Tuesday November 17, 2009
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go, Joshua 1:9.
This text has been used but more often abused to fuel the positive thinking movement, which assumes that all things are possible for us as long as we foster positive thoughts about it!
Originally developed by Norman Vincent Peale and coated with a Christian veneer, the movement has been encouraged by Robert Schuller and spawned the Word-Faith movement of today. It has earned John Stott’s response: “I find Paul appealing, but Peale appalling.”
In this verse, God encouraged Joshua for the work of settling Israel in the Promised Land, but not to do whatever he wanted. It is the fulfillment of “your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth” that merits this kind of assurance.
Misplacement of a parallel to positive thinking is the subject of a new book called “the Self-Esteem Trap” that is critical of today’s self-esteem movement.
The author says that “junk praise” is creating a generation of self-absorbed children. She admits to raising perfectionist children who have “been more unhappy than they’ve been happy.” The idea that each child is special—obviously to their parents—does not prepare them to find they are not “special” to everyone else!
This automatic imputing of self-esteem the author complains of, reminds me of another parallel idea, that of anti-grading in education: every child must “pass” at his or her own level. It has created a generation of children who have no idea how their strengths and weaknesses fit in relation to others, and assume that any performance is adequate for any task.
Both these approaches, the emotional and educational, promote the “Self-Esteem Trap.” They infuse the idea that we are automatically entitled to all the benefits of life, an attitude completely alien to the builder generation whose hard work created the prosperity we now enjoy. Unfortunately, the resulting “entitlement” movement is fast undoing the benefits it assumes it is entitled to!
If she could parent over again, the author says she would promote reverence for life, family structure, chores and the responsibilities of being a member of a community. What a breath of fresh air in our culture where “rights” trump everything from respect to responsibility!
Joshua failed in part of the task allotted to him, not because he didn’t think positively enough about it, but because he failed to fulfill the requirements that God laid out. Consequently, he was fooled into letting some of the aliens inhabit the land.
It’s not a positive self assessment that we need in thinking, education or esteem, but an accurate one. We need to know what strengths God has given and desires us to use, and where others’ strengths can buttress our lesser abilities.
Think about it. Can we really do anything through Christ who strengthens us?