Responsibility


Let me start with a few seed thoughts and then try to expand on them.

Responsible living is fulfilling, empowering, satisfying, rewarding.

Accountability is not the same as responsibility. Accountability happens at points in time, like check-ins, wake-up calls and are often associated with times of transition.

Accountability is a reality check to see how responsibility has been handled.

Jesus told Pilate that he could not have any authority unless it had been given him from above. Speaking of his authority was another way of saying he had a responsibility. Jesus was at that moment alerting Pilate that the way in which he would make decisions in that situation would reveal how personally responsible Pilate was willing to accept. Would he make decisions based on internal values and upright morals? Or would he allow outside influence and/or false ideas about his value to steer his decisions causing him to abuse his authority and avoid his responsibility?

Jesus' parables address this issue, though not until now has it started becoming more clear to me what they may actually mean. He gave a parable of various servants being given responsibility and then adequate time to develop, experiment and practice how to use their authority responsibly. If they acted in responsible ways, meaning they would use their authority in ways similar to how God uses His, then the rewards would be not only include receiving greater responsibility but would also involve greater joy.

Joy is something that can be experienced when being moved up, during transitional times when we are honored with positions of greater trust by those above us in responsibility or by God. But joy is much more inclusive than that, for joy is inextricably entwined with bonding with others, both those above and below in our line of responsibilities as well as others around us.

Responsibility is also directly related to maturity. The hierarchy of maturity (if it is even safe to use that misleading term) is the original kind of hierarchy which its counterfeits in the political, economic and religious arenas of our world imitate. The difference is that the world's hierarchies operate on the basis of selfishness while the original system of true maturity functions much better relying only on the spirit of unselfish service and blessing to others.

Learning to handle true responsibility requires living free of guilt, shame, fear, intimidation or threats. Those things push one into the counterfeit systems where defensiveness, self-protection and selfishness dominant. God's system has no room for any of these counterfeit motives, for such motives foster selfishness which destroys our ability to serve with joy and freedom of spirit.

The reason many people struggle to serve God and others responsibly without feeling guilt, shame or fear is because they still harbor dark views about God, the one who gave them responsibility. Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' (Matthew 25:24-25)

Notice the view of the master this slave had (and slave is certainly the proper term for this person in particular, for that is the mentality he had). He viewed his superior as being harsh, even dishonest to a degree as he believed that the master could take from what others had worked to bring to fruition. He stated plainly that fear was his main motivation for serving the master and was the reason he acted the way in which he had. But he also assumed that he should be congratulated for living in fear and playing it safe as he thought that is how the master wanted his slaves to live.

What I ponder over is our reaction when we read of the master's response to this slave. Do we find it confusing, inconsistent with the kind of God we worship? Or does at least some of this man's logic make sense to us and resonate with how we see God ourselves? These are vitally important questions to let surface in our minds as we ponder our own relationship to the one we view as our Master.

But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. (Matthew 25:26-27)

How close is this slave's ideas about his master to some of our gut-level feelings about God? If what he said about his master had truth in it (and at first it might seem the master was affirming his notions as valid), then what might have motivated the other two servants to act so differently than this one? We see that the other two servants received a very different response from this same master. But the reason this is true is vital for us to understand or we may inadvertently find ourselves trapped in the same thinking as this last servant, viewing God as arbitrary and one who utilizes Satan's system of rewards and punishment to motivate His slaves to work for Him.

Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' (Matthew 25:20-23)

By now it should start to become clear that the motives of the first two servants and their disposition about the master's attitude toward them was nearly opposite of that of the last servant. When the master compliments them on work well executed involving creativity and high risk investing, he notes that they are ready to enter into a higher level of joy than what they have already been experiencing, the joy of their master.

In contrast, after removing the investment he had made with the last servant and giving it to the first one, a principle is stated that is very important for us to become aware of in our own lives and choices.

For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. (Matthew 25:29)

I find it instructive to compare this with another similar passage found in Mark.


