The Bare Minimum.

It was reported this morning that Joe Paterno, beleaguered coach of Penn State football, has died of lung cancer.

Prior to the firestorm that came up last fall, had Paterno died at the end of this season, he would have been remembered solely for the good he did for Penn State and its athletes. His history of excellence was well-known far beyond Happy Valley and the Big Ten.


In his death, just months after the huge Sandusky child-abuse scandal came to light, there is a darkness cast over his legacy. And while I believe firmly that Paterno did not hurt those children himself, he allowed abuse to continue for far longer than it should have, which means he was complicit in the abuse of many.

Many will argue that he did what he needed to: he reported this to those above him, and they failed those children. All true.

But I think that the lesson to be learned here is this: the bare minimum is not enough.

Joe Paterno did the bare minimum, which likely absolved him of legal ramifications.

The bare minimum was not enough. It did nothing to save innocent children from a monster.

And frankly, the bare minimum is almost never enough.

It’s never enough to give the bare minimum effort to your school work. Or to your boss. Or to your spouse, or your children.

Or to your God.

It’s convicting to me, as I think about this situation, that there are too many areas in my life that I give the bare minimum, and I’m reminded of Colossians 3:23:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…

And when I looked at the same passage from The Message (an interpretation I don’t always love), I liked it even more (this is 3:22-25):

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.


Off to do more than the bare minimum.

8 responses to “The Bare Minimum.

  1. Well said. And thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  2. I am in total agreement with everything you have said here. A brilliant football mind to be sure, Joe Pa should have done much more for those kids. I am saddened by the whole affair. Great scripture as well! That is a great verse to put up in your work space. I am doing that right now!

  3. wonderfully said!

  4. Many, many times when I was still working at my job, I reminded myself of this passage from Colossians. I wish I could say it always significantly turned my attitude around, but I tried to aspire to it. It should apply to all areas of our life–thanks for the reference!

  5. Maggie Singleton

    Thank you for the humbling reminder, Nicole. I like to call this “the path of the least resistance,” and it’s something I practice all too often!

  6. A very inspiring reflection, Nicole.

  7. Stated so well! Agree 100%!

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