Monday, January 30, 2017

What’s Wrong with Being Good?

As a society, we seem fascinated with being good. We call infants that aren’t too fussy “good babies.” A well-behaved canine is known as a “good dog.” When people pass from this life, we like to describe them as a “good man” or “good woman.” We often refer to pro athletes that bounce from one team to another, as “good players.” So, being good is a good thing, right?

Isn't "good" good enough?
It is unless we have the choice between being good – and being great. In his classic book on business, Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses an extensive study comparing companies that were “good,” in terms of results produced over time, with companies that consistently achieved “great” performance for at least 15 years. His opening statement sums up his conclusion: “Good is the enemy of great.”

Without going into the factors he describes that transformed companies from good to great, Collins says, “Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just too easy to settle for a good life.” And therein lies the problem, the tendency to “settle” rather than strive for more than just good.

Oswald Chambers, in his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, takes a similar view. He states, “good is the enemy of the best.” However, he offers this idea in another context. There are many good things we can get involved with in life, Chambers observes, things that can consume our time, energy and resources. However, these can compete with the “best” things we could do, activities and pursuits we’re uniquely qualified, gifted – and even called – to pursue.

Whether we’re doing a job, running a company, parenting, or determining how to experience meaningful lives, the ability to distinguish good from great, or good from best, could make the difference in whether we experience life at its most fulfilling and rewarding.

Why is this important for followers of Jesus Christ? Because in knowing we’ve been made in the image of God, part of our universal calling is to reflect His character, including the excellence with which He created and orders everything around us. At the end of the creation account, the Lord inspected everything He made, “and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). He didn’t say it was just “okay,” or “not too bad,” but very good.

Similarly, in serving the Lord, we’re not to “settle” for less than the best we can do. As the apostle Paul exhorts in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” For emphasis, Paul restates this in another letter: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

In His parable of the talents, Jesus described how different servants chose to put into use the talents their master had entrusted to them. Of the servants who had used those resources wisely, Jesus said their master commended them with, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things…” (Matthew 25:23).

We’re unique, not only in our abilities but also in the gifts God has entrusted to us. The gifts I have and the calling God has given me probably doesn’t match your gifts and calling. So how we use our abilities and exercise our gifts, striving for excellence and choosing the best, rather than the merely “good,” will look different from one person to the next.

The key is found in found in Ecclesiastes 9:10, which tells us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” If we’re spending considerable time, effort and resources in doing something we can’t give our very best – if “good” is the best we can do rather than “great” – then maybe we need to re-evaluate our commitment to it. If we’re not convinced we can do something for the glory of God, maybe it’s time to redirect our efforts, concentrating on pursuits where we can see God clearly at work through us.

Good is good, except when it keeps us from the best, or from being great at whatever we do.

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