"For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!" And he said to them, "Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." (Mark 4:22-25)

The last servant, the one considered delinquent and lazy by the master, had chosen to hide what had been entrusted to him believing that was the safest thing to do with valuables that didn't belong to him. Because he live in fear of his master he could only imagine what might happen to him if he made a mistake and lost some of his master's money. Not wanting to make stupid or risky investments that might not turn out well he felt that the best thing to do was simply hide what was entrusted to him until the day of accounting and then everything should be able to return to at least as normal as how it started. Better to be safe than sorry was his attitude, so he decided it was the better choice to be as safe as possible and simply preserve intact and without tampering what the master had given him until such time as it was safe to return it in whole.

This servant failed on many counts however. He didn't appreciate the principles by which true reality is designed to function. He preferred to make important decisions based on fear instead of joy and the outcome was condemned by the master who had no appreciation for his playing it safe. Instead of rewarding him for not losing anything as the servant expected, he lost everything he had received and even the tentative relationship he had with the master himself. He not only returned what was given him but found he had tragically misread the disposition and intent of his master's ways of doing things.

Here is something else to consider. Why did the rewards for the first two servants not only involve more responsibility but also joy? This part of the story has long seemed like something completely out of place until I began to discern the underlying principles at work. God does not operate arbitrarily as I had long assumed; He does not act in the ways most people operate in our fallen, selfish systems based on hierarchy here on earth. Rather God relates to His children on the basis of natural principles He created, principles based on cause and effect. Maturity and responsibility are included in these systems based on cause and effect, but not the systems of reward and punishment, fears and threats.

Rewards and punishments only tend to increase our inherent feelings of selfishness which is precisely why God does not rely on them to motivate us for His service. He may at times need to speak to us using that kind of language if that is all we can understand, just as the master had to adapt his speech to this last slave who viewed his master as functioning with that sort of character. But the truth was, the master was not at all like what the servant assumed, but since that was all the servant would believe about him, then the Master had to copy his language to even try to get him to understand what the real problem was.

Acting responsibly must not be infected by the spirit of selfishness or it will become twisted into something darkened by false notions about God. If we see the One who gives us responsibility as being demanding, stern, threatening or arbitrary, then our service will inevitably rely on selfish, fear-oriented motives that will in turn lead us to make bad decisions resulting in bad outcomes.

The joy that the other two servants were invited to enter into was not something foreign to them. They had already chosen to take enormous risks with their master's money he had entrusted to them precisely because they saw their master as not being harsh, threatening or demanding. If the first two servants had presumed the master would be furious with them and ready to punish them if they encountered loss from investing his resources, they too would have played it safe and would not have been willing to risk what they did in hopes of gaining huge returns. They had to have had some appreciation that their master was a big risk-taker himself and would understand perfectly if they should lose the money entrusted to them without getting upset with them. In fact, they likely knew their master well enough to believe that even if they did lose his money in their high-risk attempts to hit it big, the master they knew could be counted on to congratulate them for being willing to take such big risks in his name instead of fearing that he might censor them for losing what he had entrusted to them.

This parable, possibly more than any other, exposes the fundamental difference between the attitudes of those who trust God and those who live in fear of God. Our perceptions of the kind of God we serve makes all the difference in the way we choose to live with the responsibility entrusted to us by Him. If we see God as generous, even an outrageous risk-taker full of zeal and joy and excitement and enthusiasm for life, then we can feel safe and even encouraged to follow His example without living under fear of what He might do to us if we make a mistake.

If on the other hand we have views of God as being sternly demanding of those entrusted with responsibility and expecting an exact accounting of every penny, ready to chide or condemn any missteps or mistakes we might make, then with such a dark threat hanging over our heads it will be impossible to feel peace or see much way of satisfying the demands of such a master. We might feel compelled to take what we are given and in fear attempt to use it in some way so the master will at least feel satisfied that we did not lose anything that did not belong to us. But we will never move beyond the realm of fear to experience the thrill of high-risk attempts that have the potential to dramatically increase our capacity for greater joy as we are drawn into sympathy with the feelings and ideas that motivate our Master.

