, or Arrested Development.

    I’d be interested to know more about that field of study, do you know what its called?

  • Jesus owned nothing yet was supported by people who did. Women who were married to kings that wanted him dead supported Jesus so that he didnt need anything. Where do these “owners of estate” fit in to your story?

    His apostles collected all things from fellow believers and then gave them away freely. Werent his apostles then the ones in need?

    I will admit that we have all gotten out of hand with consumerism but there will always be a need for a dwelling. People have been buying and selling property since the beginning of time. I think you might have a distaste for real-estate and owning because of the STUPID increase in costs to purchase property and the fact that we pretty much need to sell our soul (well at least 25 years of it) to the bank in order to have a dwelling.

    Renting is fine and dandy but you are still paying someone else who will eventually own what you are renting for (even if our rent is stupidly cheap).

    You want to own that building down town right? Jesus didnt own a building.
    Would your church be getting ahead if it owned that building?

    Getting ahead is a stupid word but if you think about it, all it means is progressing. If I am a smart person I think it would be unwise to sit on it and never pursue an education out of high school. I think it would be a waste if I didnt try to excel to the best of my abilities.

    You talk about cultural standards and how we base our lives on them.
    Well where is the middle? Who sets that standard? Just because I want more out of life and better for myself doesnt mean it can be categorized as me just trying to get ahead.

    Also, I forgot my lunch today so you guys can have my leftovers from last night in the fridge. Mmmmhmmmmm .. Chicken Stir-fry.

  • Ron, I like your moderate approach to nathan’s unmoderate comments…

  • I think you’re right here Nathan. The other day I was thinking that if I’m not married by the time I’m 30 then that makes me more or less “on the shelf.” The longer it takes to get married from that point the less likely it;ll be that I actually get married.

    My pastor has given up the idea of marriage because he wants to serve God that way and he’s happier for it. So in falling behind he’s taken ground.

  • Ron, I never said I’m against owning, what I said is everyone for some reason is against renting and that just doesn’t make sense.

    Tom, Yes….good comment.

  • Why does Tom get to make a good comment? Because he agreed with you?
    I hate you.

  • Ironically I more often disagree with Nathan and you more often agree. Therefore you get more cudos than I. I think I’m due for some myself.

  • Tom, yes…. good comment.

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