This article was written by my pastor husband. I thought it was spot on and wanted to share for all of you in the trenches with us in this whole parenting thing…
In the ﬁrst chapter of his book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, author Jim Collins writes the following:
“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” (1)
Collins then goes on to explain how certain businesses thrive while others remain content to swim around in a sea of mediocrity. A really great business, he argues, is never willing to settle for that which is merely good enough. Truly successful businesses understand that their greatest enemy isn’t failure, but settling for what is ordinary.
This same principle applies in parenting. Your choice in parenting will never be between allowing your kids to smoke cigarettes or encouraging them to read their Bible. Your decision will never be between allowing your kids to join a gang or attend the student ministry summer camp. It’s never a struggle choosing between what is horrible for or what is good for your child. Those are easy choices to make.
Our greatest enemy in parenting is not what is evil, but what is good. It is missing the best because the satisfactory seems to be more important.
Before we go to examples, let’s consider this story told by Jesus in Luke 14:
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The ﬁrst said, ‘I have just bought a ﬁeld, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought ﬁve yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
In response to a statement about heaven, Jesus told a parable. A rich man sends out invitations to attend a great banquet. These invitations were like “Save-the-Dates”. They informed people of the impending banquet, and that he would let them know when to come. Everyone responds positively to this invitation. Who wouldn’t want to attend a big banquet at a rich man’s house? All invited essentially say, “Yes, count on me to be there.”
Then, the big day arrives, and this wealthy fellow sends out word to those guests who accepted the invitation. “The banquet is ready,” the servant says. “Now you can come to my master’s house for the party!”
One by one, they tell the servant why they now cannot attend the banquet. “I’m so sorry,” says the ﬁrst guy. “I know I said I’d attend, but I just bought a ﬁeld, and I need to go and see it. Please send my regrets.”
The second excuse is similar. “I’ve just purchased several oxen. The planting season is nearly upon us, and I need to make sure they will be able to get the job done for me. Please send my apologies to your master.”
“I’m so sorry,” says the third. “I know I accepted the invitation, but something’s just come up. I’ve gotten married, and I need to attend to my wife. But I promise I’ll be there the next time.”
The servant continues his journey to the various homes, only to hear the same thing. Sorry, so sorry, please send my apologies. Maybe next time.
Parables are stories designed to teach a truth. In this particular one, the point isn’t difﬁcult to understand. The great banquet thrown by the master is a relationship with God. We might call it heaven or salvation. Those originally invited to the banquet represented the nation of Israel. However, according to this parable, they later refused God’s offer by rejecting Jesus. They had become self-sufﬁcient and self-righteous, and just couldn’t believe that they needed anything from Jesus.
I’m not sure if there is another parable Jesus told that speaks to where we are as a culture today more than this one.
Virtually everyone I meet is generally favorable toward God. I personally know of very few atheists. Most people I know are very positive about a relationship with God, salvation, and heaven.
A couple of years ago, our church began a large, very visible expansion to our facilities. People I already knew or met in the community would ask me about this project. I would then have the opportunity to tell them about our church and all the great things happening. I would talk especially about our student ministry and children’s ministry and all we do as a church to reach the next generation.
Virtually to a person, they would respond by saying, “That’s wonderful. You guys are doing such great things for our community.” I don’t think they were just being polite. I think they were genuinely pleased with our efforts to positively affect the lives of students and children.
I would then ask if they were involved in a church, and if they weren’t, I’d say something like, “Then won’t you come and join us in this positive thing? Won’t you come and join us for this great banquet God has for us? It’s incredible. Our worship team is phenomenal. Every week, together, we get to celebrate the greatness of our God and learn truths that are life-changing. You really should come and be a part of this great party.”
The typical response went like this: “Thank you so much. I might consider it later, but right now we have a lot going on. My kids are playing travel ball. And we are just so tired and use Sunday to sleep in. We have a house at the beach, and we try to get there on the weekends. I just bought a ﬁeld. There are these oxen I’ve got to go check out. I just got married….” The excuses went on forever.
No one I know is opposed to the banquet. They have very positive views towards it. They just have other things that take priority. Good things. Sports. Work. Family time. Vacations. No one said, “I would come, but I normally use Sunday mornings to get drunk, watch X-rated movies, rob convenient stores, bite the heads off bats, etc.” The choice isn’t between the great banquet and evil. It’s missing this great banquet for that which we consider to be good.
Writer and theologian C.S. Lewis has a well-known, oft-quoted insight into this problem:
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord ﬁnds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when inﬁnite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
(C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)
The greatest “miss” of parents today is allowing their children to settle for the good and the ordinary while missing the infinite joy. Children may excel in sports, or academics, or in having lots of friends. Others may admire their success, and even desire their own children to follow in a similar path. They will be held up by our culture as examples of those to emulate.
But, if their successes have caused them to miss the great banquet, then they’ve missed it all. They’ve ultimately given up what is great for that which is merely good.
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