When I was a child, I used to go to cricket matches with my Dad and I was privileged to see Ian Botham play. Ian Botham was an ‘all-rounder’, someone who was equally effective as a bowler and as a batsman. His performance in the 1981 Headingley Test match against Australia was a major contribution to an unexpected England victory there, and I admired his ability to contribute significantly to every match. He was an exciting player!
Most of us are better at some things than others. We tend to be more ‘specialists’ than ‘all-rounders’ in cricketing terms, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. We can’t be good at everything! But I was struck today by Jesus’s words to the Pharisees in Luke 11: “Woe to you, Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.” (Luke 11:42)
The Pharisees were keen to get the little things right, to obey the law right down to tithing herbs. They were specialists in that area, it seems. But they missed the bigger picture. Their scrupulous attention to detail in this area (which Jesus did not condemn) meant they failed to look at other areas which were also important.
We can’t afford to ‘specialise’ in God things (“oh, I’m good at helping and serving, but I leave the forgiving part to X who is so much better at that.”) The fruit of the Spirit needs to grow equally within each one of us, so that we become people in whom love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness and self-control are seen in equal measures. (Gal 5:22-23) We need to be “all-rounders” because God’s character needs to be seen in all areas of our living.