One of my favorite motivational posters shows a picture of the Egyptian pyramids. The title of the poster is “Motivation”. The caption reads, “You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor.” 

The poster is published Despair, Inc., a company that parodies the motivational products you seen at mall kiosks, in offices, and on websites. Their motto is, “Welcome to the cure for hope.” 

This poster makes a worthwhile point. Egypt was among the most powerful ancient empires. They had a stable culture, a strong military, along with resources and vision. Like most ancient empires, they also had abundant slave labor. No wonder they could build pyramids.

Pyramids are still being built in the same way. How often do you see ads by a well-known celebrity for fitness, nutrition, or beauty products ? Morning talk shows routinely feature celebrities who lost 50 pounds and tell us that if we’ll do what they did, we’ll get the same results. 

What they don’t tell us is that their contracts have incentives for losing weight and keeping in shape. They have personal trainers, dieticians, and chefs. They don’t tell us that companies approach them and offer them money to test their products. They don’t tell us about the nanny who watches their kids while they’re sweating in their Olympic-caliber home gym. They don’t tell us that they only work 4 hours a day. 

When I hear celebrities talking about their health and beauty success, I see pyramids. I suspect that their success is less a personal achievement than a corporate endorsement, built upon the backs of others. That approach isn’t helpful to any of us.

I’d rather build small mounds of dirt with my own hands than pyramids on the backs of others. I’d rather know that I did what I could with what I had, even if the results are meager. I don’t say this as an affirmation of stubborn pride. I have no desire to crash and burn while singing, “Let the record show I took the blows and did it my way!”

For Christians, there’s nothing more fundamental than a personal commitment to Jesus of Nazareth. Each of us will be judged by what we did, rather than what we did through corporate sponsors. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that EACH ONE may be recompensed for HIS DEEDS in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5.10). 

To be sure, along the way, the Lord gives strength and guidance. I’m not in this alone. But I’m responsible for my own life, and I can’t take credit for what isn’t mine.

For today, take what you have, do what you can do, and trust the Lord for the rest. It is enough.