Satisfaction, peace, a sense of fulfillment are not things to wait for as rewards after one has proven they are faithful. Rather these are things that must be experienced on the way, things that need to compose the mental and emotional atmosphere of those who want to experience even more of these emotions because they were willing to practice risk-taking in the name of God.

Playing it safe betrays a false belief that God relies on a system of fear and intimidation and threats. Yet with such a view of God it is impossible to feel safe enough to make high-risk investments, for fear will constantly make us feel guilty and afraid, and these are attitudes that permeate the systems of Satan and this world. So long as we choose to live in fear we will feel inhibited and unable to take the kind of risks in life that are actually doorways to thrills God longs for us to enjoy.

We may be viewed as crazy and even heretical to those around us who think we are way outside their little box in which they believe God lives, and they may even attempt to warn us of the error of our ways. They will likely try to convince us that God is waiting with fierce wrath and severe punishments to execute on all those who do not respect His threatenings or adhere to the rules we believe He is eager to enforce. But it is our picture of God that will determine not only our own reactions to what God entrusts to us but will also determine the way we view those who act differently, even opposite to us based on very different perceptions of God.

Is it safe to criticize those who believe in what some might believe is a wishy-washy God, a God that is not as stern and demanding as we believe He must be, but instead is presented as eager for His children to live life to the fullest? Can we handle a God who approves of us taking huge risks and sometimes even failing but not needing to be afraid of censure or condemnation from the Master? We may feel justified in warning such ones that if they continue living in such extravagant views of grace that clearly violates everything that religion believes about God, that they are surely headed for encounters with the wrath of an offended Jehovah that will surely be inflicted on them for breaking His conservative rules.

Yet all the while we are busy condemning others for taking too many risks with God's resources, we feel smug in playing it safe, unwilling to take any risks with what we have been entrusted with, feeling assured that God will likely reward us for not suffering any loss of anything He has given to us. We feel a need to warn others of the danger of holding to liberal notions about God and try to compel them to have more fear of His impending judgments against them, yet not realize that we are shaping our own atmosphere of judgment inside that will become the prison in which we find ourselves in the end.

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. (Romans 2:1)

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. (Matthew 7:1-7)

It never occurred to me until just now what this last verse may actually connect in a strange way to the parable of the talents. The last servant buried his money (pearls?) in the ground for safe-keeping. What if these warnings about the very same thing? Jesus does not say here that the swine will eat the pearls so you will be in trouble for losing them. Rather, He warns that if the only investment we are willing to make with what God has given us is to attempt to keep it safe under in the dirt, then all we will find running over our valuables are those we consider swine – irresponsible people we deem only worthy of condemnation by us and by God.

We may create in our minds perceptions that those around us are all unfit people, yet when the judgment of God arrives, a day of accountability about what we have done with what God has given to us, we discover that our internal atmosphere has become so filled with demon-possessed swine in our own fears and false ideas about God that these very swine will be what turns on us and tears us to pieces, because we have come to only see God through the lenses of Satan's caricatures of Him.

Notice that the context of this verse relates to a spirit of judging others. The last servant likely felt justified in condemning the other servants as being irresponsible and reckless with their master's money. He may have even gone to them to warn them about the speck in their eyes, the reckless methods they were employing, the dangers of playing too loose and not being responsible with all the valuables they had been entrusted with and were simply being too risky. He could have accused them of being liberals, heretics, spreading dangerous ideas about a God who was also liberal and too easy on sin. This servant may well have expended effort warning, pleading or threatening the others servants to mend their ways before it was too late when the master would come back in vengeance to dish out severe punishments on them for not following his rules meticulously and for squandering his resources.

Yet all the while this servant was clueless that his own opinions about the master had shaped into a log of lies blinding him to what the others could see so better than him. While they may have had some blind spots themselves and needed a little guidance or correction here and there, compared to the servant who felt justified in warning them of impending judgments of wrath to come by an offended master, their blindspots were hardly detectable compared to his. Yet he felt perfectly vindicated in burying his pearls under swine's feet while imagining that this was better than letting anyone else get access to it.

