Loyalty: An Almost Forgotten Value
Loyalty. How often do we hear that word these days? Not so much. How often do we see it displayed these days? Even less.
Loyalty is defined as “a strong feeling of support or allegiance.”
In my growing up days, the 1960s, in the business world loyalty was everything. The employee worked all their working lives for a business, say, IBM, and in return the company was loyal to the employee. The atmosphere was like a family and the employee worked until the then-retirement age of 65. At the end when retirement loomed, the employee received a thank you and a retirement dinner and a gift of a gold watch. Loyalty was a thing.
Nowadays, we have job jumpers all over the place. Whenever an employee believes a better opportunity lay elsewhere, they think nothing of hopping over to it. While it is normal to seek a better opportunity, few people realize the heavy financial investment a business makes in an employee to train them, pay them, insure them, and offer benefits to them. Thoughtless departures for a transitory better opportunity is normal in this new millennium.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the number of jobs held during a lifetime for younger baby boomers (born between 1957 and 1964) has greatly increased. On average, men will have 12.6 jobs whereas women will have 12.3. It used to be just a few jobs, 3 or 4.
On the other hand, loyalty from the company to the employee has also diminished. Too often we tragically read of middle managers being fired while top managers reap financial rewards with fat salaries and cushy benefits. or long-term employees being fired just before tenure is available or just as retirement looms.
In friendship, loyalty often evaporates too. When the chips are down, people you thought were your firm friends are nowhere to be found. Paul said that his friends deserted him-
2 Timothy 4:16, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them.”
Barnes’ Notes says of the 2 Timothy 4:16 verse,
“No man stood with me – Paul had many friends in Rome (2 Timothy 4:21; compare Romans 16); but it seems that they did not wish to appear as such when he was put on trial for his life. They were doubtless afraid that they would be identified with him, and would endanger their own lives. It should be said that some of the friends of the apostle, mentioned in Romans 16, and who were there when that Epistle was written, may have died before the apostle arrived there, or, in the trials and persecutions to which they were exposed, may have left the city. Still, it is remarkable that those who were there should have all left him on so trying an occasion. But to forsake a friend in the day of calamity is not uncommon, and Paul experienced what thousands before him and since have done. Thus, Job was forsaken by friends and kindred in the day of his trials; see his pathetic description in Job 19:13-17;”
He hath put my brethren far from me,
And mine acquaintance verily are estranged from me.
My kinsfolk have failed,
And my familiar friends have forgotten me.
They that dwell in my house, and my maids,
Count me for a stranger.
I am an alien in their sight.
I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I entreated him with my mouth.
My breath is strange to my wife.
Though I entreated for the children’s sake of mine own body.
“Thus, the Psalmist was forsaken by his friends in the time of calamity; Psalm 35:12-16; Psalm 38:2; Psalm 41:9; Psalm 55:12. And thus the Saviour was forsaken in his trials; Matthew 26:56; compare, for illustration, Zechariah 13:6. The world is full of instances in which those who have been overtaken by overwhelming calamities, have been forsaken by professed friends, and have been left to suffer alone.” end Barnes Notes
“To forsake a friend in the day of calamity is not uncommon” – Albert Barnes on 2 Timothy 4:16
On the plus side, we do read in the Bible of great loyalty. Eliezar was Abraham’s servant. They were tight. Abraham was so sure of Eliezar’s loyalty, he sent him abroad to find a wife for Isaac. He was SO sure of it that he considered Eliezar would continue to be loyal even after Abraham had passed away, considering him his heir.
Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi was such that she stuck with Naomi even though Naomi was sour, difficult, and traveling to a new place under a new-to-Ruth God. Jonathan was loyal to David under extremely adverse circumstances.
Social capital is real. It is the value of the positive relationships shared among people. It is founded on trust, reciprocity, mutual understanding through committed relationships. I don’t mean just love relationships, but workplace relationships, friendships, relations among club members, sports teams etc. It’s about human sociability – our ability to work together and to solve complex problems, and to form the groups that make up society. People accumulate social capital by investing in people, listening, caring, involving. If you borrow tools from your neighbor and he borrows them from you, your social capital has been established because your relationship is based on trust and reciprocity.
Some people have more social capital than others, they are regarded as “pillars of society”. These folks are seen as trustworthy (relational capital), or wise (intellectual capital) or useful (having expertise). Have you ever noticed when a group is together, say, trying to solve a problem or brainstorm, and everyone is gabbing all at once, but when one certain person begins to speak everyone stops talking to listen to them? They have a greater amount of social capital.
But what if something happens to damage the person’s reputation?
Social capital can be very easily destroyed. It can take a long time to build social capital through repeat positive actions and interactions, but it can be destroyed by a single action. Generally social capital is lost or damaged by anything that reduces feelings of goodwill or disrupts networks. Any action that is antisocial. Anything that makes people feel less social, sharing, giving, or caring towards their fellow humans. These actions could be things like a betrayal of trust, selfish acts, perceived indifference or exclusion, violence or threat of violence, or deceit or deception. Source
THAT is when loyalty is tested. If a colleague was in hot water with the boss, would you publicly stick with her? (Hypothetical situations among believers- we don’t expect loyalty from unbelievers, they love the world, like Demas). We often edge away when someone we know has done something antisocial, or even just made a faux pas. We don’t want to be associated with them, lest our own reputation be damaged, too.
We often speak of Christian persecution, of being martyred for the faith. Or even lawsuits against us or our business, or being jailed. Big, traumatic things.
Those things are surely difficult trials, but God has not appointed hard persecution to everyone. But everyone in the faith makes decisions every day that either enhance or hinder our walk. Making these little decisions on how and when to uphold our testimony is the walk. Satan tries to influence us bit by bit to lower our standards where they’re important. Eventually, these little compromises add up.
For example, if someone you know at work or at a club or other gathering, even church, has fallen into hot water, do you edge away? Do you decide, ‘hm I’ll walk down the other hallway so I won’t run into them and have to talk to them.’ ‘I don’t want to be seen with them so I’ll make up an excuse to get out of our weekly coffee gathering…’ It’s ridiculously easy to fool our own conscience, but we don’t fool God.
In secular society we may have accumulated social capital, but in God’s economy we are all equal at the foot of His cross. We love without reservation and through thick and thin. Our loyalty should be steadfast. When we are loyal to our believing friends, co-workers, family, we are not only being loyal to them. We are being loyal to the Savior in them.
Was it easy for Ruth, Jonathan, or Paul’s friends to stick with him? Not at all. In fact, loyalty to Paul must have made more than one of his friends re-think being with him. It is human nature to look to self-preservation first. In Acts 14 after they dragged Paul out and left him for dead, he rose up and went back in, lol. Then Barnabas loyally stuck with Paul and the next day they both went to Derbe.
Soon we will have to make more and more decisions like these. We may not all be destined for martyrdom or even jailing for the Name. But as the world’s noose tightens it comes against us in a thousand smaller ways. Will you be loyal to your friend in the face of unpalatable circumstances? Will you visit her in jail?Will you continue to support her in love even though her reputation suffers badly? Will you sit with her in the pew?
A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24). Barnes’ Notes says
“It is not the multitude of so called friends that helps us. They may only embarrass and perplex. What we prize is the one whose love is stronger and purer even than all ties of kindred.
Proverbs 17:17 says a friend loves at all times. Will you be a loyal friend to a sinner? Because, you are a sinner too.