One of the big dilemmas in following Christ is the balance between being a good steward of what you have and taking risks. Can you leverage what you have for good? Or do you go for broke for the broken?
This comes into question at the individual level (i.e., what kind of house do you buy? what kind of neighborhood do I live in?); and at the collective level as well (i.e., do we buy a bigger church building? or sell all that we have?).
And this makes the ministry of reconciliation very difficult. Jesus’ teachings are easy to take to the extreme: the narrow road, the rich young ruler, eyes of needles, taking up your cross, etc. He didn’t have no wife, no kids, no job… I mean, if he’s telling the parable of the talents, it doesn’t seem like he would be speaking from experience, right? In our modern market economy, many of us (especially in the United States) are several degrees of difficulty from the disciples in terms of laying down their nets and following Jesus. What’s the worst that could have happened as a result of that initial invitation to discipleship? What, they go back and pick up their nets? But to be a Christ follower today, it seems that we have so many safety nets, even if we put down one, and claim to take risks, it feels like we just removed one layer of clothing over our already clothed body. It’s like saying, I take risks in the dressing room, but some people don’t have a jacket to face the cold. Our skin never really faces the elements like the people we supposedly are serving.
And yet with that one layer of clothing, we think to ourselves, well at least one person has something to wear thanks to my sacrifice, my work, my calling. Words like sustainability, boundaries, stewardship and self-care are common these days in the ministry/service world. I just can’t seem to find them in Scripture or in Jesus’ red letters. Instead, I read about four guys carrying a paralytic tearing the roof off a house to get him to Jesus. Not standing in line. Not knocking incessantly. Tearing the roof off the mother. The roof. OFF. That’s strange. I wonder how the homeowner felt about that. I read about a woman crawling her way through a crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. She was rich at some point. She could pay for all the years of treatments. She’s a rich woman, but she doesn’t worry about her dignity, doesn’t care about saving face, doesn’t care about Jesus’ personal space, just gonna reach and grab the hem of his robe based off of some crazy idea that she got in her head — “If I touch it, something’s going to happen. Something.” Not a very sustainable plan. Not permission-seeking. No sense of boundaries. Really just one shot in the barrel. Going for all the marbles.
These people reek of desperation actually. I don’t know how to calculate this kind of behavior, and don’t really care to learn it. It doesn’t feel very smart to me, not wise in the “proverb”-ial sense. It doesn’t seem like good stewardship to me. I mean, wasn’t there more internal tension going on in the guy with the ten talents? I mean, how did he know he could get ten more? How much calculated risk did he take? What if you have no results to show for it? Was Jesus a better steward or a better risk taker? What risk is it if you’re the Son of God, really? I mean, I jest, but let’s be honest, with as much as we have going on in our societies today, just to leave the house and entrust myself to public transportation, I’m at the mercy of certain forces I can’t control. I lay my stewardship on the line. But perhaps you can hear me rationalizing now. I can hear me too.
Point 1. I think it’s important we not think of our roles in the missio Dei as too important. In fact, it would probably take a lot of pressure of many pastors and leaders to assume what we do won’t change the world. There needs to be a certain anonymity when it comes to reconciliation lest one party would like to take credit. Also, point 2, taking risks should be an act of obedience, not of guilt or self-righteous heroism (see point 1). Both stewardship and taking risks are two halves of the same coin. You gather stones, and then you slay the giant. And point 3, discernment and cultivating a life of spiritual discipline seems to be a part of this as well so stewardship never becomes a euphemism for hoarding and risk taking never becomes a euphemism for “messiah complex”.