“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much . . .” –Luke 16:10
Since college, I’ve been obsessed with making a difference in the world. Making a difference is what leading a meaningful life looks like, I told myself. Adding value to the world is what Jesus exemplified to His people.
But while I was fixed on making a lasting change in the world, there was one important truth I learned:
You can’t make a difference without being different.
What I mean is, it’s not so much what you do that counts, but rather who you are. Deep change stems from your character, how you are different from the rest of the world.
I see this profound truth play out in the life of Jesus. Everything Jesus did was monumental. But His actions weren’t set apart from who He was. Rather, everything He did—from healing people to dying on the cross—made sense of who He was.
This might seem like a no-brainer. But let me ask you: if you believe character is important, why do you focus more on what you do rather than who you are? Why do you concern yourself with doing the right things instead of being the right person?
In other words, why do you care more for your work than your character?
The truth is, if you don’t care about the health of your character first, whatever impact you make is going to be forgotten, lost, and shallow.
Today, we focus more on our production, not who we are. This is because our busy world cannot measure or quantify the character of people, and if they cannot measure the results, they abandon it to give more emphasis on what we can track.
But this is not how we make a lasting difference in the world.
If you are going to make a difference out of your character, you have to reverse-engineer how our culture teaches you to make an impact.
You have to make a change in this order:
PERSONAL → RELATIONAL → SYSTEMIC
That’s how making a difference out of our character flows. First, you focus on your internal matters, the personal habits and disciplines that set your heart right.
Then you move out to the relational aspect of change. How you set your heart is going to affect your relationships, at work and with your friends. This is more about making a difference in the lives of those around you.
And finally, you move to the outer ring, which is systemic. If you are faithful in changing yourself and your relationships, then you can be faithful in leading change in systems such as your family and governments.
When your character drives you, you make a change in this order.
Our culture might acknowledge this sequence, but in practice, it acknowledges change going from the other way around. People try to change systems before they change their character. People try to produce something before they understand the heart of what that something is.
This is not the kind of change Jesus endorses.
To live a meaningful and impactful life, you make a difference out of your character.
This is why JesusHacks is set up the way it is. It has four categories: character, work, life, and leadership. It helps you make a change in yourself first (character), have that change be applied to the relationships in your daily life (work and life), and then ultimately lead you to make a difference in the systems that surround you (leadership).
If you struggle to fight the urge of focusing on what you do rather than who you are, then let JesusHacks be your practical tool for helping you make a difference with your life.
Let this be the mantra that drives you to change: set your heart right to make the world right. Focus on character first, and let change flow from there.
APPLICATION: today, restrict yourself from thinking about change starting externally first. Instead, when you look around your workplace and in your family, ask yourself, “Who do I need to become to influence this place in a positive manner?” Start by looking at your character first.
Photography by Mikaela Hamilton