Plato once wrote that, “The measure of a man is what he does with power.”
Power is defined as: the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. In other words, having power is having control.
You might feel powerless sometimes, but the fact is that as Americans we have more wealth than most people on earth. Most of us have some amount of influence, education, physical strength and knowledge. Many of us even have some level of authority. God requires us to be a good steward of whatever power we have.
The problem is that most of us get caught up in whatever power that we gain, and it goes straight to our heads. We practically break our arms trying to pat ourselves on the back for achieving it. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
He also said, “Authority that does not exist for Liberty is not authority but force.” When power isn’t used for the benefit of others, it is just manipulation. When power is used to bless others, however, it looks just like love.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”—Jimi Hendrix
The Bible addresses our feelings of powerlessness, also known as fear:
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)
This one verse encapsulates what God gives us and what God expects us to do with it. He gives us power to do what? To love. Even when we feel powerless and afraid that we can’t make a difference in this world, we are still called to steward ourselves (self-discipline) in order to use our power to love. Playing the part of a victim is not an option.
We cannot claim to be powerless. In fact, we will be judged by how we use our blessings. God holds us to high standards when it comes to stewardship. Jesus was clear:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48
Or as Spider-Man puts it, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
“The measure of a man is what he does with power.”
Jesus was all-powerful, yet instead of using his power to rule with an iron fist, he held children, washed feet, embraced the rejected and laid down his life for others. He continually laid down his physical, material and supernatural power in order to love. The ultimate use of power is to love and love itself is the most powerful force on earth.
I have seen this at New York City Relief, when a friend of mine who is a successful financial investor asked if he could come wash people’s feet at The Relief Bus outreach. This isn’t something we do every day, but we loved the idea, so special preparations were made. We set up a canopy, with two foot washing stations underneath it and seats for people to sit down.
As people passed by, they were asking what we were doing and once we responded that we were doing foot washing they commented: “Oh, just like Jesus?”
The volunteers were able to wash and massage the feet of 31 people during one outreach. Afterwards, people had a choice between getting powder or lotion on the feet and of course a fresh new pair of socks.
One friend from the streets said that he could barely walk before, but that after the foot washing he felt like jumping. When someone who is challenged with homelessness and has to live on their feet says they feel like jumping, that means something.
Every person who had their feet washed also wanted prayer. It was an intimate experience that really opened people up. All this because a power broker requested an opportunity to come and lower himself so that others could be lifted up.
In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:13-30, talents are measures of money. Money is a form of power. For a moment, let’s replace the talents with God’s love in this fun and very loose paraphrase:
“Here’s another good illustration:
The Lord of Love got all of his young apprentices together to invest deeply in their souls. To one guy named Yaz, he gave fifty acts of love, to a lady named Johanna, he gave twenty acts of love and to a fellow named Juan, he gave one act of love. This was based on each one’s ability to receive his love. To each person, the Love Lord gave what he and she didn’t deserve. It was pure grace out of how he felt about them.
Then the Lord left town. Yaz, who had been loved fifty times couldn’t contain himself. He went ballistic in a good way. Out of a grateful heart, he went out and did generous acts of kindness for a hundred people. It wasn’t just charity. He performed each act from a sincere heart. It blew their minds. He did it because he really cared. Those folks were never the same.
Johanna, who had been loved twenty times went out and helped forty people. She befriended the broken and gladly gave sacrificially of her time. Johanna just couldn’t contain herself. People thought she was the next Mother Teresa.
The guy named Juan, who only encountered the Lord’s love once, didn’t bother to do anything. He just holed up like a hermit with his video game system and ate Doritos. Juan knew that he should love others, but he didn’t want to risk getting hurt. He did receive the top online score on Halo, however.”
“The Love Lord was gone for quite awhile. When he got back, he brought in all the apprentices to see how they had done. Yaz said, ‘Boss, I loved a hundred different people and it was the best thing ever!’”
“The boss high-fived him and said, ‘Way to go Yaz! This has drawn us closer together than we have ever been. Now you can love even more people. When people encounter you, healing and freedom are going to be released.’”
“Johanna came in to report next. She said, ‘LL, I demonstrated compassion and mercy to forty people. I never had so much fun!’”
“The Lord said, ‘You passed the test with flying colors. I know now that you can handle even more, so I’m expanding your sphere of influence. My love will be the most tangible thing in your life.’”
“Then the deadbeat named Juan came by. He said, ‘Boss, I knew that you had high standards and didn’t want to hear excuses. I was afraid I might blow it and disappoint you so I decided to just love myself well by having more “me time”. I did however, listen to a sermon podcast which was quite edifying.’”
“The boss was ticked. He said, ‘You lazy good for nothing bum! You didn’t bother to lift a finger. At the very least you could have helped your dad mow the lawn or do the dishes for your mom to bless them. But nooo, that was too much to expect of you.’”
“I am taking back the Starbucks gift cards I gave you to treat your neighbors to coffee. I’m giving them to Yaz. He knows how to pay it forward.
He threw the gamer back into his parent’s basement where he would languish alone forever, never having a girlfriend. Even lonely strangers on Facebook wouldn’t invite him to be their “friend.”
I believe that Plato was right when he said, “The measure of a man is what he does with power.” God will judge us according to how we will or how we won’t use whatever power he gives us to love others. It is according to our love that we will be measured.
We were powerless to change ourselves until the love of Jesus set us free. Now he fills us with the ability to follow in his footsteps to empower the powerless. Love compels us and propels us. Love is the mission, the means and the reward. Love is the ultimate measure and love looks like Jesus. Power up.
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