According to Jesus, the end result of burying what we have been given to keep it safe instead of being willing to make high-risk investments with His gifts to us will be not only result in losing what was given to us but we will also experience the wrath of the very swine we imagined would threaten and destroy those we condemned. In the end it is our own wrath that will kill us, not anger on God's part.

Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:4-5)

In the original language it actually is more accurate to translate this as storing up wrath within yourself. It is our own resistance to God's love and refusing to embrace the truth about God's character that sets us up for our own demise in the end. It is not God's anger against sinners that we need to fear but the wrath stored up inside of us against truth that has the potential to destroy us in the end.

In contrast, the first two servants understood their master as having such confidence in them that they felt free to think outside the normal box of fear and could look for radical ways to invest everything they had received, trusting that he could even bless them and guide them to make the best choices. They did not share the narrow, fearful notions about a threatening, offended God that the last servant held. Rather they viewed him as generous enough to absorb whatever losses might be incurred from mistaken investments without getting angry or censorious. They believed their Master wanted them to expand their horizons, to look for opportunities in others as they sought to find the best ways to uncover hidden potential where no one else had noticed it before.

Taking high-risk investments with God's resources I believe means looking around for people that others might view as hopeless or dead-end or a waste of time. Looking at people through the eyes of heaven and following the Spirit's promptings can empower us to begin uncovering diamonds buried underneath the filth and damage caused by sin and damage in other people's lives. With the eyes of heaven and a heart like Jesus we can begin to see things that are impossible to discern with our normal perceptions and can find hearts where we may begin drilling down through the hard surface of their exterior to tap into hidden reservoirs of rich promise that even they have no awareness is deep inside.

Learning to follow God's Spirit to invest in salvaging expeditions in the lives of unpromising people around us can appear irresponsible to many others and may even look like casting valuable pearls before swine from their perspective. Yet if we are trusting the God of infinite resources, the God who is the very source of all love and the One who can see the heart accurately and can guide us to the right place to begin investing, we can learn how to cooperate with Him in unleashing enormous wealth and fabulous returns where others might only see a swine pit.

At the end of this story, the valuables entrusted to the unfaithful slave ended up in the hands of the biggest risk-taker, likely because he had already proven himself worthy of the most trust and would be eager to take those unused resources and quickly multiply them for the master's benefit and glory. The first two servants were most concerned about making the master's estate expand and grow as quickly as possible, expanding his influence, his wealth and most of all his credibility.

The last servant was only concerned about avoiding punishment, protecting his own reputation with little to no concern for the master's reputation or even his resources. He even assumed he should have been commended for carefully guarding what had been entrusted to him from getting lost or stolen, but instead he discovered that what he thought was the right thing to do in his view was based on his own false perceptions about the attitude and disposition of his master. Too late he realized he was clueless about the heart and methods and truth about his master and that had resulted in his making tragic choices that ruined his entire life.

In the master's assessment of the failure of this servant, note that the focal point of his speech was the perception the servant maintained about the kind of master he was serving, not so much about his failure to increase what he had been given. The lack of increase was simply a symptom of his miserable opinion about his master. If we miss this point we are still infected ourselves with the very same virus that blinded this servant to see what the master was all about.

The whole reason this servant was afraid to take risks was due to his faulty opinions about the disposition of his master. This was the root cause of his catastrophic failure resulting in his incriminating exposure when the day of accountability arrived. The master explained to him that even if he did have confused ideas about how conservative the master might be (which were not really true), even so if the servant had been clear-headed and honest (instead of only thinking about himself in constant fear of reprisal from his boss) he would have at the very least made a minimal and relatively safe investment in a low-interest bank account. Even that very low-risk kind of investment could have turned out far better for him than the choice he did make to bury his master's resources (under a pigpen).

