The temptation of the hustle: a meditation

A few weeks ago, at the beginning of lent, the pastor read Luke 4:6-8 out loud. The passage talks about a young Jesus, before he really did anything. So far in the Bible, he’s had a really interesting birth, was a very smart 12 year old, and then isn’t really heard from for about 18 years. Suddenly he shows up, is baptized, and runs off into the desert to be tested. Jesus is given three tests, and in the second one the Devil shows him all the kingdoms of the world, all the power, all the fame and all the success and essentially says “All this is mine, I can give it to you, if you play by my rules, do what I say, and bend your heart to match my own. All this will be yours”

MTV recently announced that it had chosen a new name for the post-Millennial generation, “the founders”. But based on my experience, another name fits them well. I call them “Generation Hustle” because almost everyone I meet is hustling, they’ve started their own business, their own YouTube channel, their own nonprofit, their own fashion line, their own movement. They will not wait to be chosen, instead they will choose themselves and put in the work to make it happen. They are down for the hustle.

And while my experience tells me that this dedication to the hustle has marked this post-Millennial generation, I know that they aren’t the only ones for whom the hustle is a way of life. You may be one of those people who choose themselves, who work while others sleep for prizes that others will never achieve. You may be one of those who see others’ success and rather than simply stand in awe you think “I can do that. I will do that!”.  If you are, I think this passage is for you. 

At some point, you might look at the world and see that dealing in anger and hate will help you go viral. At some point you might take a look at the people who have achieved what you want and see that their entire life and their entire heart is dedicated to their goal. Everything outside of that goal is sacrificed on the altar of achievement. And in award speeches they are praised for their single-minded focus.

At some point it might seem that those who succeed are the underhanded, the people who play the game of politics for selfish ends. It may seem that the only way not to be a victim in a dog eat dog world is to be a bigger dog. It may seem that the only way to be bigger than those who have gathered a mob is to gather your own mob.

At some point it may appear that you can more easily convince people to join you, if you don’t look at the people on the other side as full human beings with full lives worthy of respect and dignity. But rather it may seem more effective to paint them as one-dimensional demons devoid of logic who simply exist to be defeated.

It may seem that these are the rules of success, and if you follow those rules, and bend your heart to the heart of the entrepreneurial, viral, political, hustling world around you, then all this will be yours.

There is another way.

The Bible says that God is love and if you don’t know love, you don’t know God. It that all the moral and ethical rules come down to this: Love God and love the people around you. In Luke 4:6-8 Jesus looks the personification of selfishness and hate in the eye and rejects those rules. He rejects the idea that this is what he needs to be successful. He rejects the idea that success brought by Evil is real success at all. He chooses God. He chooses love.

I don’t know if this resonates with you. If it does, here are some questions you can consider as you read and pray through the passage in Luke 4.

And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" Luke 4:6-8

  • What would your place of daily hustle (work, school, whatever) look like if everyone chose love?
  • Are there places in your daily hustle that you fear that choosing love puts you at risk? Where do you need bravery?
  • Are there opportunities you may have missed in your daily hustle to proactively choose love?
  • Where are the small places in your daily hustle where you can choose love?

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