There’s a funny story I like to tell about Mary. It’s funny to me because it is so unlike her to do something like this and I chalk it up to ‘bad timing’. It goes to show you that any of us can have an “off day” from time to time. Several years ago, when she was working at the Assemblies of God headquarters in the World Missions department, she was working on a project. At one point, perhaps being a little frustrated with how things were going, she said out loud, “Oh that’s good enough!” What she didn’t realize was that, just at that moment, the head of the World Missions department was walking past her desk! “What? We don’t settle for ‘good enough in World Missions!’ he jokingly scolded. Talk about bad timing!
Not solely to pick on Mary, I once did something very similar. I was working as a young accountant at Texaco, trying to reconcile an account and just not having much success. So, as I was talking to myself (as I often did), I said out loud, “oh let’s just pretend this is right.” Next to me was one of our supervisors who burst out laughing and said, “Let’s pretend that is right? Is that how you do accounting work?” I don’t know what I was thinking – “pretending” something is right does not change the fact that it is wrong! I was a bit embarrassed at the time but, looking back, it is quite humorous to me now.
We are often tempted to “cut corners”, “take shortcuts”, or “pretend” something is right when it is not. We do these things because we want to be more efficient, making sure we will meet deadlines and try to get as much accomplished as possible. But, as believers, we need to remember that our work is a reflection of the Lord’s work in us. Sometimes cutting a corner, losing focus, or ignoring a problem may not have dire consequences, while at other times it may be deadly.
For instance, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built in Washington State back in the late 1930’s and opened for traffic on July 1, 1940. On November 7th of that same year the bridge collapsed under high winds, causing loss of life and millions of dollars in damages. After an investigation, it was discovered that the engineers who designed the bridge cut some corners in order to save money, and those cuts made the bridge unsafe for traffic. It was just a matter of time before the bridge would collapse.
In chapter 9 of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus underscores this teaching, but I think a lot of people do not seem to understand what He is saying. In that chapter, someone comes up to Jesus and says that he wants to follow Him, but he first needed to go home and say goodbye to his family. What could that hurt, right? Jesus responded with the line "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." That seemed a little harsh to me at first. But then I learned about the context in which it was said.
When a farmer is plowing a field, it is important that his plow lines are straight so that the maximum amount of seed can be sown. To ensure this, farmers will look for an object on the other side of the field, like a tree or a large rock, and keep their eyes focused on that object as they plow. This ensures that they plow straight and don’t swerve to the right or the left. If they turn around, or take their eyes off of the mark, most likely they will stray off in one direction or the other. So, Jesus is saying that we have to stay focused on what is important and not let anyone or anything distract us from that focus. Serving Jesus means keeping our eyes fixed on Him and not letting the things of this world distract us.
Paul instructed the Corinthian church “… whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). A similar admonition is found way back in the old testament book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon taught us that “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
When I first started working for Texaco, they started an employee campaign called “Quality Assurance.” Their goal was to try to get every employee to buy into the concept of doing quality work. “Doing right things right the first time” was our slogan. It’s not a bad slogan.
As believers, we are laboring for the King of kings, whether we are in full-time ministry, working a secular job, are in school, or are a stay-at-home parent. Whatever we do, we need to do it with all of our might so that it will bring glory to God. We cannot take shortcuts; we cannot convince ourselves that it is ‘good enough’; we cannot ‘pretend’ it is right. Let’s stay focused on our calling, keep our standards high, and make sure our work is a reflection of Who we serve. We need to do right things right, the first time. And then the Lord will bless our efforts.