I hate living in a battleground state.
There’s a lot of nonsense that’s being slung by both sides. Frankly my wife and I are using Netflix and some DVR fast-forwarding to avoid the worst of it. But there’s one bit of doggerel being flung around by a number of my conservative and Christian friends (and commercials in general) that needs to be addressed:
“You didn’t build that.”
America has a dual relationship with success. We are united as a society, but individual in our triumphs. Small business owners create jobs, and yet we blame the government for unemployment.
Why is it a hard concept to admit that while hard work and determination are always a factor in success; luck, timing and the efforts of others are just as important? Any company that ships things on trucks relies on the highway infrastructure. Any business that sells something on the internet relies on not only their own data-centers, but the data-centers, servers, switches and hubs of thousands of others. And any company that relies on electricity relies on the power grid.
It’s not practical for us to build everything by ourselves. Factories used to make their own electricity (or at least power machinery with water wheels). But it isn’t cost effective, especially in a competitive market, to build every part, supply every need in house. You need other people.
Let’s take a look at a very individualistic profession, authors. I think self-published writers may have one of the best cases for individualistic success. They write their own material, and they put it out into the marketplace. Except for that marketplace to exist someone had to create the internet, credit cards, and devices to read books. Any good author also has beta readers, editors, and for non-fiction the dozens of previous works done by the authors who came before them.
It’s arrogant to think that all it takes to succeed is your own desire, your own sweat, your time and your investment. It isn’t humble. It isn’t grateful. And frankly it isn’t very Christian.
“With God all things are possible” kind of implies we might need a little help. We’re called to live in community. We’re called to sacrifice our will for God’s will, and the Bible doesn’t seem to put a lot of stock in material wealth.
I’m not saying that building a business, whether it’s selling books, or selling widgets, isn’t something you shouldn’t be proud of. It’s true that business wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t put your mind to it. But that wasn’t the only factor. Your employees put in their time, their effort. Your customers support you not only with money but word of mouth and brand loyalty. And yes, you rely on a lot of things the government, other business, and the society as a whole have put in place for you to succeed.
The phrase should be: “You didn’t build that alone.”
I don’t think it’s wrong to want to keep some of the fruits of your labor. But I also feel that we owe a debt to those who helped us, both directly and indirectly. And as Christians we should know that in the end everything is God’s and that we are called to be stewards, not owners of wealth.
I’m pulling for ya, we’re all in this together.