Monday Ministry Minutes

October 11, 2006

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Monday Ministry Minute #6

Pascal's Prayer

Robert J. Marks II
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Baylor University

Is it wrong to pray for God to make me more successful so that I can be more humble? I often engage in spirited debates about such questions with my ego.

Paul writes: "We know that 'We all possess knowledge.' But knowledge puffs up while love builds up." (I Corinthians 8:1b, Today's NIV). If "knowledge puffs up," then we professors are in ever-present danger of having egos resembling threatened blowfish.

A decade ago, U.S. News & World Report found evidence in academia of Paul's observation: "A poll of university professors found that 94% of the respondents thought that they were better at their jobs than their average colleague" (16 Dec 1996). It’s as if we were all raised in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon schools, where all the children are above average.

The gifted columnist Dr. Thomas Sowell is more direct. "Those whose whole careers have been spent in ivy-covered buildings ...can remain [ego-centric] adolescents on into their golden retirement years."

I have a natural inclination to puffiness. What's a “gifted intellect” like me supposed to do? My ego likes the world to believe that I am a super successful professional and am really smart. But "don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?" (James 4:4b).

Blaise Pascal (1623-62), one of the greatest scientists of the 17th century, voiced the proper perspective on the matter. Pascal invented the first computer, studied vacuums and was a gifted mathematician. The metric unit of pressure bears his name. (I'm hesitant to admit it, but his intellect probably exceeded mine.)

On Monday, Nov 23, 1654, Pascal had a life-changing conversion encounter with Jesus Christ. We know these details because, upon Pascal's death, personal notes about his conversion were found in the lining of his coat. He wrote the following prayer:

"Almighty God, who gave your servant Blaise Pascal a great intellect that he might explore the mysteries of your creation, and who kindled in his heart a love for you and a devotion to your service --mercifully give us your servants, according to our various callings, gifts of excellence in body, mind, and will, and the grace to use them diligently and to your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever."

Pascal had it right. I am to celebrate my intellect as a gift from God, and when rejoicing in any accomplishments, do it before Him in thanksgiving. This is such an obvious directive for us as Christian professors.

Solomon also addresses the dilemma, and gives argument-settling advice to professors with debating egos. "Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole [duty] of man." (Eccl 12:12b-13).

© 2006 Robert J. Marks II
This MMM may be forwarded for personal ministry use as long as the following is included: Used by permission of Christian Leadership Ministries

Written by: Paul Hartgrove/Staff/CLM