By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
And those who have been entrusted with great responsibility will be held more responsible to their master. – Luke 12:48 (TPT)
Power is very interesting. If used properly it can have wonderful results for those who have it and those for whom it is exercised. However, placed in the wrong hands, power can be disastrous for the one who has it—and everyone around them.
Luke 12:48 highlights this relationship and brings to the forefront this question:
What does “with great power comes great responsibility” mean for Christians?
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Are These Words from a Superhero Story or Our Savior?
This quote is often attributed to Uncle Ben from Spider-Man however the origins of this go back much further. A version of this quote can be traced back to 1793 appearing in a volume issued by the French National Convention. Here is what it said:
They must consider that great responsibility follows inseparably from great power.
Regardless of the exact origin of this quote, we see that Jesus is making a comparison between what you have been given and your attitude towards it. Power along with anything else such as time, talents, treasure, opportunities—and everything God has given you—comes with a responsibility to take care of it.
In other words, this verse is a verse of stewardship.
If you are not familiar with stewardship it simply means taking care of, utilizing, and maximizing what God has given you for his glory and for the advancement of his kingdom. A steward is not an owner; a steward is a manager.
As the owner, you can do whatever you want with what is declared yours. As a steward, you are responsible to someone else, because what you have actually belongs to them. It's the difference between owning or renting a home. As the owner you can make changes, upgrades...and most of the time do whatever you want to the house. As a renter, you must get approval before you make changes. And when you move out, you are expected to leave the property in a condition similar to when you moved in.
This is at the heart of what Jesus was talking about in Luke 12:48. However, this requires us to take it a step further to understand what "great power comes great responsibility" means for Christians like you and me today.
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What Great Power and Responsibility Have You Been Given?
Since we are marrying power and responsibility together at the altar of stewardship it makes sense to understand what power and responsibility you have as Christians. What has God equipped you with that you are now responsible for? Here are three to consider:
1. Power to Witness
Every Christian (yes, that means you) is empowered with the responsibility of sharing the gospel and being a witness for Jesus. The reason you're able to do this is because God has given you the Holy Spirit...so you can do this effectively. Does this mean you're going to stand before thousands like Peter did on the day of Pentecost and preach the gospel? Maybe, but most likely that's not the case.
However, you do live in a community, have a job, and have friends or family members who don’t know Jesus. These are all places you can be a witness. God has given you the power—now it is your responsibility to do what he requires.
2. Power to Live Holy
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. – Romans 8:13
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16
Back in the old days when I was growing up (for those younger than me, I'm talking about the 1980s) holiness was still important in the church. I'm not sure how often this gets talked about anymore. Can you remember the last time your pastor preached about holiness? Do let me know, because I'm curious to find out. God has given us the responsibility to live holy. The word simply means to be set apart for God’s specific use.
For God to use you, there needs to be a separation from intentionally living a sinful lifestyle.
The good news, again (and I hope you see the trend here) is that God doesn’t just say live holy, he empowers you to do it by the Holy Spirit.
As Christians, great power and responsibility come with the Holy Spirit's ability to carry out what God expects through you. This is why there is no excuse. How amazing God is that he doesn’t just ask or tell you to do something—he makes sure you have everything you need to do what he asks. He makes sure you have the power to carry out the responsibility.
3. Power to Pray
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. – Romans 8:26
One of the most fundamental disciplines we have is prayer. Prayer is when we give God access to interrupt and intervene in our earthly situations. Prayer by itself comes with great power and great responsibility.
For Christians, this is the greatest weapon you have. Yet prayer is not just a weapon, prayer is also the place of surrender. And, of greatest importance, it is the place of communion. Prayer is the place you can sit at the feet of Jesus. Where you can enjoy his presence and where you can commune with your Heavenly Father. It is a place of great power but also a place of great responsibility.
Prayer is the place that allows you to impact things in the heavens through spiritual warfare and things on the earth by seeking Godly intervention. Once again God gives you his Spirit to help you even in prayer. If you sum it up, great power does come with great responsibility. But for Christians (that’s you and me) it also comes with the power to carry out the responsibility.
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2 Things This Command Does Not Mean
1. Your Power Doesn't Make You Greater Than Another
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. – 1 Corinthians 12:21-22
The interesting thing about the body of Christ is that every part matters. The parts that have more power are more visible, but notice the parts that are weaker are indispensable. That means the body cannot function without them.
If God has given you more power it is not meant to lord it over anyone. It should be humbling; because it simply means you have more to answer for.
2. Your Power Doesn't Make You Independent
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5
As much as God gives power, you must remember the source and the purpose. God’s desire is to help you bear much fruit. However, you cannot bear fruit unless you remain connected to the vine.
Therefore, as powerful as a person may think they are...in reality, their power only works as long as they stay connected to Jesus. What I mean is: you cannot accomplish things for the kingdom of God apart from the power of God.
Even though God gives you the power and the responsibility, it was never designed to be used apart from him.
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Tying These Power and Responsibility Concepts Together
I think we have been building a case regarding the relationship between power and responsibility. Indeed, it is true that with great power comes great responsibility. For Christians is there a way to tie this all together? I believe there is. The tie between power and responsibility is grace.
Grace is God giving to us what we don’t deserve. As this applies to power, God entrusts you to partner with him. He gives you the right and the responsibility to do his will in the earth. On the other side, grace doesn’t just entrust, grace empowers. God gives you the responsibility by grace and then he gives you the power to carry it out all by his grace.
Paul marries these two beautifully in 1 Corinthians:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. – 1 Corinthians 15:10
Paul worked hard, which was his responsibility. But he did it by the power that comes from God’s grace.
Where does that leave you and me? I think we can see...it leaves us with a great responsibility but (thankfully) also great power to carry it out. It’s almost like the chicken and the egg. The power requires great responsibility, and handling the responsibility usually leads to more power.
As you go forward, you can trust that as God entrusts you with more, he will also empower you...so you can handle what he has entrusted you with, in the proper fashion. Because after all...with great power comes great responsibility.
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