“It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good.” Galatians 4:18
It is traditional for Australians to be suspicious of someone who seems too “zealous”. But I wonder whether we have been a little unfair. We like people who are “passionate”, “enthusiastic” and “authentic”, so what is wrong with “zeal”? After all, as my New Testament dictionary says, “zeal” is only “an intense positive interest in something.”
The Apostle Paul has it right in this verse from Galatians. Zeal in itself is not the problem. “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good.” Paul’s language is actually even stronger than the translation suggests. It is good to zealous, he writes, if the purpose is good.
Perhaps a few Australians are starting to warm to the idea of zeal. As I searched the internet for images of “zeal”, I discovered that there is actually a street in Victoria named “Zealous Way”, with streets like “Euphoria”, “Calibre” and “Calm” nearby. There is also a café and brasserie in North Sydney called Zealous. I’m going to have to try it!
We are fine with a café owner being zealous about coffee, aren’t we? It’s a good thing.
When Jesus famously cleared the money-changers and animals out of the Temple, he was motivated by zeal for the glory of God. “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). God is glorious, holy, worthy of our praise and honour. He is worthy of our “intense positive interest”. The glory of God is the ultimate “good purpose” which should excite our zeal.
The sad fact is that many people can readily understand zeal for a cup of coffee, while zeal for our Creator makes no sense to them. If we are uncomfortable with zeal for God’s glory, is it perhaps because we do not grasp his infinite value?
Heavenly Father, you are majestic and holy in your shining glory. You are truly worthy of our zeal for your Name. Forgive us when we sink into apathy from failing to grasp your infinite value. Thank you for Jesus’ zeal for your Name. Make us like him in all things. Amen.