But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. Matthew 25:26-27
Honestly, I have always felt a little sorry for the poor servant who did not invest his master’s money wisely. It seems to me there is at least a little wisdom in putting the money away and making sure it doesn’t get lost or otherwise wasted away. I can still remember the first time I ever studied this parable (I was a teenager) and being shocked at the harshness of this master. “Wicked” and “slothful” just seemed a little over the top to me, especially for a servant who kept all of his master’s money intact and did not lose any of it.
But, alas, the economy of God’s kingdom does not favor the radical fiscal conservatives like me. In God’s eyes, simply hiding the resources under my mattress and saving them for a rainy day is just poor stewardship. I should rather be investing those resources and growing them. I should be risking them a little (every investment is a risk) and putting them to work.
The same is true for the church. And not just with finances or material resources, but maybe even more importantly, with the human resources God has given us in our congregants…the spiritual gifts, talents, abilities, learned skills, work backgrounds, and emotional strengths in the people God has brought us. Our master has placed all those resources into our hands as the church and, shrewd stewards that we are, we are to put them to work…risk them…use them to produce …
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. Genesis 37:5
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same.God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” Genesis 41:25
I know there are some theological problems with comparing our Spiritual gifts to “super powers”…no doubt even more problems than I am aware of. Still, it makes me happy to think of them that way. So indulge me, please, for just this one post, because I believe the story of Joseph and his particular spiritual gift reads like a classic Marvel Comics super hero tale. He was like one of the X-Men with his super power of prophetic dreams and their interpretations.
Like most classic super heros, Joseph had a rough start with his gift. He wasn’t very polished in how he used it. It caused others to hate him and he just mishandled it more often than not. His fumbling of it got him sold into slavery by his spiteful brothers. Of course, years later, he would look back and see that was God’s plan all along. But in the meantime, his gift would cause him much pain.
As he matured, he came to understand the power and began to use it to help others (every super hero faces a crossroads early on when he/she must decide whether to use his/her power for good or for evil). As he made that choice more and more often, great and amazing things began to happen around him and he eventually rose to extraordinary power in Egypt, not to mention saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the midst of seven years of drought.
So here is the application (maybe you already got it)……
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I grew up with a pretty healthy dose of Zig Ziglar and Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of Positive Thinking…or at least with my Dad’s slightly more scriptural version of that philosophy. Dad used to always say to me, “Son, with God’s help, you can accomplish anything you set your mind on accomplishing…and you can be anything you set your mind on being.”
Honestly, I am not sure I ever really believed that.
I just never really bought into the promise that, “through God, I could do all things.” The whole notion of being some kind of spiritual superhero sounded glamorous and all, but it raised a few questions in my mind. First of all, what if I set my mind on being God? Could I accomplish that? Secondly, shouldn’t there be some moral correlation to that rule? Or is it really anything at all to which I set my mind? And what if what I really set my mind to accomplish conflicts with what you really set your mind to accomplish? Then what?
I had a thousand questions about this concept, especially the secular version of it. But even the scriptural version gave me trouble: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. It would be many years before I would begin to understand it.
As it turns out (I would later learn), being empowered by God is not quite the same thing as being gifted with super powers which I could then go and use either for evil or for good. Moreover, it does not even mean that my story will always be powerful or successful or even meaningful. In fact, being the kind of Christ-follower Paul describes …