the-early-tozer.gifI have recently been reading a book called The Early Tozer: A Word in Season, which is a compilation of short articles written by A.W. Tozer during his early years of ministry. Anyone who knows me or has ever had a lengthy conversation with me knows how much I enjoy the works of Tozer. A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy had a profound impact on my life and I often recommend that book to anyone I meet. So far The Early Tozer has proved to be just as thoughtful and challenging as his other works. With the common thread being Christ made known in every area of life, Tozer discusses everything from habits to bible study to pastoral ministry. Though each article has been thought provoking, it is chapter 1 that has left the greatest impression on me thus far. So I commend Tozer’s words from chapter 1 to you for reflection.

Bible characters fall into four classes: those who are great but not good; those who are good but not great; those who are neither good nor great; and those who are both great and good.

Among those who are great but not good are Joab, Nebuchadnezzar, Sennacherib. Of the good who are not great we may name Isaac, Elkanah and Joseph the husband of Mary. Neither great nor good are Eli, Shimei, Ahab. Of those who are both good and great, the most famous would be Abraham, Moses, David and Paul. A few speckled souls, as Balaam, Samson and Solomon, may need a fifth class to accommodate them. Their checkered characters make classification difficult.

Under these heads may be arranged not only all Bible characters, but the whole world and all of history. Each one of us is in one or another of these classes. A mighty lot depends upon which one.

Goodness is possible to all, greatness to a few. Salvation makes a man good but not necessarily great. Greatness contributes nothing to any man’s happiness; goodness, everything; yet all men desire to be great, and only a few desire to be good. Greatness requires a combination of qualities rare in nature; goodness is a gift of God an may be acquired by the humblest of men. Greatness will count for nothing in the day of judgment; goodness will be rewarded before the eyes of all.

We have made a disastrous mistake in holding up our great men as models to youth; good men should rather serve for their examples.

A great man may be miserable in this world and wretched in the world to come; a truly good man will not be miserable for long even in this world, and in the future world he wil be comforted in the bosom of Abraham.

I will use the next few posts to reflect on this topic and hopefully strike up some good discussion of good vs. great.

3 Replies to “Desire To Be Good, Not Great – Part 1

  1. What is Tozer’s definition of great? He defines good as those who have salvation, but I would have a hard time placing every saved person as a role model automatically. There is still a process of sanctification.

    Just some thoughts for discussion.

  2. That would be a great question if we could ask him. I think the point he is making is that in our society, even 50 years ago, the people who are praised most and lifted up as examples to our youth are men and women who acquire fame, fortune, and the praise and accolades of men. Sure, many of them have accomplised a lot in their particular fields or careers. But what are accomplishments to the Lord? Is it more important to be a person of good character who honors the Lord than a person of great accomplishment? Can you have both? Certainly. Does that happen often? I would argue that it doesn’t. So if we were to point people in the direction of a role model, who should they follow? Michael Jordan (Be Like Mike…which I did want to be like Mike when I was a kid…shoes and all) or the humble layman who runs his business based on his faith in God? There are certainly exceptions to every case and we could come up with hundreds of unique examples.

    To take it a step further, I would submit that we need to have a balanced view of our “role models.” Superstars and celebrities are role models in our society but they are seen as perfect. This mentality leaks its way into the way we think about role models in general. However, we should certainly look up to good men but also keep in mind that they are men. As you said, there is a process of sanctification that is ongoing until the day we die.

What Do You Think?