Goals: Good or Bad?

Goals: Good or Bad?

In the late 1960s, the Ford Motor Company was losing market share to foreign competitors that were selling small, fuel-efficient cars. CEO, Lee Iacocca, announced the specific, challenging goal of producing a new car that would be “under 2000 pounds and under $2,000” and would be available for purchase in 1970. This goal, coupled with a tight deadline, meant that many levels of management signed off on unperformed safety checks to expedite the development of the car—the Ford Pinto. One omitted safety check concerned the fuel tank, which was located behind the rear axle with less than 10 inches of crush space. Lawsuits later revealed what Ford should have corrected in its design process: The Pinto could ignite upon impact. Investigations revealed that after Ford finally discovered the hazard, executives remained committed to their goal and instead of repairing the faulty design, calculated that the costs of lawsuits associated with Pinto fires (which involved 53 deaths and many injuries) would be less than the cost of fixing the design.

Sometimes the goals and plans we set out in our lives come with not only negative consequences but also some unexpected baggage. This thought, that goals at times can be detrimental, goes against everything we are taught to believe growing up. Setting good well-intended goals are encouraged from the home in our personal life, from the school in our academic objectives, and even in from the Church in our spiritual lives. So how can something so vigorously encouraged in all of our walks of life also come with damaging results and painful consequences? To answer that we must remember the old idiom of “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.” Goals themselves aren’t the problem (unless they are set on wrong priorities), goals become an issue when we take them and make them our top priority that pushes everything else to the wayside. We find this demonstrated in Genesis 29 and throughout the love story of Jacob & Rachel.

When we find Jacob in Genesis 29, he is on the run from some family problems – that he caused. As he journeys eastward, he runs into Rachel at a well and what follows is a familiar story that leaves many people saying “aww”. The story of Jacob and Rachel that blossoms in Genesis 29 culminates in verse 20 when Moses writes “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.”  As we know though, the story takes a turn when the 7 years is up, Jacob goes to Laban for his well-deserved wife but Laban tricks him with a feast and gives Jacob Leah instead. The problematic situation plays out in Genesis 29:25-28, “So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?” But Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.” Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife.”

If we leave the story here, we leave with Jacob finally reaching his goal of marrying Rachel after working hard for 7 years. What a great display of love and good goals put into action this is! Jacob puts value on Rachel by setting her as a goal in his life and being more than willing to serve Laban for years. The goal, and the mindset behind it, is admirable from top to bottom. It’s only when we continue to read through to chapters 30-31, we start to see that within this goal there are some negative consequences. In Genesis 30:25-27, Jacob goes to Laban asking him if he could depart from his service, “Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you.” But Laban said to him, “If now it pleases you, stay with me; I have divined that the Lord has blessed me on your account.” After a short discussion of how Laban can convince Jacob to stay, despite his desire to leave, Laban works out a livestock trade.  Afterwards Jacob continues to find success in all his efforts, despite being given the second-rate livestock, thanks to the continued blessings of God. As this struggle between Jacob and Laban continues to play out, it culminates in Genesis 31 when Jacob hatches an escape plan where he and his family will hastily leave Laban’s land and employment. It’s in this moment when Jacob is getting everything ready for a quick escape that we see a flaw in the love of his life, Rachel. Genesis 31:17-19, “Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels; and he drove away all his livestock and all his property which he had gathered, his acquired livestock which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s.” We see here that Rachel, despite having seen the evidence of the one true God, still has attachments to her family household idols. This problem will be the cause for multiple negative affects for the family, both here soon and many years down the road.

The immediate problem of this idolatry arises when Laban comes looking for Jacob in Genesis 31 for the specific purpose of recapturing his household idols. Later on, in Jacob’s life we see that these idols are still present in the family dynamic. Genesis 35:1-4, “Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments…”

Jacob had a blind spot due to his love for Rachel. In reaching his goal of marrying her he was willing to overlook certain unexpected baggage and negative consequences – namely her desire for idols. It’s not till years later and after Rachel has died that he finally rids his family of these gods plaguing his family.  His original well-intended and admirable goal had become rotten when it blinded him to other aspects of what was going on. How many times in our lives are our well-intended goals in our careers, our families, or our personal lives become detrimental to our spiritual walk? Let us always keep the first things first and set our eyes on the true goal of Heaven. Hebrews 12:1-3.