The Danger of Good at the Expense of the Best
When making evaluations of various activities or issues usually the word “good” means something positive. Saying things such as this is good as opposed to bad clearly shows that good is a word we would want to use.
However, there is at times a danger that doing the good when it prevents us from doing the best can actually be a bad thing. An example is as a pastor I can counsel people, which is a good thing, but if the time spent prevents me from being with my wife, a better thing, then that “good” becomes a problem.
Years ago I was teaching a time management class when I worked for a utility company as a management trainer. In that course we spoke about doing our “As”, or “Bs” or “Cs”. This was an attempt to categorize activities based on the most important to the least important. The As were the best, the Bs were good, and the Cs were OK. The Cs weren’t bad; in fact it was good if you could do them. But if you did them at the expense of doing your As, then those Cs were actually bad.
I propose that doing the good at the expense of the best can actually be dangerous. One of my favorite Biblical passages to illustrate this is the story of when Jesus comes to visit Mary and Martha. This is found in Luke 10:38-42.
In this story Mary is in the front room listening to Jesus teach. Her sister Martha is in the kitchen fixing a meal and being a good hostess. I must stop here and mention that it was important for a woman to be a good hostess and was culturally a good thing that she was doing.
At some point Martha comes out and interrupts Jesus and says to him that didn’t he care that she was doing all the preparation and her sister was sitting in the room listening to Him and not helping her. Jesus responds to Martha that she is worried about so many things but Mary has chosen the best part which will never be taken from her.
Putting this story into a time management context let me restate what is going on. Martha is in the kitchen doing her Bs, whereas Mary is at the feet of Jesus, listening to him and doing her As. Martha comes out, looks at Jesus and essentially says, “shut up God”. Not only should he shut up, but she implores Him to please tell her sister to stop doing these As and come in the kitchen and help do her Bs.
You might be thinking, “shut up God”? What else would you call it when Jesus, who I believe is God, is talking, you interrupt him, and demand your request be the priority. Jesus then reminds Martha that she is worried about all her Bs, but Mary has chosen the A, and it will not be taken from her. This story illustrates how doing the good at the expense of the best is in fact, dangerous. Why, because if God wants you to do something and you have a different agenda, even a good one, then you will be in disobedience.
I have also come to believe that the enemy of our souls, Satan, would love to tempt us to overly do good so it prevents us from doing the best. We think the devil is always about getting us to do something bad or evil. While that is true, his ultimate goal is for us to not do God’s best, because then we will be more ineffective for kingdom purposes.
One other Scripture to point out is Matthew 6:33. Here Jesus teaches us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The word “first” in the original language is proton, which means to be the best or of first importance. The context of this scripture is Jesus talking about how to get our needs met. He tells believers that if they focus first on their needs and not on the kingdom of God then we are no different than pagans. Paradoxically, if we focus on the kingdom then our needs will be met. Once again it is a decision of priorities. Will we go for the best or settle only for the good?
It is so easy to get caught up in many activities that are good, but doesn’t help us to achieve what we all want: being the most effective for God. I often find myself saying if I just get all of this good stuff out of the way, then I will have time for the most important things. Guess what: that seldom happens. If something is an A, then our focus must continually be on what it takes to accomplish that A.
May we realize and know that we all have a limited amount of time on planet Earth. It is said of Jesus that he did everything he was suppose to do in 3 years, but was never in a hurry. That is perfect priorities!! While you and I are not perfect, we can more consistently choose to focus on our As.
If we focus on the best then it will be dangerous, but not the kind of dangerous mentioned above. We will become dangerous to the enemy; dangerous for the kingdom. This is a dangerous that we should strive to be.