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Our goal had been to reach the metallic cross that overlooks the city of San Jose, Costa Rica. Everything went great and we did reach our goal but that’s when we made our mistake.
Happy that we had successfully conquered the hill, tired and hungry, my friend David and I decided it was time to head back to the city. Without giving it much thought we started following what appeared to be the main path down.
Our problems started when night came upon us and it started to rain. But the worse realization was that we had chosen the wrong path. We were descending the wrong side of the mountain! We wound up in a small village on the side of the mountain opposite San Jose, shivering and with no transportation to take us back to the city.
I often wonder how many people get to the end of their life or to the end of their career and realize that all along they had been following the wrong path. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get to the end and realize that life was meant to be lived at a much deeper level and that, somehow, I had missed it. No matter how many new flat screen TVs we are able to purchase, how many boats, how many cars, I have a feeling that if that’s all our lives are about then we have missed the path.
There is a story in the Bible where Jesus crosses paths with a young successful business entrepreneur.1 You may have heard of the story as that of the Rich Young Ruler.
By all accounts, this man would have been classified as highly successful. He had learned the tricks of the trade. He was a great negotiator. He knew what he had to DO to obtain and accumulate things.
But he was also self-aware enough to know that something was missing from his life. He had heard of this rabbi named Jesus that everyone was talking about who might be able to help him acquire what he was missing.
His mistake, however, was to think that this missing piece could be obtained by the same methods that served him in the accumulation of physical assets.
When he came face-to-face with Jesus, he asked a reasonable question from his perspective. He said:
Good teacher, what must I DO to inherit eternal life?
Jesus’ response seems evasive. He said:
Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
Obviously, the young entrepreneur had not come to discuss the meaning and source of goodness. He had merely used the word “good” in the way of a typical Jewish greeting of respect when addressing religious teachers.
But Jesus seized upon that word to make a point–a point by the way that the young man completely missed. Jesus knew that this missing element in the young man’s life was closely related to the experience of goodness. He was, however, trying to point him away from the idea of “goodness” as something you can acquire–as you would a new house. He wanted him to understand that goodness is not a THING to be possessed, but a GIFT to be received.
The methods the young entrepreneur used to amass his wealth would be worthless when it came to finding the real meaning of life and goodness. Goodness can’t be negotiated, traded, or purchased. It can only be received.
By the time David and I reached the bottom of the mountain, we must have smelled awful. We were wet and miserable from the rain and cold.
By Providence, we ran into a man with a pick-up truck who carried us all the way around the mountain and back to San Jose. I am so grateful for that driver’s willingness to extend goodness to two lost travelers.
Sometimes in a our drive to be competent and to look competent, we may fail to accept the goodness that crosses our path. I don’t know about you, but I am convinced that the meaning of life is more than the accumulation of things. It’s about finding Goodness. It’s about receiving Goodness. It’s about recognizing the cold and darkness of our own mistaken paths and inviting Goodness to help get back home.
What do you think? Amidst the hectic struggle for business survival, how can leaders today stay in an attitude that is receptive to goodness?
1Read the whole story in Mark 10:17-22.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.