How big is your world? Do you only care about your family and friends, or is your circle of concern greater than that?
“…[I] do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…” (Ephesians 1:16)
Ancient Confucian teaching imposed obligations on rulers for the well-being of their subjects. And while Christians do not practice Confucianism, God does task us with concern for the well-being of others whose lives we can impact. Right after murdering Abel, Cain retorted to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” implying that his brother’s well-being was not his responsibility. The entirety of Scripture, however, teaches us that we are, indeed, responsible for being concerned with what is going on in the lives of those around us.
I John 3:16-18 says, “By this we know love, because He [Jesus] laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?…let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed [through our actions] and in truth.” Clearly, we are to use our financial resources to bless those in need. The parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus also teaches us to help those whose needs we are aware of. And while this particular parable specifically deals with physical necessities, I believe God will hold us accountable for any situation we are capable of impacting for good, but don’t.
The truth is, God gifts His people differently. Some have a talent for making money, others don’t. Some are articulate, while others struggle simply to put a decent sentence together. Some find it easy to understand what’s going on in a person’s life and are able to come alongside that person to encourage them in their Christian walk, while others find it hard to tune in to their friends’ struggles. Some intuitively take charge of situations, while others simply aren’t that good at leading. Each of us senses what we’re good at, and which areas we struggle with. And while God doesn’t let us off the hook just because it’s not something we’re good at, He does expect us to use our areas of strength to their fullest capacity.
Remember the idea of sowing [planting seed]? 2 Corinthians 9:6 tells us, “But this I say: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” If you’re stingy with the seed, you won’t get a big result, but if you’re generous with your efforts, the effect will be greater and more people will be blessed! When you send out one letter of encouragement to someone unable to come to church, that person may respond or they may not, but if you send out letters of encouragement to everyone on your church’s sick list, you will be so much more of a blessing. When you occasionally talk to someone about how important it is to do things God’s way and how happy you are that even though you may occasionally mess us, God forgives you and gives you a clean conscience because of Jesus, that person may or may not be receptive. But if you do this with everyone you meet, you’ll probably develop a reputation as definitely being a Christian, but you’ll also stand a bigger chance of actually impacting someone’s life.
Sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand their accountability for the well-being of others. I’ll be honest and admit that it didn’t hit home for me until I became responsible for managing my mother’s apartment buildings. There really aren’t that many units, and these people aren’t completely dependent on me, but I certainly have the capacity to affect their lives for better or worse. And while there are many people who do not own their own businesses or supervise others, all of our lives impact others. We all have relatives. Most of us occasionally go to a store, get gas, or stand in line at the post office. Many of us have Facebook accounts. We have multiple opportunities on a daily basis to be “about our Father’s business.”
In today’s verse, Paul says he thanks God for the Ephesian Christians. Paul is an excellent example of someone who was talented by this world’s standards, yet he used his life and abilities furthering God’s kingdom. This is what we should be doing—furthering God’s kingdom in some way, shape, or form. This will not necessarily be in a paid ministerial capacity, but, rather, wherever God places us in life as a witness to who He is and what He’s done—as His representatives to people who may not know Him well, or at all. Let’s work faithfully at it, so that like Paul, there actually are people who have responded to our efforts for whom we can give God thanks!
Thank You for everything You have given me, whether it seems great or small in the eyes of the world. Thank You that You can take a talent that seems almost non-existent (something like the tiny mustard seed) and grow it to accomplish great things (which grows into a massive shade tree) for Your kingdom. Thank You that You use each willing and submissive heart, and that You have positioned me exactly where You want me and have given me the skills I need to accomplish what You want me to accomplish in this life. Please use me to accomplish Your purposes for Your glory. Amen.