Too Many Cooks? (Angel in the Kitchen)


Remember the old adage “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth”? It describes a consequence of having “too many chiefs and not enough braves.” We frequently hear both of these idioms, and we generally agree that in this world there are way too many people who want to call all the shots. Now don’t get us wrong, leaders are a vital part of every company, community, organization, family, and faith congregation: they usually know what needs to be done and how to get it done — or who to delegate it to. At least, we hope they do. And in their capacity as leaders — and perhaps we should qualify our statement — as GOOD leaders, they fulfill the all important task of ensuring things are done correctly and with a minimum of chaos.

Without a designated leader to organize activities and coordinate duties, you’ll have two or three people trying to perform the same task, while another job gets completely neglected. We write designated because sometimes we need to appoint a person — one person — to lead, not because of their age, charisma or even experience, but simply to put an end to disorder. Obviously the best qualified people should lead, but what happens when you have two potential leaders with equal qualifications?

Getting back to the kitchen, two cooks, both waving a spoon like a baton, while preparing the same dish, can end up serving an unpalatable mess. Think about our opening phrase: two conscientious and well-meaning cooks micromanaging a broth simmering on the range is an invitation to disaster. Guaranteed, one of them has already sufficiently seasoned the bubbling mixture; and guaranteed, the other cook will inevitably add another pinch of salt, white pepper, garlic, or something it doesn’t need! The resultant broth will be too salty, too hot, or give the diners bad breath for weeks.

In the finest restaurants, there are several chefs on duty: a Head Chef, a Sous-Chef (second in command), a Pastry or Dessert Chef, as well as chefs specializing in fish, vegetables, sauces … and the list goes on. All these chefs are highly skilled. Many could no doubt lead if called upon. However, at any given time, only a single chef is planning the menu and coordinating the efforts of his or her staff. If you dine in one of these five-star restaurants, your meal will almost always arrive hot and without an unwarranted delay; and if you walk into the kitchen, you’ll see all the chefs working smoothly and efficiently with no misunderstandings, no confusion, no duplicated efforts, and no spoiled broth. (Which is for the best, considering these restaurant kitchens maintain an impressive assortment of knives.)

Wait just a doggone minute! Who’s in charge here?!?! Ruh roh!

Here’s another example: one commercial airliner, two capable pilots; both pilots have equal experience and capabilities, and both can fly the plane. But only one is designated as the pilot. The other member of the cockpit team is just as important, but has taken the position of co-pilot. This is a good thing. It ensures the passengers reach their destination.

As we stated, every company, community, organization, family, and faith congregation needs a designated “Head Chef” to ensure that whatever’s “cooking” turns out right and with a minimum of confusion. The head guy isn’t better or more valuable than the “Sous-Chef”; it’s just the best way to get things done. This is especially true in marriages, particularly in the area of finances. Show us a couple with equal jurisdiction over their budget and expenditures, and we’ll show you overdrawn accounts and needlessly missed payments.

Show us a committee where two people are trying to call the shots, and we’ll show you a decline in volunteers. The same goes for any “family” unit, be it a business, club, or faith community. But the point we’re trying to make is this: it’s okay to concentrate on what you do best, and then follow a good leader. Even Jesus Christ understood this, which is why He remained under the headship of God the Father, stating, “For I have come down from heaven not to do My will but to do the will of Him who sent me.” (John 6:28 NIV) It was the expedient way to accomplish His mission on earth.

True, someone has to be in charge, but it can’t always be you. Nor can we always have our own way in matters. So, maybe it’s time you got out of the kitchen (unless you ARE the head cook). Stop lifting the lids on all the pots. Stop tasting the broth every five minutes. And stop thinking that in every situation you need to put in your two cents worth of spices. Be content to be the co-pilot, or the Sous-Chef, or just part of a bigger team. That’s how things get done, quickly, smoothly and efficiently — without bruised egos and busted noses; without kitchen chaos and culinary conundrums.

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…. Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40 King James)