Good Enough

January 11th, 2013

God created everything, and he saw that it was all good.

And ever since then, people have been trying to make things that are good too.

It’s a pursuit that has driven humanity for eons. We try to transform bad things into good things and good things into great things. Even things that turned out to be very evil and destructive were motivated by the desire for good results. The drive for “good” has been the source of our greatest triumphs…

…usually. Unless, of course, we just become lazy. Then the pursuit of “good” is replaced by our pursuit of “good enough.”

And there is an incredible difference between the two.

Steak and Salad

It took me a long time to understand the story of Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer, and Abel raised livestock. But when the brothers came to worship God with sacrifices from their harvests, God responds favorably to Abel, but not to Cain.

God’s reaction to the brothers seems kind of arbitrary. Why did he like Abel’s offering of steak but not Cain’s salad?

The answer isn’t about God being a meat eater or a vegetarian. It’s a question of good versus good enough.

Abel had carefully selected the marbled cuts of steak from the firstborn of his flocks. Cain, meanwhile, merely picked out some of his fruits with no attention to the quality of his offering. His offering wasn’t exactly fit for the grocery store. Some of his fruits and vegetables were perhaps blemished or weird sizes and shapes. Maybe some bugs had chewed on them. A farmer today would call those “B” fruits. They’re good for making fruit juice or feeding to animals, not taking to church to make an offering.

Abel’s offering was good. Cain’s offering was good enough.

“Good” Versus “Good Enough”

The funny thing is Cain and Abel both came to God hoping for approval. A pat on the back and a “well done” from God would be a nice boost. Cain obviously expected a favorable response from God. So he was offended and angry when God didn’t react the way he expected.

Cain was able to convince himself that his offering was good, and the best he could produce. But God saw right through it. God has a knack for that. When Ananias tried to upstage Barnabas by selling his property and giving part of the profit to the apostles, he pretended he was giving the whole amount. God saw through that too. Barnabas’ generosity was good. Ananias’ was just good enough. There are dozens examples in the Bible of good and merely good enough.

Not Good Enough

As an elementary art teacher, I hear one question dozens of times a day.

Students will hold up their work to show me their progress. There is a look of anticipation in their eyes. They want my approval. They ask me again and again every day…

“Is this good?”

It took me a while to catch on, but what many of them are really asking is not, “Is this good?” but “Is this good enough?”

In other words, “Can I stop working now?”

But the question, “Is this good?” does nothing to answer the question, “Is this my best?” And I have told students ten times in a single hour, “No, it’s not good enough. Keep working.”

So many of us are in that same mode, having trained ourselves since third grade art class. If we can trick other people into thinking we are doing “good,” then we are satisfied. If other people think that we’re kind or generous or spiritual or hard working, that’s where we stop. We never strive for our best. We stop at good enough.

A Good Life

When God creates things, they are good.

And when he made us in his image, we were given the ability to make good things too. Maybe that’s why God isn’t impressed with things that are just “good enough,” or offerings that are “good enough,” or lives lived “good enough.”

We can always convince ourselves that we are doing our best. We can go to church or pray and expect God to give us a favorable response. But God sees through our “good enough.” He wants our best. He wants our best work, our highest efforts, our firstfruits.

Giving God our best is the only true expression of sincere gratitude. A life lived without sincere gratitude isn’t really blessed. It’s not really good. It’s just good enough.

comments powered by Disqus