Too Much of a Good Thing

Today’s post comes from Radical Mentoring’s Executive Director Kevin Harris . . .

In his book, Future Shock, noted futurologist Alvin Toffler coined the term ‘overchoice.’ He described people who experience overchoice as not suffering from “an absence of choice but from a paralyzing surfeit of it.”


Essentially, overchoice is too much of a good thing. Consider some of these facts I learned from a recent podcast with Paul Borthwick, the author of the book Simplify . . .

  • At its original store, Whole Foods carried 2 varieties of lettuce. Today, you’ll find over 40 varieties.
  • Breyer’s ice cream originally had 34 choices of ice cream. Today they have over 200.
  • Experts suggest that Starbucks has over 19,000 different order combinations (check out this video of a man ordering a $93.58 drink)!

While playing golf with my good friend Kevin Floyd we talked about how he’d spent time recently trying to decide how to best manage all of the great content available to us . . . and how to decide which voices we should be listening to.

Our conversation really made me think about those things for myself. True confession, if you were to take a look at the podcasts I subscribe to (notice I didn’t say listen to) you would find: 3 on parenting, 8 from churches, 3 about business/marketing and 4 on church leadership. If you were to look at my Kindle, it would not be much better . . . 14 books in my currently reading, 59 books in samples (want to read), 64 in need to net out, and 6 more that I bought at some point but never started. Imagine what my bedside table would look like. So here’s the principle I came up with . . .

When the amount of content you’ve set aside to consume exceeds the amount of time you’ve set aside to learn, you’ll inevitably find yourself stuck and overwhelmed, instead of growing and improving.

In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey writes about this same challenge of managing complexity as it relates to the Old Testament laws, which he described as reading like a “manual on handling radioactive material.” Think about it, here was a list of 613 laws that all Jews were expected to follow. They must have been constantly riddled with questions like “can I touch the ark or look at the ark?” “Lamb or goat to sacrifice?” “Can I eat pig or was it something else?”

Contrast that with the messages of Jesus and His instructions to his followers (and to you and me) . . .

  • For God so loved the world
  • Follow Me
  • Forgive them
  • Love your enemies
  • Get up and walk
  • Take up your cross

His message was clear. Yancey goes on to write, “in contrast to those who tried to complicate the faith and petrify it with legalism, Jesus preached a simple message of God’s love.”

In a world full of choices and messages designed to guarantee our comfort, too often, we let Jesus’ humble message drift by us. It will never be the loudest message, but it’s the only one that will deliver the peace and comfort we all desperately need.

Scripture: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Mentor Tip: The men coming to sit around your table are being bombarded with messages about how to measure their worldly success. Remember, you were once there with them. Acknowledge that and point them back to Jesus.

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