ninety five percent of the time

I heard the numbers long ago. I don’t remember them exactly. I don’t remember the speaker either.

He was a business ethicist, talking to business people about ethics. (Profound. I know).  He said, approximately, “ninety five percent of the time, doing the ethical thing makes good business sense. So it’s not what you do ninety five percent of the time that makes you ethical. It’s what you do the other five percent of the time.”

I told some friends that the other day. They are facing a difficult accusation and they are having a hard time staying cool. I reminded them that what they do in this difficult situation is the test of the progress they have been making.

We talked a bit about “the Christian thing to do.” They may have been surprised by how much I reacted against that idea, the idea of what “good Christians” do, the concept of “the Christian thing.” What those phrases mean, ninety five percent of the time, is the nice thing to do, the pleasant thing, the martyr thing.

I’m pretty sure, however, that Jesus didn’t call anyone to be good Christians. He called us to follow him. He called us to be part of the kingdom. He called us to live in the final five percent, where we challenge our selves, our culture, our churches, our motives, our comfort, our status.

It’s going to happen today, you know. You are going to think about the ninety five percent of good living you are doing, the ninety five percent of nice person you are being.And you and I are going to want to coast.

Until we remember the final five percent.

It may be really hard.

But the goal line is at the end of the five percent. Not the ninety five.

4 thoughts on “ninety five percent of the time

  1. Rick Dugan

    Excellent post. Just like the rich man who came to Jesus, though he had kept all of the law, there was one thing he lacked. That one thing was what brought him down.


    1. Jon Swanson

      Anna and Rick – Writing the post as I go to bed, reading your comments when you are halfway through your days, is an interesting timeshift.

      The reference, Rick, is a wonderful one, an illustration of the challenge we face when Jesus says, “no, that thing. That’s the one that counts as obedience right now.



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