23/02/2016 by Chris Green
A church I know has just stopped running its mums and toddler group. It’s stopped bumps and babies. It’s stopped – well, it’s stopped doing everything except bible studies.
The argument is that it’s too easy for us to be distracted from doing what we ought to be doing by what is secondary, and attractive, and diary-filling.
Now I have a lot of time for that argument as stated – too many of us spend too much of our time in what’s called ‘busy-work’ – stuff that seems to justify being paid, but doesn’t actually contribute to the overall aims of the organisation. It’s true in hospitals, it’s true in banks – and it’s true in churches. I often wonder what lots of Christians ministers actually do all day (and I’m sure that if any of them think about me, they wonder the same).
But pause just a second.
The argument isn’t that other things than bible studies are wrong, it’s that (and here’s what was said to me), “The good is the enemy of the best.”
Now that is a useful little phrase, because it is often very true. My diary shows the battle between the good and the best on a daily basis.
But that little phrase is also very unhelpful – because it can imply something very muddled if we assume that the best is bible study, and the rest is second-best.
What if your bible study is on James 1, and you hit v27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”
Now that flips the paradigm, because looking after widow and orphans now becomes the best thing to do, not a distraction from the best. If someone said,”Let’s run a support group for the widows in our church,”, that would be the best thing, wouldn’t it? And if somebody replied, “OK, but only if it’s a bible study,” that rather misses the point of James 1 – yes, the bereaved need good food from the Word,but they also need good food in their larder, friendship, financial support, and more friendship.
‘Good’ and ‘best’ are not fixed categories, and if we put one thing, like bible study, permanently in the ‘best’ category, it implicitly demeans any other activity – which in this example is the putting into practice of a bible study. The ‘best’ has become the enemy of the actual best.
So, keep nimble on those categories. Don’t allow false choices to muddy your thinking or practice.
Would James want you to run another bible study, or to make sure the widow had a cooked meal on Sunday?