As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30)

What is meant by weeping and gnashing of teeth? The best explanation I have heard about these is that they represent the two primary emotions that will inevitably result from a realization that one is lost forever. Weeping comes from sadness, and in this case intense, overwhelming grief that the entire life has been squandered and the chance to be healed and restored back to living with joy in the society of the family of God has been spurned.

One cannot now imagine the enormous regret people will feel when such a realization sinks in that one has not only refused the life they were designed for and had longed to experience all along; but on top of that they see that they have persistently refused to embrace the love and grace of God, to believe the truth about His love for them and as a result they have permanently destroyed their very capacity to even be healed or to ever be able to love. The enormous grief when realizing that kind of loss they have brought upon themselves will know no limits.

Gnashing of teeth on the other hand represents the other reaction to the discovery that all has been lost. The human heart steeped in selfishness has always looked for someone to blame for our own problems, someone else to accuse as being the reason for the suffering that sin brings into our lives. This penchant to blame instead of accepting responsibility for our own choices can turn into rage which is our way of trying to use the force of intense threatening emotion to control the thinking and actions of those around us. We blame others, and then to enforce that we resort to anger and rage to get others to comply with our view of reality so we can stay in denial that we are the one really accountable.

Grinding the teeth with clenched jaws is the physical analogy the Bible uses to illustrate rage. An outraged person will grit their teeth or grimace as their anger continues to build. This common symptom of anger is an aggressive reaction to finding ourself threatened as we look for someone to blame or hurt, in contrast to the other passive reaction of intense grief. Both of these will be seen in the natural outcome of rejecting the peace and love and joy that God longs to give to everyone.

In contrast to this terrible condition the lost will find themselves experiencing in the end, those who have chosen to embrace the light of truth about the God who is only love, who enjoys taking gambles in order to win big returns and who has great faith that His risks can reap wonderful returns, these can enter into the greater joy of companionship and shared fellowship with this very God along with all who have chosen to embrace His ways and His attitudes. This is called faithfulness, but because religion has weighed down this label with so much baggage over the years, I prefer to use more simple language that feels more relevant to everyday use and call this trustworthiness.

In this story of the talents, some Bible versions use the words good and faithful servant. But I like this version that actually has the master saying that they are trustworthy, as the master commends their choices as revealing something about their character as being something he can trust.

But I want to take this a little further, and I believe this story invites us looking at this aspect of it as well. We are told that God is faithful, and what we usually mean by that is that God can be seen as reliable, that He keeps His promises and does what He says He will do. That is a good definition, however I believe it needs to be extended much further to find a fuller understanding of this concept.

Faithfulness can also mean being full of faith – faith-fullness. Yet we often don't think so much about God as being full of faith because we usually think that is what He expects us to have towards Him. Yet based on the principle of awakening, I have been coming to see that we are missing much in our relationship with God because we have failed to recognize and embrace the truth that indeed God is full of far more faith than we have ever dared to believe or imagine. Yes, God has faith and it will do wonders in our life when we begin to realize the implications of this profound truth.

First what is the principle of awakening? Let me clarify as background that I believe all of God's 'laws' are actually natural principles, not arbitrary pronouncements He demands that we obey blindly. Everything in creation is governed and designed around natural principles that we often refer to as natural law. We have little problem accepting this when it comes to science or physics or chemistry, but when it comes to morality we suddenly have a penchant to shift over to insist that those are somehow different and that at least some, if not all of them, are imposed or arbitrary and have to be enforced by God or they will not operate.

I think that is a major mistake and a huge deception. Even if we don't yet understand fully how some moral law – the Sabbath for instance – might be natural and not at all arbitrary, we must not conclude that it must be arbitrary. Concluding that would only betray the fact that we are not yet discerning enough to see why and how it operates naturally.

I started becoming aware some years ago of fundamental principles that undergird things we think about in spiritual matters only on the surface. These are principles of operation as foundational as gravity or any other principle in science that governs how life operates. And what I am coming to see is that the natural principles we recognize in the physical realm perfectly correlate to similar principles in the moral realm, whether or not we may be able to articulate them or not. But if we are willing I believe God will reveal to us these principles, many of which I find articulated in the teachings of Jesus that we long thought were simply commands we were supposed to obey.

