When is Something Better than Nothing

Posted on: December 11th, 2011

Have you ever been asked by someone to help them move? Perhaps you got an email one day addressed to several recipients, saying something like, “We’re moving, come help (free breakfast tacos)!” inviting all who could to come and lend a helping hand. In such a situation, most of us would be happy to help out if we are able, but then there are those times when, well, we just don’t feel like it even if we have the time and resources. Sometimes, when we’re, for whatever reason, not up to it, we think to ourselves, “well, maybe I could go a little later in the day, or just stop by and carry a few boxes for a little while, after all, something is better than nothing.”

Such thoughts are not uncommon to our thinking. The same attitude can overcome us when we see the panhandler on the corner at the traffic light and give him the change we find under the driver’s seat of the car, or when we know we should get some exercise and we walk once around the house when we could have rode our bike to the park. Maybe your spouse wants to spend time with you and you suggest, “come back on Tuesday, the 3rd, and we can talk for about 10 minutes”, and you are perplexed when he or she becomes upset because, after all, something is better than nothing.

Is this attitude ever justified? If we are able to do anything that is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8), if we are able to do anything which serves or provides for another (Luke 22:26,27), if we have the time, strength, and resources to do anything that is “good and acceptable in the sight of God” (I Tim. 2:3), why would we choose not to give all that we are able?

When it comes to our spiritual service, not giving all when we are able displeases our Lord. God has always required His people to give all when it comes to faith, obedience, and work. If we recognized the Lord requires something from us, the something is better than nothing attitude should never enter our hearts. We should be ready and happy to, within reason, give all and, yes, even make sacrifices.

In the book of Malachi, God’s people were guilty of this attitude of partial service. Instead of giving the first and best of their flocks as they were commanded, they gave the weakest, smallest, least valuable of lambs for sacrifice (Mal. 1:7,8). No problem, right? They gave something, which is certainly better than giving nothing at all. Well, the Spirit calls their sacrifice evil, and their attitude provoked the anger of God. God did not command they give just something, but had given them a specific instruction which they were to follow completely and absolutely.

Perhaps we’d rather not think about it, but at some point or another we’ve all had the attitude of the Laodiceans in chapter 3 of the book of Revelation, in that they were “neither cold nor hot” (v.15) in their service to the Lord. The passage goes on to say that the Lord would rather they be cold or hot, instead of just “lukewarm”. The brethren at Laodicea were apparently doing something in service to the Lord, in their own minds thinking themselves rich and increasing in goods (perhaps even numbers), having need of nothing (v.17). But in the same verse the Lord calls them “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Indeed, they were doing something, but it clearly was not better than nothing.

The phrase “I know” is used 7 times in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, making it clear that God indeed “searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts” (I Ch. 28:9). We can make a display of service to God. We may create the visual impression to others that we are giving all, making sacrifices when we can, singing our best during song services, fully devoted in remembering Christ during the Lord’s Supper, giving are full attention to the preacher and taking the lessons home to study independently, but God knows if we are truly giving our all.

The scriptures are full of examples of individuals thinking they were hiding something from the Lord. In Acts 5 Ananias and his wife Sapphira are convicted of lying to God about the amount they were able to contribute to the work of the apostles (5:1-4). What a terrible conviction! Would we want to be caught lying to God? Well, men may not see what we are able and not able to give to the Lord, be it in financial contribution to the work of the church, in our encouraging the brethren, in our work in spreading the Gospel, in the manner of our lives and expression of love, but God will witness and judge if we are not giving more than just something. God knows!

Let us practice doing that which we know is right and acceptable to God. Let us begin today to adopt an attitude of complete spiritual service. Don’t let the devil convince you that you’ve done enough. Something is not better than nothing. When it come to serving the Lord, everything is everything!

Jeremy Koontz