I’d heard so much good stuff about Goff’s Love Does (2012) with 3000+ reviews on Amazon with a 5 star rating! I was excited to get my hands on his follow-up book, Everybody, Always (2018), which also has a 5 star rating with over 1200 reviews on Amazon. With so many people loving these books, I was bummed to find that I had mixed feelings.
by Bob Goff
Before I get into the things I wasn’t enthusiastic about, let me first say that I listened to this audiobook read by Goff himself and it was excellent. Goff is clearly a true believer and his enthusiasm and story telling are outstanding. There is almost nothing in this book that I wouldn’t want people to emulate or attempt to do in their own life. But there are some thing I think Goff responds to by going from one extreme to the opposite extreme. From legalism to hyper grace, from in-your-face proselytizing to vague loving acts. I think at root here, Goff has too much faith in humanity’s ability and desire to be good and do good works. Let me give some examples.
Goff seems to believe that humans are inherently good. At one point he says that the difference between the sheep and the goats (Matt 25) was those who “just didn’t know what to do so they did nothing.” That is absolutely not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is calling out a callousness of heart. Goff is making excuses for the goats. Which is it? The total depravity of mankind means that we are inherently selfish and sinful. We don’t always premeditatedly sin, but to say we sin only on accident is equally incorrect. We choose to give and love because He first loved us. Without this regeneration, we could do good things sometimes but we wouldn’t actually be good. So unregenerate people aren’t frozen by a lack of understanding how to take care of those in need. They don’t want to. Those are the goats Jesus is talking about.
He also focuses on good works without providing the reason why we are doing them (the hope that lies within). When I heard Goff say, over and over, that you don’t need to tell people about Jesus, but just love people like he did I recoiled. There are so many stories, like, how he sometimes buys 20 In-N-Out burgers and drives around giving them out to people who are hungry. This is a great story and I agree that it is definitely a loving and kind thing to do – something we are commanded to do by God. But the reason for why we should do this is where I’m confused and I think Goff is missing the whole picture. Why do we love people? Because Christ first loved us. Do we love only because of Christ? Do we love only when it’s a selling point for Christianity? Of course not. But why one or the other? Why not both? I wondered about the motive here. Is our motive to make the world less sucky? Or is it to point a dying world to the life-giver?
Goff says things that lead me to believe that the whole purpose of Christianity is to love our neighbors with good works “patience, kindness and understanding.” But nothing at all about making disciples. In case you think I’m splitting hairs, it’s not me! He keeps making division where none needs be.
“Knowing things about the Bible is terrific, but I’d trade in a dozen bible studies for a bucket full of love and acceptance. And truth be told, so would everyone around us.” Why not both? We learn to love by learning about God’s love for us, which is in the Bible. Studying the Bible is where we learn our purpose – and it’s not just kindness, patience and understanding. It’s also speaking truth, teaching others about God and the right way to live (disciplining).
Ironically, Goff continues to tell us to not tell others about their behavior and how to act yet his whole book is his attempt to tell us how to live.
Goff, to me, is an example of an overreaction to the hyper legalism of those who stand with signs and shake their finger at the sinful world around them. So turned off by the unloving attitude and behavior, Goff responds by going too far toward “loving” that they go from one rut on the side of the road, across the road to the rut on the other side. The narrow path is a razor’s edge that’s difficult to stay on. We have to avoid judgmentalism, legalism, finger pointing and disdain AND total affirmation of the unrepentant and good works.
One last thing. I was struck by was the overwhelming sense that Goff’s life is richer than mine and probably most of the people who would read this. I mean richer in the sense of he is clearly richer than the average reader. He buys cars and airplanes and houses whenever he wants. He travels half a million miles a year. He can do anything he wants. But I can’t and probably you can’t either.
For instance, he gets a collect call from a prison, which costs $9.95. He accepts that call at least three times in that story, then buys an ankle bracelet that costs so much that Goff says he “gasps and clutched his chest” but he pays it for a stranger. I tried to find how much that would by searching online and it looks like this was probably a couple hundred bucks to set up then maybe $10-20 a day. Goff said this bracelet costs him a “bundle.” This one story has Goff paying an unexpected several hundred dollar charge. The stories in the previous chapters where he rents airplanes or even buys a water airplane are even more. Can you afford this? I can’t. So as I listened I kept thinking that many of these stories were out of touch with average Christian.
This isn’t to suggest that if we get that call that costs $9.95 we shouldn’t accept it. We should. And we should give out food, donate to the Goodwill or shelters, volunteer time for charities and be kind to people we meet. It was that I was turned off by Goff’s generally expensive examples of these. It didn’t come across as encouraging, but discouraging. It felt like I was reading about the privileges of wealth were a guy tells us about all his extra time, extra money and perfect family with his daredevil sky diving and airplane flying son and his “Sweet Maria.”
Like I said at the beginning of this review, I liked the book for the most part. And if a reader hears and acts more loving then great! But I think this is a shallow Christianity that has more in common with the feel good Osteen faith than the real Gospel that focuses on not just making someone feel better in their sin, but helping them find life and relationship with Christ and feeling better about the freedom that they now have from sin.
Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.