“From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48b
The above verse has always convicted me; I’m privileged, and I know it.
When I was still quite young, my parents took me to see the film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I was only in about fourth grade, but I was old enough to recognize “NOT FAIR!” when I saw it. I remember years later reading Black Like Me and seeing movies featuring scenes involving the KKK that made my blood boil.
Thanks to my church, I had an awareness not only of racial tensions, but also of the plight of children who had no homes, parents, or enough food. I thought of them with a twinge of guilt whenever I put coins into the little cardboard church bank, where I saved up for the annual Sunday school offering for the hungry.
Thoroughly aware of all my privileges (white and otherwise), I lived the first few decades of my life in guilt. When meeting new people I was reluctant to disclose where I lived or the private school I had attended. In college I dressed in the faded jeans and T-shirts that were the norm then. I went through occasional bouts of depression and self-loathing, and from the ages of 17 to 30 I battled an eating disorder.
I married Marty at the age of twenty. He was clearly a better man than I deserved, and although I was thrilled to be his wife, at times my unworthiness added to the guilt I was already feeling, until a certain moment of enlightenment.
Shortly after we had splurged and bought a new car, we were notified that we owed some back taxes that we had been unaware of. The amount seemed staggering at the time. This was the closest I had ever come to having “financial troubles,” and I wondered if I was finally going to be transformed into “a good [poor] Christian.”
Well, Lord, is this when You’re going to teach me how to be poor?
I’d had silent conversations with God before, but they usually ran through my head with few surprises, so I was never really sure if it was the Lord speaking to me or just my imagination. But occasionally His answers were so unexpected I was sure the words weren’t coming from me.
Poor? [Chuckle] You haven’t learned how to be rich yet.
Ann, you’ve spent your whole life apologizing for what I’ve given you!
The answer startled me. I had to think about it for a moment.
Wow, I have … How ungrateful of me.
I confessed my ingratitude, accepted the Lord’s forgiveness, and vowed to be more thankful in the future. I gave the financial hiccup over to Him, and waited to see what He wanted me to do.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to do anything. The Lord solved the problem so quickly I almost sank into the guilt trip again. (Why do some people have such a hard time receiving grace?)
My hard-working husband got a promotion at work, and one of the perks was driving a company car. He told his boss thank you, but he didn’t need it, he had just bought a new car. His boss asked him how much he had paid and reimbursed him for the amount.
Which happened to be just what we owed in taxes.
I saw the Lord’s blessing differently this time – not as something to be ashamed of, but an opportunity to praise Him for His goodness. I underwent a major change in my attitude.
I had done volunteer work most of my life, starting with being a teen-aged “candy striper” at the children’s hospital. Through my twenties I did ministry of various kinds every chance I got. After my little revelation I continued doing ministry regularly, but for vastly different reasons.
Before, my motivation had been guilt and trying to make up for my privilege. As if I could somehow pay God back (Silly, proud woman!) and show everyone that I was really a good person, and please-don’t-hate-me. (Besides, it beat doing housework.)
Totally selfish motives.
Once I realized I could never repay God, my motivation changed, starting with acknowledging that Jesus had died for me, sins and all. In fact, my sins were why He died. Sin needs to be atoned for with a perfect sacrifice, and I sure wasn’t qualified to do that! So the Son of God, in His perfection, had laid down His life in exchange for mine.
Talk about a lavish gift … !
Now I still do ministry, but not to earn His love. I do it because I have His love. I want more than anything to offer Him back everything He has blessed me with, to make Him smile – to make Him laugh with delight! Marty’s career enabled me to be flexible with my time, giving to the community and being a positive influence with my students, using the gifts and skills given me throughout my life.
Past experiences – piano lessons, French, and my excellent education – all came in handy. (Mrs. Striker, who saw to it we didn’t pass seventh grade until we could write, spell, and punctuate perfectly, would be pleased with my blog, four books, and frequent letters to the editor.) Even my struggles with food, self esteem, and depression helped in working with youth.
Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) But “abundant life” doesn’t mean having a lot of stuff! It’s being able to enjoy whatever God has given us (tangible and intangible) and letting Him use it to help others. Like the loaves and fishes, Jesus knows how to multiply whatever we offer Him.
How much should we offer Him?
Everything. Because it’s all from Him in the first place.
Prayer: Lord, whatever You have given is sufficient for whatever You are calling us to do. You’ve blessed us. Make us a blessing to others, in Jesus’ name. Amen.