Why not Leave good-enough alone?


“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better'” (Luke 5:37-39).

It was way into my retirement that I began to understand what the extent of Jesus’ Parable has on us. I was called to a Church that had a young group of ardent Bible students. I was excited and tried to share some of my ideas. I hoped that a new infusion into their program would be welcomed. I was wrong. They felt threatened and they went to another church, not even of their persuasion, where they would not be interfered with. From then on, I became more cautious with infusions of new things into old systems. Of course, I was disappointed that my bright ideas were not even considered. I also learned that when one of their own picked up my suggestion, they usually made them work. It was difficult to stay out of the way of systems that could be improved; nevertheless, it worked to their satisfaction. It was hard to accept to “leave good enough” alone.

I have since then learned that I was not the exception. I have seen a number of ministers fall into the same trap. They assume new positions, with a bag full of ideas, and begin to infuse them into working groups and systems and in the process destroy what already had lasted a long time. Instead of concentrating on what exists, we ought to engage in organizing and helping those that are not part of an active group or system. It becomes tragic when a group or system is disrupted that could have assisted in helping those that are in dire need. There are so many people that have no connections. Why not seek to engage them? Why prey on those that are content with their old wine? In most instances, the old wine is better than the new wine or infusion that creates turmoil. In every church I have been, we redefined our purpose and reorganized the leadership; yet, we did not enlarge our membership. In fact we declined. My successor also revamped the system and declined in membership. Now the Church is in the hands of a new infusion and I pray that it grows. The Churches I served, two declined but still exist, two were taken over by other denominations and prosper, one merged with another denomination and one disbanded.

Infusion is being practiced on a much larger scale in politics. Every time we elect a new president or leadership, we get a doze of new wine. It comes without wineskins and is forced into old skins that cannot take the fermenting pressure. That has resulted in so much repetitious waste. For instance, the infusion of a nationalized health system into an already working system is busting the old bags. They are not able to accommodate the new wine. New regulations have the same detrimental affect on commerce and industry. The infusion has become an illusion because the infusion does not have the means to keep the old bags from busting. Particularly, the infusion of wealth distribution where a paycheck insures one that lives off handouts spell havoc and disaster. No such infusion has ever survived.

The argument that we cannot neglect the disadvantaged is preposterous. Who created them in the first place? Who gave them assistance when they should have been taught how to work? Why should they work when the income from handouts is more than private jobs pay? Why should they band together to pay for their health insurance when they are being treated like royalties? Then, there is the audacity of the politician that keeps serving free wine from the old wineskins in order to secure votes. Who is paying the bill for the infusion of the new wine? It is not the politician and his rich friends, but the people that earn a living. It is not a distribution of wealth but of paychecks.

Is there another way to help the disadvantaged? I was disadvantaged and I am also handicapped. We were refugees without assistance. We fled across Poland and Germany in a wagon drawn by two horses. We sold one horse and with the other I transported people and goods. When the horse died, we built handcarts and toys. We made arrangements with landowners for vegetable gardens and we worked at any humbling job to stay alive. We kept looking for opportunities and ended up on another farm. We were displaced people that succeeded by improvising among a people that were not pleased to have us in their midst. We did not do it by moaning and groaning, but by struggling to better our lot. What we experienced during and after World War II was similar to what the people of this nation went through. Not only did they survive; they planted vineyards and put their new wine into new wineskins. Both have aged and matured and have given us good tasting wine.

The disadvantaged, they too, can do what we had to do and what the pioneers of this country did. Sooner, than later, they too will have to do what the old wine growers did. The best solutions are, to leave the old alone and build something new. And do not infuse new wine into old wineskins, because we shall not be able to contain nor control the spill. Why can’t we leave good-enough alone?