One of these natural principles might be called the law of reflection or awakening, however you want to label it. The simplest and maybe clearest way to see this principle is in the way love awakens love. We know that when we feel loved it is far easier to begin feeling like loving someone in response. What might be even more clear is how we react when confronted by someone who is angry at us. Our natural reaction is usually to either become angry ourselves or to become afraid – or both. But even if we become afraid, sooner or later we are likely to feel angry but may just too intimidated to display it.

What I am saying here is that it is a principle of the mind that we are tempted to react reflectively to whatever emotion is coming at us. So it is commonly known that when we are slapped by someone we feel like hitting them back; when we are insulted by someone we want to find a way to insult them or get even somehow; when we are shamed by someone we want to figure out a way to shame them, and even more so; when we are abused by someone we can easily fall into the trap of becoming an abuser ourselves sooner or later.

These are all ways in which this principle of reflection or awakening operates in our negative emotions. Yet this same principle applies across the board which makes for some interesting insights that many of us may have missed. In fact I have come to see that this is actually the principle of our mind that is exploited by nearly all temptations, for we are usually tempted to react in similar fashion to how we are being treated. And this explains what Jesus faced most intently when we was being tortured and shamed and viciously treated during the last hours of His life here on earth.

In fact this is what you were called to do, because Christ suffered for you and gave you an example, so you should follow in his footsteps. Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully. Although he was abused, he never tried to get even, when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but left everything to the one who judges fairly.
He was carrying our sins when his body was put on the pole, so that once the sins were gone, we could live righteously. For, 'by his wounds you were healed.'
Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross. He did this so that we would stop living for sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you were healed.
You were like sheep that went the wrong way. But now you have come back to the Shepherd and Protector of your lives. (1 Peter 2:21-25 FBV, GW, CEV, NET, 2001, ERV)

Now, we usually relate the word temptation to sin, and that is usually true. Yet temptation is really just another description of this principle of natural reaction to whatever comes towards us. This is actually part of our original design, for we were created to be reflectors of God as we continually focused on His loveliness, so this 'temptation' principle in essence is actually not our real problem but rather it is a built-in design that has been exploited by the evil one to get sin into our hearts.

When we come to understand this principle of reflection as simply being part of God's original design for us, we might begin to be able to relate to temptation differently and might even come to leverage this principle to cooperate with God's work in salvaging us from the damage sin has caused in our lives.

I mentioned that love awakens love and most of us grasp that concept relatively easy. But consider some of the most heart-warming stories that we enjoy where someone takes great risk to invest in the life of someone else who seems totally unworthy of such trust. But because someone chose to believe in them even before they could see anything of worth in themselves, suddenly a response of self-respect, honor and hope is awakened within them and dramatic results can happen.

What we are really enjoying in such stories is the operation of this fundamental principle of awakening in it intended normal operation. When we choose to love someone, especially when we do so unconditionally like God loves us, we are in effect actually tempting that person to respond in kind with love similar to how we are loving them. Obviously that is a good thing, which is why I say that we may need to rethink our notions about the word temptation. Temptation has long been exclusively associated with temptation toward sin, but as we see this underlying principle in temptation we can see how it does not necessarily have to be only used for evil.

Now let's begin to see how this applies far more than we may have noticed previously. Not only does love awaken or invite love in response, but so too does faith and trust. This came as a real surprise to me the first time I heard about it from a series of talks by a man named Fred Bischoff. I listened to a series he gave many years ago about the Faith of Jesus and how we need to see that it is Jesus' own faith that has power to awaken faith in our hearts towards God. The more we appreciate how much risk Jesus has taken and how everything He has done for us was in faith in us, this awareness can arouse a responsive faith inside us that can connect our hearts to His heart. We can then begin to tap into a reservoir of faith that is far more potent and effective than any attempts to work up faith in ourselves.

