Maturity. Now there’s a virtue you don’t hear much about in business leadership blogs. Perfection, for that matter, is equally obscure as a leadership trait in corporate America. This statement “With maturity comes perfection” is probably hard to grasp, especially as Christians. We know Jesus was perfect and we know the Bible says “When the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with,” (1 Corinthians 13:10), but how can we, as mere men and women working in companies across the world, be perfect? Great question!
The answer in easy and rests in the ancient New Testament Greek language. When the Bible was translated from one language to another, understanding the use of each Greek word or phrase was not simple. Sometimes it was straightforward and sometimes not. The single Greek word foundational to understanding ‘maturity’ and ‘perfection’ is one such instance.
The word I’m referring to appears almost 20 times in the New Testament, τέλειος – or teleios to you and me. This one Greek word is actually portrayed several different ways in the last 26 books of the Bible. In some passages it is translated “complete”, in others “mature” and still others “perfect”. Not to complicate things but it also flip flops across different Bible translations more still. The NASB and NIV and KJV all mix and interchange the translations of these three words from passage to passage.
In Colossians 1:28, Paul explains that he strives to “present every man complete in Christ” in the NASB, “perfect in Christ” in the KJV and “fully mature in Christ” in the NIV. Teleios is here translated as complete, perfect and fully mature. In Matt 19:21, the NASB and KJV say from Jesus, “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor” whereas the NIV uses ‘perfect’. This happens consistently across all 19 uses. The great news is the interchangeability of words is not concerning to us, especially when we look at its rich and meaningful definition:
Teleios – Mature or full grown, having arrived at an end or objective, nothing else needed, perfect.
Knowing that maturity and perfection and completeness all refer to “nothing else needed, full grown” gives us deeper understanding into our own lives as we strive to be like Jesus. As one bit of further evidence, we can also look at the root word for teleios, which is teleo. This word is used in very distinctive and consistent ways in the New Testament as fulfilled, finished.
When Jesus hung on the cross and spoke his final words, he said, according to John 19:30, “It is teleo”, finished. Paul says in 2 Timothy that he “teleo the race”, specifically, that he finished the race and kept the faith.
With Maturity Comes Perfection simply means this: We strive to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:28), and are called to present one another perfect in Christ (Col 1:28). That means we walk in the Spirit, as Jesus walked, nothing else needed. We live a life fulfilled by Christ and his love and his purpose and his wants and his truths. We don’t require or desire what the world has and we don’t pursue its hollow riches. And this includes chasing fame and fortune through our careers as well.
We are compelled by the grace of God to think about our careers differently, to actually be different in our jobs, working as if working for the Lord. This is maturity, this is perfect! We don’t walk around with the mindset of “Well, I’m not a saint, everybody makes mistakes.” This is exactly contrary to what God’s word call us to. We are called to be perfect. We make Christ our goal in all things, especially at work where we have the opportunity to let our lights shine, to be that city on a hill.
We replicate the life of Christ whether it’s writing a proposal, closing a deal, showing a new employee the ropes, assembling manufactured parts, welding the hull of a ship, teaching a class of high school kids, designing high powered satellite lenses, tuning VHF transmitters, pulling network cable, operating a steam plant etc. etc. etc. We work as if working for the Lord. And in doing so, we will be fulfilled – mature – complete – perfect!
In With Maturity Comes Perfection Part 2 of 2 I will discuss two very practical and powerful ways to make maturity your aim in life. Come back and check it out soon.
Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience. He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to bring the power of Christ’s word, as the foundation of career success, into corporate and small business America.