Saying No To Good Things


Good is the enemy of great... Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.  - Jim Collins 

There is a moment in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus is tempted by the Accuser (the literal translation of the word Satan) to do good things, rather than great things. He's tempted to: 
  • turn stone into bread
  • rule the world
  • perform impressive miracles 
The Accuser's temptations are strong.  In one fell swoop, Jesus could solve the problem of hunger in the world, blow everyone away with how powerful he is (which would remove all doubts about him), and then basically take over the world and fix all the political, economic and social ills of the day.  

Instead, Jesus refuses to do what seems good in favor of what is great.  He pushes back against the temptation to affect one particular moment in history, in order to fulfill his calling to change all of history and to bring redemption to all of Creation.  

In his engaging and thought-provoking book Lessons from the Dark Wood, author Eric Elnes points out how far too many people give in to the powerful temptation of doing good as opposed to doing the "specific good" that they are uniquely positioned and fashioned to do.  

This temptation can come to us in the form of any number of good projects, missions, activities, including those that for all intents and purpose can make the world a better place.  

But in order to do great things--the kinds of things where we are fully utilizing our unique talents, skills, and passions to do our specific good, which can bring both fulfillment and joy--we may need to let go of some of the good things we feel the temptation to keep doing.  

Eric Elnes writes: 
You can (and will) do a lot of good by walking the path that brings you most fully alive in this world, but in order to stay on this path, you must learn to say no to doing a great many 'good' things." 
If you are not sure what your specific good may be, pray that God would grant you the openness to be more aware of what God may be leading you to do.  Pay that you will discover what you are uniquely positioned and prepared by God to do in order to do great things for the sake of God's kingdom.  

When the moment comes for you to do that specific good, do it with all the zeal and passion you have within you.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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