Excellence is a word we like to throw around especially in Christian circles. My sons old school used it so much it almost had no meaning. It’s not quite as bad as “Awesome” or “Incredible” but almost.
What does is mean? In regard to performance, our effort, our offering, our worship.
We can look at Hillsong, New Life, Willow Creek, or Mars Hill and say it’s easy for them to offer excellence look what they have. But how can I offer excellence when all I have is an old church piano player and a 13 year old drummer?
Is it possible we have incorrectly linked excellence with perfection?
The dictionary defines “Excellence” as:
“The quality of being outstanding or extremely good”
So far so good but what is the standard by which we determine what is “outstanding” or “extremely good”? Is it Darlene Zschesch, Ross Parsley, Chris Tomlin, or is it the music teacher at the high school?
The dictionary defines “Perfection” as:
“the condition, state, or quality of being free from all flaws or defects”
Is that something we can offer? Do we have within our capacity or control to bring an offering free from “all flaws or defects”?
Vines Concise Dictionary of the Bible gives definitions for each usage of “excellence” here are the key words:
Over and above, The surpassing thing, To differ, A throwing beyond, The act of overhanging or the thing which overhangs, More, Greater, Superior by reason of inward worth, Mightiest, Noblest, Best.
When we talk, or think, about worship the word that is coupled with worship most often is “sacrifice” or “offering”. There are 5 different types of offerings in Leviticus.
Burnt offering, Leviticus 1:3
To show worship, devotion, and ask for forgiveness
Grain offering, Leviticus 2:1
To give thanks and recognize God as the giver of blessing and provider of good things
Peace offering, Leviticus 3:1
To ask God for blessing
Sin offering, Leviticus 4:1-2
To ask forgiveness for a specific unintentional sin or to become clean after becoming unclean
Guilt offering, Leviticus 5:15, 17-18
To make up for cheating, robbing, or destroying anything belonging to the Lord or to the people
These are all things we do, in whole or in part, when we come to worship. All of these require a sacrifice. All of them except the grain offering require an animal from the herd “without blemish”. The grain offering requires “fine flour”.
“Without blemish” can literally be translated “possessing integrity or truth”. Integrity is “the state of being whole or undivided”.
Consider King David in 1 Chronicles 21. Ornan was willing to give everything for the offering even the animals for the burnt offering. But David’s reply should cause us to stop and think, verse 24:
“I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing”
Excellence then is:
“to offer the best I have, something above and beyond or different from the norm, something costly”
What are your thoughts? What am I missing?