For 30 years a certain foreman worked for an employer who treated him honestly and fairly but never paid the man what he wanted. The foreman griped and complained, “He always wants my best work, and he’s never satisfied.” One day the owner of the company called in the foreman and said, “I’m going to retire next year, and I want you to build one more house for me. Give it your best effort! Use the finest materials and craftsmen, and when it’s done, I’m retiring and going out of business.”
The foreman thought, “Hey, if this is his last house, there is no way I’ll put the best materials into it. Furthermore, why bother, if I’ll be looking for a new job this time next year.” So the foreman built the house, cutting corners where he could, charging the job with materials he sold on the side and pocketed the money.”
When the house was completed, the owner called him into the office and handed him the keys to the front door. “Here,” he said, “I wanted this to be your best work because I’m giving it to you as a reward for these many years of service.” He signed over the papers and handed the keys to the foreman.
For the rest of his life, that man lived with the reality that the poorly built house was his, and had he only known, he would have done a better job.
Question: When you are assigned a task, how much effort do you put into it? Just enough to get by? Sufficient to satisfy your boss, get the work signed off, and keep your job? If you are a student, is your goal doing well enough to pass the course, or do you give it your best?
“How long have you been working here?” a supervisor asked a factory worker. “Ever since my boss threatened to fire me if I didn’t start producing,” replied the employee, a smile on his face.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. Colossians 3:23
Question: Why bother anyway? If you can get by with minimal effort, why go all out? That’s the question that many people are asking. It’s the mentality that it’s stupid to really exert yourself if you can cheat or squeeze by with minimal effort.
What’s happened to the commitment to excellence? Recently I did a scan of over two billion web pages, looking for articles on this very subject, and I found not a single one.
Let’s go beyond the motive of reward to another issue—what God, not your employer, expects. The Bible says that God demands your best, not just enough to get by. Paul instructed slaves in Colosse, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).
Why does God care whether I do my very best, or enough to get by? What’s the connection between my effort and His will? Simply put, God’s desire is for you to become all that you can be. What you are is God’s gift to you; what you become is your gift to him.
God gave you tremendous talents and abilities, and doing your best, no matter what it may be, is what it takes to realize your potential. Doing your best profits you, not your employer.
A closing thought. A commitment to excellence is different from being a perfectionist, never satisfied with what you do. A commitment to excellence means at the day’s end, you turn out the lights, tired but fulfilled knowing that you gave your best and have nothing to be ashamed of.
You may someday have to live in the house you build. Who knows?
Resource reading: Ecclesiastes 9:1-10