Pressure Situations: Lessons from the Oscars March 03 2017

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

It would be safe to say that Hollywood is not aligned with biblical principles. But occasionally some lessons can be drawn from incidents that occur in the acting profession. Such is the case with the 2017 Oscar Awards Ceremony, held Sunday, February 26. Although the Scriptures acknowledge the concept of giving prizes for competing (see I Corinthians 9:24) and giving honor (Romans 13:7), the entertainment industry has developed award-giving to another level entirely.

Enter the 2017 Oscars. At the grand finale – the highly anticipated award for “best picture” – the presenters were unknowingly handed the wrong envelope. After some hesitation, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as the winner in the best picture category. The film director and his crew came on stage and started giving their acceptance speeches. In the background you could see people with headsets scurrying about, whispering to the excited group. A mistake had been made; Moonlight was the real winner. Uh oh. There was confusion all about the auditorium, and after sorting it out, the “new” winners came up on stage. The mistaken recipients and the real ones attempted to make the best of this high-pressure situation, played out live in front of tens of millions of viewers.

But the question for me is “what would I have done?”  How would I have handled it in a way that respected the participants?   Are there some biblical principles that come into play?  

If you have managed children’s programs, are a teacher, have been responsible for groups where recognition is made, or perhaps have been on the receiving end of omitted recognitions or errant announcements, you understand the kind of things that can happen.   The Oscar incident provides a good opportunity to consider how we, as Christians, should think about the whole area of awards, recognition, and honoring of others’ accomplishments.  God provides a far superior method of bestowing honor than secular award ceremonies, so here are a few principles to consider.

  1. Expressing appreciation is a good and honorable thing.  There are opportunities to do this on both an informal and formal basis.  Paul and other New Testament authors expressed appreciation to numerous individuals who had helped them in their ministries over the years.  See the last chapter of the Pauline epistles to the Romans, Corinthians (first letter), Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians for some great examples of his recognition and encouragement of others, by name.  So expressing appreciation or recognition and bestowing honor are very much a part of building up God’s flock, as well as encouraging those within our physical family.
  2. Remember Who we ultimately serve. Colossians 3:23 states:
    “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
    In other words, we should not be concerned about getting recognized or overlooked in our own work or in our serving.  We are not doing this for a human reward, and our peace and joy should not depend on being recognized.  If we are recognized, that’s great; if not, that’s great as well, and perhaps even better.  So as we honor individuals for their efforts and a job well done in a church program context, we can provide gracious reminders, including to ourselves, that we don’t do these things for earthly rewards or recognition.  But we notice and encourage one another in carrying out responsibilities as part of God’s family.  This is an important lesson for all ages, and it is a particularly good opportunity for teaching children this critical biblical principle.
  3. If things go wrong.  So what if we are in the position that Oscar participants were in?  An omission occurs; people get the wrong award; or a name gets horribly mis-pronounced, even as much as we have prepared.  The worst thing to do is try to cover it up.  Rather, this is an opportunity to demonstrate love through taking responsibility for our actions (or helping someone else do so).  Repentance should be as public as the offense.  If it happened in front of a large audience, correct it in front of the audience.  If it was an omission that occurred privately with an individual, correct it with that person.  If you have difficulty “thinking on your feet” in pressure situations, perhaps take some time in advance to think of gracious responses.  You want to prepare well, so that mishaps are less likely, but it is sometimes good to plan out what you might say in the event something goes wrong.  
  4. The value of building a character of faithfulness and love.  The occasional slip-up is much easier for others to accept if our love and servant spirit have been demonstrated over a long period of time.  People will usually recognize that the oversight was a rare event and that you really do care about them.  Perhaps this is what I Peter 4:8 means, where God says “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”  In other words, if you have a consistent pattern of loving, people will see that, even when you sin against them or inadvertently “pull out the wrong envelope,” figuratively speaking.     
Proverbs 15:23 says “A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!” May God give us apt answers and timely words as we seek to serve others.

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Steve Smith