Is God the God of Excellence?
I've heard it said that as a Christian, we should strive for excellence in what we do so that others will see our excellence and thereby come to know the God of excellence. This idea strikes me as a bit of cultural theology, theology derived from the culture one lives in more so than from the Bible. People who believe something along these lines would cite Daniel and Joseph and their influence in the societies they inhabited. Doing so, though, lays a heavy burden of condemnation on those who fail to live up the extremely high standards set by those two heroes of the Bible. The Scripture that comes to mind when I hear such ideas about striving for excellence is one where Jesus rebuked the teachers of the law, saying, "You lay heavy burdens on people's shoulders but do nothing to help them out."
Now, I must say that doing a job very well is to be admired. Unfortunately, excellence can become something of a theology, as is it's the sine qua non of succeeding in the Christian walk. Unfortunately, the Bible never actually tells us to be great doctors, lawyers, businessman, etc. Rather, it tells us to be diligent, honest, and fair. Yes, you should work hard, but not everyone will excel at what they do. If certain Christians place a heavy emphasis on not only working hard, but performing exceptionally work, then they exert an unhealthy pressure on those who listen to them. Frankly, if I take two people, one of whom stinks at what he does and the other excels, I can tell nothing of how well they're doing in their Christian walk from that alone. Prosperity in worldly terms, including how well you perform a job, has no significant correlation to prosperity in your walk with God.
That said, it may still be the case that if you do well at your profession (whatever it may be), people may be attracted to you and through you come to know the Lord. But think of this. A particular trend in American culture is to hate, slander, and gossip about those who have authority over you. Watch movies like Diehard, and shows like the Simpsons. In such shows, people in authority are mocked and portrayed as fools. If you excel in your job, you will rise to positions of authority (presumably). Simply because of that authority, scores of people will suddenly hate you, irrespective of your behavior. Does that strike as a prime position to be in to lead people to the Lord? No, perhaps not. Of course, we shouldn't simply shun positions of authority for fear of people's reactions to our authority, but I simply wish to make the point that it's not excellence that draws people to God. There's something else in us that draws people to God.
Honestly, I believe the reason many of us are attracted such 'theologies' derives from what we value. Do we value money, power, respect (looking good in the eyes of others), popularity, security as the highest good, or do we value love for and obedience to God? Do we place primary emphasis on exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, e.g., kindness, patience, generosity, long-suffering, gentleness? Do we yearn most strongly for things and accomplishments, or do we love people, both those who constitute the church and those yet to be saved? Do we love the things of the kingdom or the things of this world?
Look into your heart and see what you value most highly. What do you seek out of life? Is your heart in line with God's? I think that if most of you truly look deeply, you will find, as I did, a deep cesspool of wordliness that needs to be excavated. To remove that filth from our hearts needs to be the primary focus of our lives, not excelling in worldly matters.
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Right on John. Many people look into the Bible to justify their lifestyle. "Excellence" is a comparative word. It elevates one above another. After all, aren't we suppose to be brothers and sisters in the Lord?
Very good John (even possibly "excellent"). ;-) I related very much with what you wrote! With love, Deb