By Rondi Lauterbach
Editor’s Note: Part One of this post (Embracing Our Limits) appeared a couple of weeks ago.
Do you tend to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes your way? Saying “yes” when I should say “no” indicates a need to embrace my limits. That requires humility.
But what if I find it easy to say “no” when I’m asked to help or serve or join? Saying “no” when I should say “yes” may indicate a need to expand my capacity. That requires faith.
We’re always living our lives in the tension between yes and no, between embracing our limits and expanding our capacity. Yes, it’s a wisdom issue. We should pray, seek counsel, weigh the pros and cons. But it’s also a heart issue, which makes it a gospel issue.
That’s right, the life, death, resurrection, and ascended reign of Jesus my Savior is relevant to these daily dilemmas.
Playing it Safe
Our life is like a fenced field. The fence is the God-imposed boundary of time, talents, energy, and every other resource of my life. But inside the fence I’m free to cultivate the field. How do you and I live within our field? Now I have a long history of being a limit-pusher, but recently I’ve been tempted to play it safe.
What does that look like? In my life you might observe that I’ve become:
That’s what it looks like. But here’s how it feels. I’m tempted to:
Do you see the unbelief that fuels a temptation to play it safe? Can you relate? Let’s return to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) to see what it says not just about our limits, but about using the capacities he’s given us.
A Story About Stewardship
Jesus told this story to encourage his disciples to live fully until his return. They didn’t completely understand it at the time. They weren’t expecting the crucifixion, didn’t have a clue about the resurrection, and couldn’t imagine the ascension. We know the full story, but can still miss the point of the parable.
We see it as a story about stewardship, which is true to a degree. Each servant was entrusted with a different amount of his master’s treasure. The amount didn’t matter. What the servants did with it was important.
The first two servants did exactly the same thing. They went at once, traded it, and made more. The amount they started with and the amount they produced were inconsequential. Their actions showed that they took their stewardship seriously. Both were praised and rewarded when the master returned to settle accounts.
The third servant acted completely differently. He didn’t engage in trading. He didn’t even put the money in the bank. He played it safe, burying it in the ground, so he could dig it up again and hand it back. The master wasn’t pleased. The moral of the story: playing it safe is not stewardship.
The Good Master
But that’s not the whole story. It’s not just about stewardship. First, it’s about the Master.
We see what the one-talent servant did, but why did he do it? He was afraid. He was afraid of the Master, that he would be easily displeased, unreasonable, harsh. Is that the kind of man the Master was? Look back at the parable. He trusted his servants, made a wise distribution, gave them freedom, returned as promised, praised lavishly, and rewarded liberally. By every indication, he was good.
The one-talent servant was judged not for poor stewardship, but for unbelief. He didn’t believe the master was good.
But that’s not all. Second, the story is about the Master who became the Servant. Jesus told this story about himself. He’s the good Master who became the faithful Servant. He perfectly stewarded what God entrusted to him—us—because he perfectly trusted the Father for each moment of his task.
What would it look like to “consider Jesus…who was faithful to him who appointed him” (Hebrews 3:1-2) next time you are considering an opportunity to serve? As the good Master, he is reasonable, understanding, and eager to reward. As the faithful Servant, he knows what it takes to serve by faith and will be with you every step of the way. Embrace your limits and expand your capacity the same way—by his grace.
Rondi entered the Ivy League full of personal ambition and left under a new Master. Her passion is to help women see Jesus in the Word and be nourished by him. She has been a pastor’s wife for over thirty years, a mother of three, and now a very happy grandmother. She and her husband Mark live in San Diego, where she blogs at feastingonchrist.com.
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