Don’t Answer the Phone

Don’t Answer the Phone

“Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God,” 2 Cor. 3:5

In the church I served in Pennsylvania, the pastor’s office was in the parsonage. To help distinguish between work calls and personal calls, we installed a separate phone line for family use only.  One day, while playing with our children, I decided to use their voices to record the message on the church’s answering machine. They were in elementary school and their childish voices sounded so cute on the phone.

Wanting to share my joy with Peggy, I told her about the message and how cool it turned out. She was cooking in the kitchen, right next to our family phone, as she listened. When I was done talking, she said, “Don’t answer the phone.” It seemed a strange reply, but I agreed. But then, the church phone started to ring. I told her I needed to get it. She replied, “Don’t answer the phone.” “Peggy,” I said, “that could be a church emergency. Someone might need me.” Again, she replied, “Don’t answer the phone.”

Peggy didn’t understand the nature of my position. These were work hours. Even if it was our house, there were times I needed to answer the phone. So, I left her and went to my office to pickup the phone.  Hoping I didn’t miss the call. When I answered the phone, I heard Peggy’s voice speaking very slowly, “Don’t…answer…the…phone.” She had called the church phone hoping to hear her children’s voices, not mine. She knew it was not a church emergency. If ever I’m feeling too full of myself, I remember this moment of absolute incompetence.

No matter what our IQ level or years of training, we all have moments of absolute incompetence. We prefer to hide these moments away because, like mine, they are embarrassing. It is probably more helpful to own these moments than to hide them away. There is joy in being reminded the world is not held together by our own talents. Incompetence can free the soul the burden of worrying about things you do not control.

Paul reminds us today that our competence has its limitations. Not only that, but despite our limitations, God still pours out an abundant life upon us. Today, it might do you good to remember your own limitations and lack of competence. It may help you understand there is always life on the other side of every stupid thing we do. What a sweet relief it is to really grasp this truth.

Click to read: 2 Corinthians 3: 4-11

Reflection Questions:

  • What is your embarrassing display of incompetence? The one you can laugh about now.
  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • How does it inform your faith life?
  • How can incompetence be a gift? Or, can’t it?


Photo Courtesy of

Liked it? Take a second to support Eric Elkin on Patreon!
Comments are closed.