September 27, 2020

I have a friend I wrote a post about several months ago who always had the same answer when people asked him what he did for a living. He would declare, “I’m a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.”  He was right about not being a master at anything. He did lots of things in his lifetime but was only mediocre at best in any of them. I have heard that cliché from many people about being a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

So what does it take to become a master at anything?  I’ll answer that question later. Many professions carry the term “master” in the title of their trade or profession. I was a master plumber in four different states early in my career as a minister. I had to pass two different tests in each state to earn that title. First a journeyman test, followed later by a master’s test. I was for some years a real estate broker. Again two different tests.

Many people, in their educations to become known as a master, have to achieve a certain level of schooling. I have several school teachers in my family who have master’s degrees. My daughter-in-law, Jennifer; my two sisters, a niece with two master’s degrees, another niece who is working on her master’s while teaching, and an aunt who retired many years ago. I also have an aunt who has a master’s degree in nursing, and taught nursing for years.

Many professions have people who are designated a professional even though the word master is not on their diploma or license. Would you go to a doctor who had not passed some tests by a Board proving they were proficient in their particular discipline? My late son, who was a rheumatologist, told me of the difficulty of passing those rigorous tests. Now his daughter, Paige, just took a test as she pursues the profession of a medical doctor. My daughter, Rachel, had to take tests proving she had the proficiency to be known as a Registered nurse. Even some ministers have to pass tests. I took three before I was eligible to be ordained.

Well, you may be thinking, what if you do something, and even do it extremely well, and don’t have some Board certify you as a master, or even professional? I’ve known many people in that category. Let me tell you a few interesting stories about people with no licensing board declaring them as masters.

I was in a Rotary Club in a particular town I was pastoring in when a fellow member was taking her turn to speak or obtain a speaker for that week’s program. She chose to speak about her job. She was a free-lance photographer who sold her photos to many different outlets. She said she was once in a grocery store where she accidentally ran into the editor of one of the papers she sold her photos to. He said to her, ”I sure like the photos you take and let our paper publish them. You must have a very good camera.”  She replied by thanking him for the compliment and then told him, “I read the editorials you write. You must have a very good typewriter.”

Thirty-five years ago when I was a member of a Shriner’s Club I met a man who was a member of the press corps who followed General George Patton around everywhere he went. Several photographers were doing the same thing at the same time. Patton loved publicity. One of the younger photographers told my friend he could take better photos and have some of them published in papers all over the world if he had a better camera. My friend told him he would trade cameras with him for a week. At the end of the week, the younger photographer still had not produced any photos that cut muster to be published in worldwide papers.

Once when I was teaching an adult Sunday School lesson, one of the class members asked me what kind of Bible I used. He wanted to know the brand, the version, and whether it had commentary about various passages of scripture I used. He said he wanted to know, since I preached better sermons that any pastor that church had ever had.

My late brother, David, was an excellent bricklayer for many years before he got a job at a college that had a bricklaying class. He was the instructor. Eventually, he moved away from that town and became a bricklayer instructor at another college. When David died, I did the funeral. After the service was over, a man I didn’t know came up to me . He introduced himself to me and told me he had been the chancellor of the first college where David taught bricklaying. He told me that David had been the best bricklaying instructor that the college had ever had. David had no diploma that declared him a master of bricklaying, but through word-of-mouth, he had more work than he and his crew could handle during the years he worked for himself as a bricklayer.

The Apostle Paul worked a side job as a tentmaker. I bet he was a master tentmaker. Many preachers who work and pastor, too, say they are bi-vocational. The Bible teaches that we are known by the fruit we produce. If you are good at the job you do, you are a master. The word will get out that you are good.

I hear some funny things when I ask people I don’t know well about their jobs: some say, “I’m just a housewife or just a Mother.” I kindly correct them on the spot and tell them they have the most important job in the world. Sometimes I tell them the story behind the adage that “the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”

One elderly man I met soon after being assigned to a new appointment, told me he was just a professional babysitter to three of his teenaged grandchildren. I told him how important that job was and told him about my maternal grandfather who was a master storyteller, a teacher of hunting and fishing, and taught me how to swim, plow with a mule, and so many other things. Neither of those men had a certified designation as a master grandfather. Many people are masters at what they do, but have no certification to prove it.

You’ve probably heard the joke of someone asking a professional singer, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The answer is, practice, practice, practice. In other words, lots of experience is what makes one a master at whatever they do.

You may be a master at what you do but have never recognized it. Take pride in your work and do the best you can at it. It doesn’t matter how humble you may think it is. Our society will always need good trash collectors, good house painters, good bricklayers and plumbers, good truck drivers, etc.

Don’t worry that you may not have a fancy diploma or license. Just do the best you can at your chosen profession or trade, and you’ll eventually be known as a Master.

God Bless You,
Spencer Plumley

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