In Oz the Great and Powerful, the main character, nicknamed Oz, is a con artist posing as a magician. His objective is greatness. Through a series of events much like Dorothy’s he is swept away and lands in, ironically, Oz (as in The Wizard of . . .). Ever the imposter, Oz pretends he is the Wizard they have been expecting and proceeds on a long adventure to capture the bad witch.
Toward the end of the movie, the good witch Glinda says to the Wizard, “I knew you had it in you all along.”
“Greatness?” the Wizard replies.
“No, goodness,” Glinda states.
Much like Oz, I think many of us pursue the wrong quality.
We desire greatness which is dependent upon our behaviors, attainments, and accomplishments. It requires acknowledgement from others and is derived from an external source. Dictionary.com defines a great person as “one who has achieved importance or distinction in a field.” The opposite of greatness is insignificant. None of us wants to be insignificant.
While greatness sounds like the better of the two traits, I would argue that goodness is far superior. The book of Galations lists goodness as one of the fruits of the Spirit; therefore, the trait comes from God. Dictionary.com defines Biblical goodness as: “not a mere passive quality, but the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.” It denotes kindness and servitude. It’s a virtue, an internal quality not earned by an outside source.
So why do we pursue greatness over goodness?
- It’s easier to measure. We attended two track meets in the past two weeks. In each case the ones with the medals at the end of the day were the ones who threw their implements the farthest, not the ones who treated others the best.
- It’s quicker to obtain (in some cases). Kenneth, my son, has worked hard and thrown at track meets for several years. But I would still say he has achieved relatively high success within a short timeframe. (He is only 12 years old.) At what point do we say someone has obtained goodness?
- We enjoy rewards. Kenneth brought home one gold medal and three bronze medals from those two track meets. There were no medals distributed for the child who displayed the most goodness.
- We enjoy accolades. At the National Championship track meet, Kenneth stood on the podium and had his name read over the sound system while everyone clapped. There were no fist bumps or pats on the back for the child who served others with excellence.
Why should we pursue goodness instead of greatness?
Oddly enough, goodness is an internal trait won by thinking externally (of God and those around us). This is in opposition to the pursuit of greatness, which is an external gift obtained by a selfish (internal) act. Those who pursue goodness may become great (think Mother Teresa), but those whose sole purpose is greatness typically fall short in goodness (think Adolf Hitler). Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 20:26 that if you want to be great, serve others (or be good).
Goodness is a God-given trait that defines who we are at our core and reflects who God is to those around us. It is long-lasting, adds to our internal peace, and earns us accolades from our Creator.
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, I want to hear God tell me, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”