Excellence vs Enslavement
Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way. - I Cor 12:31
Well-intentioned Christian preachers teach excellence. We worship an excellent God; His glory and excellence are evident in all of creation. And so everything we do must reflect that excellence, they say. And they are right.
But every CEO I have met also preaches excellence. I am yet to meet a manager who says he will settle for mediocre performance. But theirs is a very different kind of excellence. They preach excellence at any cost − your cost. This is an excellence that demands shareholder value, even if it sucks the life out of its employees. It is enslaving.
We hear two different messages on excellence. The first, the Christian message of excellence, we hear a few times every year, preached in our churches. The second, the world's message of excellence, is unrelentingly drummed into our ears every single day from 9 to 5 or even longer depending on your work hours.
Now, which message of excellence do you think we should live by?
The problem is not the pursuit of excellence but the motive behind it.
If someone demands excellence for his benefit, or worse still, if we seek excellence for our glory, we end up being enslaved. On the other hand, if we seek an excellence that hinges on service to others, we are liberated. Paul's statement, in the verse above, that he will show the most excellent way, is a prelude to the famous Love chapter. Love is patient, love is kind... Love must be the motive for excellence.
Everyone demands excellence for his benefit at your expense. Jesus Christ demonstrated impeccable excellence all his life – and all of it was for your benefit at His expense. Only when the quest for excellence springs from the agape nature of God − your benefit at my expense − is it a worthy pursuit. Which brand of excellence are you chasing?
Father God, help me not to confuse the world’s call for excellence with Yours. Teach me to always remember that love should be the only true motive for excellence. Amen