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From the Editor

Please Ask for Assistance with Items on the Top Shelf

We’ve all seen this notice in the grocery store. Sometimes I wonder who it was that necessitated the warning signs. Did they climb the shelves, too stubborn to ask for help? Speaking for those of us in this world who are not very tall, I can confirm: It’s tempting. Did the shelves collapse like a bookcase with one too many volumes? Did they topple like Dominoes, aisle by aisle?

We’ve all got weaknesses, certainly. But do we embrace them? And how? Sure, there’s a case for pushing through and making things work, and you could probably argue both courage and cowardice as motivators there. But perhaps more often than not, the best thing we can do is ask for help. But not because our weaknesses are a bad thing.

“Acknowledging our limits and leveraging others’ mirrors Christ’s humility, fostering healthier, more effective workplaces where people may flourish. As Christian employers and Christian employees, we can lead the way by simply saying, ‘I’m weak. Can you help me?’” Eric Schumacher writes in this edition of Common Good Monthly. There is a place for our weaknesses, even at work. Like each of us, our limits are unique. And working together with humility, Schumacher writes, allows us to be known without shame and makes good use of our limits — all them. — Sarah Haywood, managing editor

During my senior year in high school, we received job interview training. I remember only one thing: Never admit weakness. If an interviewer asked, “What is your greatest weakness?” we were told to answer with a strength disguised in the language weakness: “My greatest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist. I can’t stop working until the project is flawless,” we might respond. This strategy offered a way to dodge exposing a weakness while simultaneously boasting about one more (perceived) strength. The underlying assumptions in that advice? Weaknesses are necessarily bad, and no employer wants an employee with a weakness.

Such advice is ultimately foolish, and this is why: It flies in the face of God’s design for his perfect creation. Before sin entered the world and corrupted anything, God created human beings with natural weaknesses.

A weakness is an inability to act or produce an effect. If the creation narrative teaches us anything, it’s that we’re naturally weak. Humans depend entirely upon God for everything we are, have, and do. God gives us our place, provision, purpose, and protection. We were intentionally designed to depend on and trust in him for all things. Apart from him, we can do nothing. That is weakness, and it is good, for everything God made was very good indeed.

There is only one thing in the creation narrative that was not good. It wasn’t something God made but the absence of something he had yet to make. Creation is the workplace where God placed human beings to do his work — namely, to fill the earth and rule it as his image bearers (Gen 1:26–28). God created the male human being first and then paused before creating the woman to emphasize a point: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). 

Left to himself, the man was incapable of fulfilling the creation mandate. An individual man, left to himself, cannot do the work God created his people to do. To remedy this, God said, “I will make a helper corresponding to him.” In this context, a “helper” is one who comes alongside to lend their strength to accomplish a task.

The principle illustrated in Genesis 2 goes far beyond marriage.

It applies to the whole of humanity. The work of cultivating the earth and its resources, developing society and culture, and displaying God’s glory in every part of the earth requires community and partnership. All humans cooperating as God’s image bearers to accomplish God’s work was God’s good design. 

The point? We require co-workers to do our work on earth. We are individually incomplete, weak, and unable to do what God calls us to without help. Denying such weakness is wrong. Embracing it — and God’s solution — is good.

The other day, my boss and I discussed an idea for a future event. I suggested an approach and asked what he thought. He replied that his natural inclination was to do it a different way. So I replied that I could accommodate and brainstorm ideas to do it his way. He quickly replied, “Oh, no. That’s a blind spot of mine. We should try to do it your way.” That is one reason it is so enjoyable to work for my employer — he knows he is not all-knowing, all-powerful, and self-sufficient. He knows that he is finite, has blind spots, and needs the help of others to do his work well. That isn’t because he’s an insecure leader — not at all. He knows what he is good at and where he needs help. And knowing when he needs help gives him the confidence to lead well, to bring in others to supply what he lacks. By owning his weaknesses, he becomes a better leader. When he is weak, he is strong.

Such an attitude honors God when it comes from a place of true humility, recognizing that the wisest way to work is within the parameters of God’s good design. Such a posture expresses faith, believing God created others to supply what we lack. That is true at all employment levels, whether we are the owners, the managers, or the managed.

In his incarnation, our Lord Jesus embraced human weakness and the need for help. He looked to his Father for help and thanked him when he received the provision. He experienced human frailties like hunger, thirst, and fatigue. Women financially helped his ministry (Luke 8:2–3). He requested a drink (John 4:7). He asked his disciples to remain and wake and pray with him (Matt 26:38). Simon of Cyrene helped him carry his cross (Mark 15:21). The Messiah lived a life of weakness, one that depended on the help of others. 

The weakness of Jesus — and his willingness to ask for and receive help — is good news for us. It is part of what it meant for him to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15), living the perfect human life. Jesus “had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way” (Heb 2:17), meaning he depended on helpers. The good news is that he did it without sin. His death on the cross covers our sin — every prideful and stubborn moment in which we wrongly refuse God’s good design of help and cooperation.

Moreover, Jesus’ perfect record of embracing human frailty and receiving help is credited to us through faith. Therefore, nothing prevents us from approaching his throne of grace “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (Heb 4:15-16). We go in faith, confident that his “Spirit also helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26).

Becoming a mature Christian does not eliminate our need for help. Instead, embracing weakness by asking for help is a sign of maturity; that is, it is a mark of being conformed to his image. Christian life and ministry require help from other believers (see, for example, Rom 16:2; 1 Cor 12:28; 2 Cor 1:11, 16; 8:19; Phil 4:3; 1 Thess 5:14; 1 Tim 5:10, 16; Titus 3:13). 

Embracing our natural weaknesses and receiving the help of our neighbors is both a return to and a restoration of God’s good design in creation. Acknowledging our limits and leveraging others’ mirrors Christ’s humility, fostering healthier, more effective workplaces where people may flourish. As Christian employers and Christian employees, we can lead the way by simply saying, “I’m weak. Can you help me?”