What’s Your Exploitation Quotient?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Larry Short

In recent days I’ve felt particularly vulnerable to the possibility of exploitation. This wasn’t something I considered when I got laid off in early August from my 22-year job with World Vision. But being jobless, and the prospect of approaching a time (in the near future) when our income may be considerably smaller than it is today, leaves one with certain feelings of vulnerability.

And the thing that has been a shock to me, which I didn’t expect at all, is all the people and organizations “out there” who seek to exploit that vulnerability for their own ends.

My first real taste of this came about two months ago. I was looking for a new job, hard and fast, and, using a legitimate employment site, I was contacted by a company in San Francisco that was supposedly looking for a social media director. The job seemed a good fit. After an hour-long interview (which I felt went well), the hiring manager offered me a job. The bad news is, it turned out to be a total scam. The good news is, I got suspicious before I actually lost anything. (Read more about this story on my blog.)

I reported the scam to the FBI, but never even got a call back. Someone told me these type of scams were so common they don’t even, apparently, get investigated.

This was just the first of many attempts to exploit my current vulnerability. I receive multiple emails daily from insurance companies, employment sites, and others offering me work-at-home “jobs” that are too good to be true. I now realize the vast majority of these are attempts to exploit people who are in a vulnerable position because they have been laid off.

I’ve had lots of time to think about why this happens. People seek to exploit us daily. Sometimes it’s obvious; other times it’s very subtle. Sometimes strangers are the culprits; other times it’s people we know, trust, and love.

Yes, it’s true — we often seek to exploit each other. Even in the Church, sometimes I think we fall victim to this. It might come in the form of trying to “guilt” someone into serving or fulfilling a particular ministry need. Or perhaps it might come in the form of pressuring someone to give to a specific financial need, for reasons other than their best interest.

Or sometimes we might attend worship services or other church events, or participate in small groups or ministries for what WE will get out of it, how it will benefit us, rather than engaging from the core motivation that others might be blessed by our presence, service, and participation.

Upon reflection, I also realize that, inter-personally, we often seek to exploit the people we love, even perhaps without really thinking about it. We might manipulate a spouse or a child or a parent or a friend into doing something we want them to do for us, that isn’t necessarily in their best interest. But because WE want it, we attempt to manipulate the relationship, sometimes without even thinking about it, to exploit their vulnerability in order to make what WE want happen. Or we might treat them in such a way as to make them feel “smaller,” so that we can magnify ourselves by comparison and “feel better about our self.”

In 2 Peter 2:3, the Apostle had strong words for those who would exploit others:

And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

You’ve heard the saying: “Don’t use people and love stuff — love people and use stuff!” One of the remarkable things about Jesus’ life is that there was no trace of exploitation in it. While others frequently sought to use Him for their own personal ends, His every thought, word, and deed was for the ultimate good of the people whom He loved and was sent to serve. 1 John 4:10 says:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

This verse acknowledges the stark reality that we are lousy at loving. And God is very, very good at it! So much so, that it is said of Him, “God is love.” (Sadly, I am not aware that anyone has ever said, “Larry is love!”)

So my question and my conviction is, “How can we get better at loving others?”

I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Christ urged His disciples: “… love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Not a word about exploiting one another in any of that, is there?

So, I guess I will leave you (and me) with this challenge: What’s your exploitation quotient? Are you (perhaps unintentionally) acting in such a way that exploits those around you, even those you love, rather than loving them unconditionally and seeking to build them up?

If you need help loving others the way Jesus loves us, you’re not alone. I think it’s a challenge that confronts all of us. Let’s seek to prayerfully and honestly “stir up one another to love and good works,” as Scripture commands.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Recovering Grump

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Brian Sharpe

I can be grumpy. It is frustrating for me to admit that. I don’t want to be, but it comes so easily. This summer, when I was with students and leaders at a four-day Christian music festival where we were tent camping in 100 degree weather, I took off for the morning to go shopping. A couple of the students wanted to go with me, but I said no. I just needed some time alone. When I returned after a couple hours, I was refreshed. I started unloading the groceries from the truck, and one of my leaders said, “You needed to go by yourself, you were grumpy.” I was okay with that statement because I know that about myself.

The problem is that I can be grumpy with my family way too much. They are hard to get away from when I am tired and feeling the need to get away. When I am on a trip with students, men, or ministry leaders, I can keep the perspective that this time will come to an end. I need to love well. I need to push through, even if I am tired. I know I can go home at the end of the trip and just get my downtime. The problem is that when I go home, my family is there. They weren’t on the trip. They were home without me. When I come home, they want my time. I also want my time, and that leads to grumpiness.

I had an epiphany this last vacation. The reason I get grumpy is because I get selfish and don’t keep the perspective of loving others to Christ. I know I need to do that as a pastor to others, but when I come home I am still required by love to point my family to Jesus, not away because of my grumpiness. My perspective had to change. I had to go from focusing on what I need to focusing on how to love my family well. How do I not keep a record of wrongs or be easily irritated? My perspective needed to be much less about what I need, and much more about what my family needs in order for me to be the husband and father that leads his family toward Jesus.

I am constantly convicted by my selfishness. God is teaching me over and over again that loving others includes my family, and that loving others is a constant choice of living out 1 Corinthians 13. I need to be patient and kind always, not just when I am refreshed or in a good place, but also when things aren’t going my way. The only way I can do that is when I am focusing on Jesus and the love He has for me. That is what can get me through. That is what can help me love my family and others well. The hard part is being self-aware enough to realize when you are not loving well. That is why we need others, such as my youth leader, who say, “You needed to get away, you were grumpy.”

The other part of the epiphany that I got was that, a lot of time, our families get the shaft. Our families are whom we let our guard down with, and we treat them differently than anyone else because of that. Which brings me back to keeping the perspective that my family deserves me staying focused on loving God and others well. They don’t deserve the shaft; they deserve our best, just like anyone else. We need to allow God to help us love Him and others well. We need Him to help us recover from our grumpiness. Well, I need Him to help me recover from it … because I am probably the only one who struggles with this!

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.