Is It Good to Be a Star?

Recently, I shared my amazement at how my granddaughter, fifteen years old, had established herself as a minor celebrity on the social-media video site Tik Tok. What you might have wondered if you read that post was why I didn’t give more of a shout-out to the kid. I didn’t tell you her user name or provide instructions on how you could watch her videos. Don’t I risk having my grandpa privileges revoked?

The answer is, “No.” No, I don’t worry about my credentials as a loving grandparent, and, especially, no, I don’t particularly want to encourage anyone to watch her videos. For the most part, the ones I have seen are not tremendously lurid or anything, but they do involve her dancing to songs from which we’re better off not repeating the lyrics. Some of her own language in those posts is stuff I find uncomfortable. I’m very proud of my granddaughter but not for this work.

That brings me to a question. Is fame really a good thing? My current study of Ecclesiastes suggests that fame, like pretty much everything else, is a fleeting, futile thing. But my Tik Tok girl is making money from her moment of fame. Shouldn’t she milk it for all its worth, selling all the hoodies and inspiring all the fan art that she can?

Seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands

1 Thessalonians 4:11

The answer is, “No.” No, fame is not something to be pursued for its own sake, and no, all fame–even the sort that makes us money–isn’t a positive thing. Let me give a simple example. In 1950, like today, there were two senators from Wisconsin. One of them served for an impressive 24 years, but my guess is that you’ve never heard of him: Alexander Wiley. Wiley’s counterpart, serving only 10 years, was Joseph McCarthy. That’s the “I have here in my hand a list of 205 communists” McCarthy.

Whether you think of McCarthy as the ultimate villain or a guy who was doing a patriotic duty, he almost certainly handled his affairs poorly, doing more to advance himself than to make the nation safe from commies. His fame clearly outstrips Senator Wiley, but was that fame that should bring him pride?

The answer is “No.” No, fame can, perhaps more often than not, be a negative thing, and No, fame sought for its own sake is essentially idolatry. That’s why Paul cautioned the Thessalonians to hold back.

But we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do this even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.

–1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12

Just to be clear, I am very proud of my oldest granddaughter. She clearly has a charisma and talent that can help her achieve things that I would never dream of achieving. That said, I want to see her pursuing things that do not degrade her and, ideally, that bring honor to God.

Does my grandfather-ness outrank my role as a child of God? The answer is “No.”

Work with Your Hands

I don’t mind confessing that my hands hurt. This morning, I spent several hours trying to make some semblance of order in my mother’s disaster of a backyard. Then, after a trip to Costco, we did a couple of tasks in the garden. First, we weighed the eight rabbits that we bought this week. One of the beasts drew blood as I held it for a close and rather personal inspection. That rabbit, which we affectionately dubbed #4, is female if you’re curious.

Having finished the warmup acts, Penny and I attacked the main event. She wants to set out her tomato plants tomorrow and she wasn’t happy with the support system that we had installed. The new arrangement involved pulling up ten t-posts and re-setting eight of them. Then we arched three cow panels, sixteen-foot-long grids of heavy welded wire and attempted to wire them to the posts. The idea seems fairly simple. It turned out rather complicated, and I’m pretty sure that our procedure was not the most efficient we could have followed.

Now my back aches from pounding in posts and my fingers ache from twisting wire. I also smell a little ripe as the day is warm. And did I mention that I was wounded in action trying to handle a rabbit?

It is at moments like this that I understand why both of my grandfathers, born toward the end of the 19th century, made their way from the farming that had supported their ancestors back into the mists of history and toward anything else. These men, when they were on the farm, would have laughed at my day as a light load.

So why would I, a person who doesn’t have to do heavy lifting outside, choose to encounter these chores. I understand that lots of well educated people piddle in the garden, but most of them don’t wrestle with cow panels. They wrestle with hosta bulbs.

There’s something to be said for being physically tired at the end of the day, to have your work involve less email and more perspiration. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul gives some instructions for daily life to his readers:

But we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do this even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.–1 Thessalonians 4:10-11

Work with your own hands. I like that, even though I’ve pretty much always earned my living throughout my life by jobs far from manual labor. Was Paul a fool, urging people to take on mundane jobs? Was he encouraging the Thessalonians to settle for less than they could be if they engaged in some extracurricular activities and studied for the SAT?

My colleagues at school think that I’m underselling my talents raising rabbits and putting in a large garden. They also think I’m being foolish investing my writing skills creating children’s Bible study curriculum. But that is the work of these hands.