The Mire of Mediocrity
by Jefferson David Tant
The dictionary defines “mediocrity” as “1. Commonplace ability or condition. 2. A commonplace person.” We often use the word to describe that which is average — neither good nor bad, but “in the middle,” a person who is “mired,” is “fixed, stalled, or sunk in the mud.” By putting the words together, I believe we have an accurate description of a large part of the church today — mired in the mud of mediocrity!
Look around at your fellow Christians. Indeed, look at yourself. Do you see living examples of New Testament Christianity? Do you see members “running over” with the gospel in word and life? Maybe not too many. You may see some (even in your mirror) who are stalled, who are sinking, and who are stuck with the idea of being just an “average” Christian. If this is all it takes to gain the eternal prize, then well and good. But if your Bible reads like mine, then we must entertain serious doubts as to whether or not there are going to be any “average” people in heaven. It is true that we may be average in our ability, but we cannot afford to be average in the use of that ability we do have.
We are well aware that the openly wicked shall not enter in. The Scriptures abound with such warnings. But are we also aware of the fact that the Bible just as plainly teaches that the average and mediocre have no hope? Consider the parable of the talents. Two of the servants went out and worked. They bore fruit. The third servant? He was not an evil man who spent his money in riotous living. He didn’t spend it on gambling, women, or wine, and yet his master said, “Thou wicked an slothful servant…” (Matt. 25:26) What was his trouble? What evil had he done? He wasn’t bad. He was probably just a “good old Joe” who minded his own business and never caused trouble. Doesn’t that describe a good many members of the church today? His “wickedness” consisted of his doing nothing! He was probably a “good” man, but good for nothing!
Consider the story of the ten virgins.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the prudent answered, saying, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you [too;] go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. And later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' But he answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:1-13).
Note that the five foolish virgins were not described as evil people. They even had an interest in the coming of the groom — but not enough! They didn’t go out of their way to prepare. How many church members do you know who actually do have an interest in the kingdom, but not enough to put themselves out very much?
Dear Readers, the Lord is not pleased with “average Christians” nor “mediocre members.” He wants people who will work, who will strive who will abound.
Where were the average people in Noah’s time; the mediocre who were destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah; the “good old Joes” who were left behind when Israel entered the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness? They were dead — destroyed with all the rest who were unprofitable.
Now then, for the sake of your souls, let us remember the words of the Lord: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58). “Abounding” is not very “average” is it?
“And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?” (I Peter 3:13.) Is this describing “mediocre?”
“Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). I don’t think “strive” means “coasting along.”
Let us put aside the complacency that allows us to appear at the services, but in a few dollars, and then go our way. Let us develop men and women who are uncommon, who love the Lord, who work for the Lord, and who thus have a real hope of heaven. If this is not done, then we can only look forward to further sinking into the mire of mediocrity, and final damnation.
These words that have been written apply to all ages, but I especially want them to be heeded by the young, for it is in our young years that we develop our habits that will last a lifetime. It has been my privilege to know various young people who have been very active in learning the Scriptures, setting an example, doing mission work, and having a part in converting their friends and schoolmates.
“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (I Timothy 4:12).