New Series: Master of One

master of one Dec 30, 2019

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

There’s an old saying that goes, “He’s a Jack of all trades, and a master of none,” used to describe someone who is good at many different things but not excellent at any one of them.

I don’t have a problem being a Jack of all trades, but I do think we Christians ought to have a big problem with being described as “masters of none.”

Why? Because the essence of the Christian life is to glorify God (or, in the words of John Piper, “reflect his greatness”) and love our neighbors as ourselves. How do we fulfill that call through our work? By doing our work masterfully well and being “imitators” of God’s character of excellence (see Ephesians 5:1).

The opposite of mastery is mediocrity, and mediocrity is nothing short of a failure of love and a misrepresentation of our Father.

Dr. Anders Ericsson, “the world’s leading expert on experts,” is famous for discovering that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of “purposeful practice” to achieve mastery of any craft. Given this, it’s no wonder we are a society full of masters of none.

I’d venture to say that most of us feel like we are making a millimeter of progress in a million directions with our lives and our careers. We are good at many different things, but we aren’t excellent, masterful, or exceptional at any one of them. We are overcommitted, overwhelmed, and overstressed, spending way too much time focused on minutiae rather than mastering the work God created us to do.

So, how do we find the work we can do most exceptionally well in service of God and others? What is the solution to being a master of none? The solution is becoming a master of one.

It’s believed that the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none,” is a misquote of Benjamin Franklin, who actually encouraged his readers to be a “Jack of all trades, and a master of one.” Whether or not Franklin uttered this phrase is irrelevant. The fact is that in order to best glorify God and love others through our vocations, we must do our work with excellence. And we can’t do our most excellent work until we discern the work God has created us to do most exceptionally well, and then, once we’ve found it, focus on becoming a master of that craft.

As we enter this new decade, let us all passionately pursue mastery of the work the Father has given us to do, for his glory and the good of others.


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