Who You Are Is Not the Same as What You Can Do

By Curtis K. Shelburne

What I am about to say is not particularly profound, but it is as true as the Law of Gravity, which I suppose is simple enough in its own way, too. But if you forget about the Law of Gravity and if you forget the truth of this simple fact you’re likely to end up with some bruises.
Are you ready? Here it is!
Who you are is not the same as what you can do.
Swish that thought around in your head for a minute. Taste it for a second or two. Then tell me what you think.
Though many societies have tripped over this fact from time to time, I suspect that our society has bumped into it harder than most. Because we so easily forget it is true, we end up skinning our noses and bumping our toes on its reality.
Who you are is really not the same as what you can do.
What you can do, what you have done, and what you are doing may certainly affect who you become but they still are not who you are.
You see, our society says that who you are is completely dependent upon what you can do. Because what you can do is so important to our society, you’ll make a larger salary if what you can do is what society likes or needs to have done. You’ll usually make a much larger salary if what you can do is what society likes or needs to have done right now.
For example, we very badly need what doctors can do, and we usually need it pretty quickly; consequently, we pay them very well. (I think the “quick” part is what hurts teachers; we need what they do and need it badly, but we don’t realize how very badly until… Maybe the same thing is true with law enforcement officers and some others who, even though we really need what they provide, we pay them very poorly?)
It would be hard to argue that we really need very badly what a guy like Alex Rodriguez can do really well — play with a little baseball — but our society very much likes what he can do and so we pay him very — even obscenely — well.
One of the reasons we need so badly what Jesus Christ came teaching is that we need a reminder that the most important members of his Kingdom are, as one man has written, “the little, the last, the least, and the lost,” those who can’t do much of anything really, but who are still of immense value in God’s sight.
A friend named Bill Love died last week. For most of his life, Bill was a very successful minister. He was articulate in the pulpit and on paper. He wrote profound books on the meaning of the cross. But for the last several years of his life, a stroke left him almost completely incapacitated.
When he was writing profoundly, Bill Love was profoundly loved by God. He was God’s child. When he was unable to write or speak, Bill Love was loved profoundly by God. He was God’s child.
Who you are is not at all the same as what you can do.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at