The Earl of Sandwich: What to do when someone takes credit for your hard work

July 25th, 2017

John Montagu was an Earl during the 1700s who was known for his statesmanship and prowess as a military officer. During his career, he served as Postmaster General, First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for the Northern Department. To us alive today, he holds a very different title; he is credited with the creation of the sandwich.

How the Sandwich got its name

The stories of the creation of the sandwich vary based on the opinions of the people of the time. To some it was a creation born of necessity because of Montagu’s constant commitment to his work and statesmanship. Others attribute it to his long hours put in at the card tables. Either way Sandwich could hardly be concerned with the ceremony of a sit down meal and so his servants were commanded with creating something that he could eat with one hand while the other held his papers (Or cards depending on which account you believe). Soon afterwards he was being served a piece of salt beef between two pieces of bread. Those seated with him during his mealtime either fellow statesmen, fellow card players or perhaps both, soon were heard saying “I’ll have what Sandwich is having” and that later turned into “I’ll have a sandwich” and so one of the greatest culinary institutions was born.

Think about the humble sandwich. It exists all over the world in some variation of something between two slices of bread. The hero, the sub, the hoagie, the burger, PB&J, the bao, the taco, etc., etc., etc. Sandwiches now exist in nearly every corner of the world.

The only problem is it wasn’t really Sandwich who invented it. Bread had been used for all sorts of things in various cultures around the world. I am sure naan and other flatbreads had been used to carry delicious morsels all over the British empire long before Sandwich. Bread was commonly already used as a plate or trencher for salt beef before and open face sandwiches are still pretty common all over. Most importantly it wasn’t actually Sandwich making the sandwiches. It was his servants whose names history has long forgotten.

So what happens when someone else takes credit for your hard work?

I am sure you have at some point put great effort into something only to have the credit claimed by someone else who had little to no part in it. I remember during my master’s work I had a group project. The two other members of the group had slightly hectic schedules and were really unable to contribute much to the project so it fell to me to do all the legwork and simply hand them their parts for the in class presentation. I remember the following week both of my group members received A’s while I received a B. When I brought this up to the professor (With my group mates to their credit) she simply stated that she thought they did a better job than I did. Even though they were reading my words and following my notes. Since I had apparently chosen the less interesting part of the presentation (and maybe because the prof and I didn’t exactly like each other) my GPA was sacrificed for the good of others.

It’s happened in church as well. A good message, retreat, trip or event that I put the groundwork into only to have someone else get the glory. I remember a youth weekend that we had a guest speaker at. I had planned, run and organized the whole weekend and the guest speaker was only speaking at the Saturday evening lesson because of a scheduling conflict. The speaker was great and the weekend was an absolute success, but I found myself getting a bit agitated as I heard from parents, students and leaders for months and years to come about the great message that speaker had given. How it really impacted the kids lives and how they will always remember it. There was only one issue. The speaker was quoting something I had said at the morning service that I had asked them to work into their talk just so the kids remembered it. They did. From that point on he was the star of that weekend and I was just the guy who planned, organized and ran the whole thing.

It sucks not getting credit when it is do.

It sucks when someone else gets to take the spotlight because of your hard work. It sucks because at the end of the day we really like to be complimented and praised because we are just so good at what we do. But, does it matter?

I think about the apostle Paul when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:4-11:

For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings?What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

If anyone deserved the credit it was Paul. All his journeys all his letters and all his suffering to make it happen. But in Corinth they were more about picking sides than listening to the message. So Paul’s response was ultimately that it doesn’t matter. If Jesus was the end goal he really didn’t care who got the credit.

Now I am not saying that in all aspects of life you should just roll over and let others take the credit for your hard work. Anyone who knows me could tell you that I am not one to back down or get pushed around. When it comes to people knowing Jesus, who he really is and choosing to follow him I don’t really care who they give credit to along the way.

So what are your end goals?

In my last post, I wrote about the need for us to avoid the Messiah complex. This is another point where this temptation can be real. Instead of seeking the credit embrace the idea of spreading it around. Empower your leaders, parents, youth and pastors to be the ones helping introduce others to Jesus. And if they get the credit for all your hard work who cares? Maybe that little bit of misplaced credit is what they need to be more confident to do more work. If it hadn’t been for Sandwich’s desire for something to hold in one hand while he gambled with the other (Supposedly!),  and for an anonymous servant to come up with a great idea, we may have never had In-N-Out and think what a sad place this world would be.

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Denny Burda is the Senior Youth Minister at St. Paul’s Howell Hill in the United Kingdom. After over a decade in youth ministry in the States, Denny, his wife Merina and their cat Elliott followed God on their big adventure of a new life in a new culture.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.