When we begin to grasp how much someone who cares about us is willing to do in demonstrating their belief in us, in our potential, in our future while we cannot yet believe in ourselves, it has enormous power to transform the way we perceive ourselves, our reality and our value. This then lifts us up to have potential to become far more than we ever imagined possible.

We sing a song in the chorus I belong to called You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban in which this concept is seen as changing a life.



When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me
You raise me up so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

This is the way in which faith inspires faith. And the most powerful way we can find to become far more than we ever thought we could be is to expose ourselves to and embrace the reality of the immense faith that Jesus has in us.

It is Jesus more than anyone else who lifts us up on His shoulders when things seem dark and fearful.
It is Jesus more than anyone else who can empower us to walk instead of sinking on stormy waters.
And it is Jesus whom we must listen to in the silence of our loneliness, our despair, our fears to discover that these things are not coming from Him but rather are trying to keep us from seeing how much He loves us, how much He trusts us and how much He believes in us.

Once we begin to embrace these truths and see the real truth about God's enormous faith and love and trust in us, this powerful principle of temptation/awakening/reflection – however you want to label it – can transform us to become what we never imagined possible and indeed is impossible without the high-risk faith that Jesus has invested in us.

So, back to the parable of the talents. I now see a master who himself took risks by investing in slaves who had various opinions about him and and at least one who he knew would not honor his reputation in the way he handled what was entrusted to him. Yet he took the risk anyway, knowing that the last servant still might do what he ended up doing and would disappoint the master by doing nothing useful with what was entrusted to him. Yet still the master gave him equal opportunity to do whatever he wanted with the master's trust. But clearly the difference in the outcome was due to the opinions his servants had about their master, and the same thing will affect our response to our Master's trust in us.

The main point of this story is not so much that we should try to take more risks for God, but more importantly our need to continually challenge and change our internal opinions about the kind of God we serve. If our picture of God is dark and fearful, no attempts to keep Him happy by trying to do just the right thing will improve the outcome. So long as we cling to false, dark views of how God feels about us, we will be unable to bring ourselves to risk getting involved in what He really longs to do in our lives. The only thing that can set us free to enjoy this risky journey is to see that what He wants most is to bring us into the more abundant life where thrills are common and risks are appreciated. But we must be willing to first let go of our fears and the lies about what we think He is like that inhibit us and begin to catch sight of the incredible faith He already has in us so we can see that He is not out to condemn us but is only seeking to save us and restore us to the joy of His salvation.

Just a few more thoughts before I close. Talk about crazy, risky investments, look at the kind of logic I just found Jesus telling us to use.

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:35-38)

Somehow I am realizing that all our normal ideas about investing and risk-taking need to be completely revamped or exchanged for a completely new ways of logic. What we are finding here are fundamental principles that will change dramatically the way we live and relate to others. Jesus says here that lending to others while expecting nothing in return can result in great reward. How does that work? Is it arbitrary, where God sets up rules that if we do this He rewards us based on some scale He uses? I don't think so. Rather Jesus is relaying here descriptions of core principles that govern reality and explains cause-effect relationships by which everything is designed to operate perfectly based on love.

One other thing that is becoming clear in a number of these passages. Jesus tells us over and over that the system we choose to operate under becomes the system which will define what happens to us in the end. That is why He warns us so much against judging anyone, for the very act of judging others (like in condemning them) places us under that same system of judgment and sooner or later we will find ourselves being judged in the same ways we have done to others.

No wonder Jesus stresses the need for us to embrace the positive principles of forgiving freely, showing mercy to those who don't deserve it and loving instead of hating our enemies. By embracing these attitudes and living under the umbrella of those principles we place ourselves under their protection, and sooner or later we will experience the same treatment coming back to us. This is not arbitrarily imposed on us by God but is simply a description of natural law in operation, natural laws that have always been in place and that affect every being in the universe, whether or not they believe in God.

I still have not unpacked the difference between responsibility and accountability, but I will leave that for another time.

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