The Escalating Zero Point and Psalm 78

Some time ago I discovered a new “friend”, Asaph, King David’s music director. I’ve learned or been reminded of a great deal by my new friend.

Psalm 78:12-30, Asaph talks about the miracles of God during the Exodus, how the people still became frustrated, how God provided and how the people still turned against Him. Psalm 78 is simply a fantastic lesson in how we can’t be satisfied when we set our sights, first and foremost, on worldly achievements and possessions.

While in graduate school, I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Frederick Herzberg. Dr.

Dr Frederick Herzberg

Herzberg was acknowledged as being one of the top 5 psychologists to shape the 20th century. He is best known for his work in the field of motivation at work and what is known as “job enrichment.”

In his theory of work motivation, Herzberg differentiated between what he called “hygiene factors” and “motivators”. Hygiene factors are things that, if not satisfied, cause us to be “dissatisfied” at work. They are mostly external things. Motivators are things that lead us to strive to be the best we can or do the best we can. motivators tend to be more internal in nature.

When it comes to life in general, we have one heck of a lot of hygiene factors in our lives. In a recent discussion  several offered their views on “wants vs needs.” Psychologists (and others) have been grappling with this for a very long time without resolution.  Wants and needs are virtually impossible to define outside of context. But let me shed some light on them here using Herzberg’s concept of hygiene factors.

When discussing hygiene factors, Herzberg talked about the “zero escalating point”. Making it simple, what we aspired to one day becomes “not enough” once we have achieved a certain level. We want to dress better… then when we reach that level, we want even better clothes. We seek a certain level of income… and once we reach it we find it is not enough. We seek some level of power or influence… only to find we want more once we’ve gotten it.

This concept is well explained by John D Rockefeller, the late 19th century billionaire. When asked how much money was enough, he responded “Just a little bit more”.

No matter what we achieve in the secular world, someone will have more or better. No matter how big or good something is, there is always something bigger or better. What was once a lofty goal becomes “no longer enough”. this is the escalating zero point. And nearly every one of these things is external to us… and they are all relative.

Psalm 78 discusses this among the Hebrews in the wilderness. God led them out of bondage with the cloud and fire. He split the sea. He performed miracles. Yet, when the Hebrews had crossed the seabed into the wilderness, then began to doubt and to even challenge God. Many wanted to return to the known security of bandage.

God struck the rock and gave them water. They demanded food. God gave them manna, they turned to idols.

When the Hebrews focused on external things, they faced the escalating zero point even to the point of having their strongest struck down and being sentences to wander the wilderness until all of their generation save Joshua and Caleb died. More was just never enough. They lacked faith.

Paul shows us a different way. He describes contentment in Philippians 4:10-13. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”. and “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”. The source of this strength is internal… it is Christ Jesus who lives within us in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 13:5 gives us even more insight: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

It is no sin to seek joy in our lives. Nor is it a sin to strive for success. It becomes a sin when we place worldly gain above obedience to and love for God and His Son. When we do that, as the Hebrews did in the wilderness, we can’t win. We are playing a zero sum game, with an escalating zero point. There is always someone or something that is bigger, better or more…

only in Christ Jesus can we find true contentment…

I like this guy Asaph… he’s taught me a great deal in a short time. And he’s reminded me of a long-lost teacher, mentor and friend, Dr. Frederick Herzberg.

Alive in The Word

About aliveintheword

Missouri, USA Married to Marty, 45 years 2 sons (with 2 daughers-in-law) and 2 granddaughters Life dedicated to serving Jesus Christ and delivering the Good News
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2 Responses to The Escalating Zero Point and Psalm 78

  1. ptl2010 says:

    True. Thanks for the sharing. Great perspectives.

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