Excellence Vs. Perfection

Apple cofounder Steve Jobs once said, “Be the person you want to be. Be the best you can be.” I wouldn’t agree with the first part of that statement. Many individuals try to become someone God never intended them to be. I do agree we should be people of excellence. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...” 

Before I committed my life to the Lord, I was turned off by things such as “Christian music” that sounded inferior to songs released in the secular market. Anything done in God’s name should be of high quality. One Old Testament prophet certainly demonstrated excellence. “Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.” (Daniel 6:3)

On the other hand, one can go the other extreme by being a perfectionist, which is defined as “a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.” As a kid I had many perfectionistic tendencies. My mother usually set the clocks in our house a few minutes ahead and hated it when I adjusted them to the correct time. I also corrected people if they called a zero “O” (“oh”) when giving out phone numbers and addresses.

While I’ve since learned to lighten up more, it still bugs me to see certain imperfections like bad spelling on the Internet. Why don’t some people use spellcheck? Even Facebook underlines misspelled words when you type them. Proverbs 18:9 from the Message Bible says, “Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism.”

Believers should exhort each other to excellence. However, we cannot be someone else’s Holy Ghost. Relationships become strained when we demand friends and loved ones to follow our own self-imposed standards. One time I stayed with a man who set strict rules to keep his place clean and orderly. I tried my best to comply but still did things that irritated him. On the day I left this man’s house, I was harshly criticized because my bed wasn’t made to his satisfaction. It was like being in the army.

Some Christians believe sports, movies and other forms of entertainment are a waste of time. I respect those who desire to live more consecrated lives but they are not to enforce their convictions upon others. Romans 14:22 (NIV) says, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” True holiness doesn’t come so much from eliminating worldly things but by drawing closer to God.

If we grow in character and become more Christlike, then there won’t be a need to impose our standards upon others. While we still need to proclaim the gospel, certain individuals like unsaved husbands can be won over to the Lord by the chaste conduct of their wives (1 Peter 3:1-2). People who are serious about improving their lives may eventually approach us and say, “I want what you have!”

“that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” - Philippians 1:10

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