Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
LIE #1: COMPARED WITH OTHER ANIMALS, HUMANS ARE NOT SPECIAL
“Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.” ~C. S. Lewis
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” ~David, the psalmist
On a flight to Vancouver some years ago, I found myself sitting next to the former Chief Operating Officer of one of Canada’s largest oil and gas companies. He was traveling to a board meeting of a major international mining company. As it happens, I knew several senior officers of this particular mining company, having concluded some large project financings with them over the years. As a result, we got quite related.
During the flight, I saw an opening and steered the conversation to spiritual matters. At one point in our conversation, he said he didn’t believe there was anything special about humankind versus other members of the animal kingdom. I respectfully disagreed and we had a lively chat!
According to the Bible, humans are made in the image of God and commanded to steward the earth’s resources including animals, plants and everything else. This “made in God’s image” assertion is a big topic and it’s not my intention to unpack it in terms of its various implications for humanity over against other animals. Suffice to say, it is a central tenet of the Christian faith as is the belief that the image of God in us has been fractured by sin.
For my purposes today, I simply want to focus on one practical entailment of our view regarding whether humans are special; that is, our treatment of other individuals. This issue is multifaceted but here are three examples.
First, if we marketplace leaders are not persuaded that every single person (even our enemies!) is made in the image of God, we will tend to view them primarily in terms of their usefulness toward helping us achieve our goals. Their intrinsic value as a person is unlikely to be part of our grid.
Second, we may attack others with whom we disagree by applying negative labels to them rather than contesting their ideas. Indeed, these ad hominem attacks seem to have become the norm in recent years. Having been guilty of doing just this on occasion, I must be ever vigilant against this most human tendency!
Finally, we might entertain “anti-human” thoughts in respect to the environment. For example, in the West today, there are many who see humankind as the principal threat to the survival of the planet. Typically, their solution involves the severe curtailment of human activity. Of course, people do pollute and proper stewardship of the earth entrusted to us requires taking measures to avoid degrading it. However, some proposed solutions would negatively affect human flourishing, particularly in developing countries.
Here’s a thought experiment for us marketplace leaders. Picture each of the following individuals as a person “made in God’s image.” Now think about how we would talk with them and what we say!
- The security guard;
- Our subordinates;
- Our boss;
- Political leaders with whose policies we passionately disagree;
- The person at the checkout counter in the grocery store;
- The person who just cut us off on the highway; and
- Our spouse!
Next week, I will address the big lie that we can be anything we want to be.
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.