Burdens to Blessings

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability.Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

Matthew 25:14-18

The other day I was reflecting on the fact that so few people in our circle have had to do what my wife and I have had to do in the last year. She and I work full-time and have had three kids in school (two in elementary school and one in middle school). Our kids have, until recently, been 100% virtual for their schooling. So that means, on top of both of us working full-time, we’ve had to juggle being each of their at-home teacher/tutor for a year.

Add to this the fact that I am a pastor and have had to help lead my church through a pandemic while we’re in the middle of buying a church building and changing our leadership structure. Oh, and we bought a new house and moved last May, right in the middle of the pandemic. Not to mention that in the midst of all of that my brother died suddenly and tragically in a car accident.

Needless to say, it has been a lot. And as I scan my community for people who can relate, there aren’t many. Most families in my church have one parent not working or put their kids in private school. Most haven’t had three in virtual school all year. Most haven’t had to juggle grief and moving and two full-time jobs and leading an organization through the pandemic.

I was lamenting this reality. So I sent a text to a friend about it, one of the few friends who has a life that comes close to resembling mine. I texted him that so few can understand all that we have on our plates. So few have had to manage what we’ve had to manage in this last year. His response was perfect.

He texted back, “How did we get to be so fortunate?”

He didn’t mean this sarcastically. He really meant it. How did we get so fortunate to have so many kids? How did we get so fortunate to have two jobs? How did we get so fortunate to be entrusted to lead organizations? How did we get so fortunate to be able to afford a new house? How did we get so fortunate to be responsible for so much?

His response immediately shifted my perspective. What I was viewing as “a lot of weight to carry” his comment shifted to “a lot of responsibility that we are blessed with.”

My response to him was, “I guess God thought we could steward it.” And I really believe that to be true. In the Parable of the Talents, the man with 5 bags of gold didn’t complain that it was too much to handle. He went at once to be a good steward of what he was given. And this is what we must do.

Self-pity is from the enemy. Self-pity is a person swimming next to a drowning victim who is thrashing around and then complaining to the lifeguards that they are getting water in their eyes. Self-pity is one of the most disempowering lies that one can believe about themselves. Self-pity is the lie that you are a helpless victim of your circumstances and are powerless to do anything about it. Self-pity turns “blessings to steward” into “burdens to carry.”

What blessings are you viewing as a burden? Where has self-pity seeped into the cracks of your heart and mind? Be sure to pull that weed before it pulls you under.

Responsibility and Authority

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Matthew 10:1, 5-9

When Jesus sent out His disciples to do the kind of ministry He had been doing, He first gave them His delegated authority. Once they had authority, He gave them the responsibility to “freely give” what they themselves had received. Jesus practices a leadership strategy here that is vitally important: Those who have taken the responsibility for something must be given the authority to accomplish their mission.

For a healthy leadership environment to exist, one’s authority must be proportional to one’s responsibility. Too often in our culture we are surrounded by Monday morning quarterbacking. Social media has given people the false notion that their opinion should count as much as everyone else’s and that they should have input on everything. The problem is that this leads to too many cooks in the kitchen. People who have sacrificed nothing, who have taken no responsibility, think their voice should be heard as much as the person who has carried the heavy weight of responsibility. In the words, they want authority without responsibility.

I see this happen in churches all the time. My friend was the pastor of a conservative church where his leadership team gave him all the responsibility but none of the authority. They wanted to reserve the right to pick apart his vision, ideas, and new projects, but they didn’t want to lift a hand to help him execute them.

They wanted him to come up with the plan and do all the work to execute the plan, but they wanted to reserve the right to sit on the sidelines and critique it all. They wanted the decision-making authority without taking any responsibility. If you want to lose your pastor, this is one of the quickest routes you can take. And they did. He has moved on.

The principle is this: authority must match responsibility. If someone has taken responsibility for coming up with the idea, putting a plan in place, and executing that plan, then they should have the authority to make decisions for that project. One’s opinion is only as weighty as the responsibility one is willing to assume. Your authority should never outweigh your responsibility.

We as a culture have to stop believing that our opinion should matter just as much as everyone else’s. It doesn’t. Social media is lying to us about this. My medical opinion should not and does not matter as much as a trained doctor. I can spout off about all kinds of medical things but that doesn’t mean my opinion should carry any weight.

The same is true if we haven’t taken any responsibility for executing a project or plan. If we haven’t lifted a finger to make it happen, our opinion should matter very little. We should not be given authority to make decisions. But, if we are willing to sacrificially take responsibility for something, then our voice should have weight. We should be given authority to make decisions for that thing. Authority should match responsibility. When one is greater than the other, an imbalance is formed that creates a toxic leadership environment.

How about you? Do you find yourself wanting to add your two cents, critiquing, and wanting a voice in things you’ve taken no responsibility for? Or, when you give someone a responsibility, do you also give them decision-making authority to match it?