1 Corinthians 4:7 - For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not? Luke 12:48b - 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.
The end of the school year for many students is either "the thrill of victory" or "the agony of defeat"! For some students there are the academic honors and athletic awards, the good job offers and scholarships. But for other students there are the disappointing grades and no awards, the poor job prospects and no scholarships. Perhaps you find yourself in one or the other of these categories right now. The Scriptures above have something to say to growing Christians who are at either end of this have or have-not spectrum. On the one hand, these Scriptures should be humbling to those Christians who think they are so great for their intelligence and all their achievements. But on the other hand, these same Scriptures can bring hope to those students who think they somehow got the short end of the stick when the talent was passed out. Most of the following discussion will concentrate on these Scriptures as an exhortation to Christians who are thinking too much of themselves and their accomplishments. But before moving on, however, let us see how these Scriptures can be an encouragement to the "no-name" Christian who is not all that talented or gifted. In light of the truth contained in 1 Corinthians 4:7 and Luke 12:48, it should be comforting and heartening to realize that God does not require anything from us that He has not given us. God is not like the unreasonable parent who expects his children to get straight A's in school when the children have only average I.Q.'s. No, God is more like the reasonable and understanding parent who expects the children to "do their best with what they've got". God has made us what we are and has sovereignly given us or not given us certain abilities and capacities. He knows us completely and does not blame us or hold us accountable for endowments He has not bestowed on us. "He knows our frame and remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). God's basis for judgment in His family is always "according to what one has; not according to what one does not have" (2 Corinthians 8:12). To accept ourselves as God made us, recognize our limitations and know that our heavenly Father will not judge us for what we don't have should be a tremendous encouragement for us growing Christians. It should bring hope especially to those Christians who are often discouraged because they never seem to quite measure up--in the classroom, on the athletic field, or even in the Christian fellowship group on campus. Of course, this encouragement should not be taken as an excuse for laziness, or quitting, or shirking responsibility. God expects us to develop what He has given us, as well as to take on new responsibilities as we improve and increase our capabilities and capacities. (See Luke 8:16-18, 1 Timothy 4:14-15 and 2 Timothy 1:6.) And remember--there are no "little people" in God's family. Every member is important for the proper functioning of the Body of Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.) At the other end of the spectrum from the Christian with the poor self-image is the Christian with the inflated self-image. To be sure, this Christian is very capable and successful. Awards and honors and accolades are a way of life for this activist. But this type of person somehow thinks that his achievements and accomplishments are entirely because of his own efforts. And it doesn't stop there. Christians in this category tend to look down on, and even despise, others who are not as talented and gifted as themselves. Well, these same Scriptures have something very definite to say to this type of Christian. And, by the way, this takes in most believers to one degree or another! Did you ever laugh at someone who had a hard time putting words together or looked awkward when it came to sports? "What do you have that you did not receive?" can be applied in so many ways because everything we have, we received. Do you have good looks? You received them. Do you have athletic talent? You received it. Do you have academic ability? You received it. Do you have natural charisma? You received it. Do you have the ability to preach? You received it. Do you have the spiritual gift of teaching? You received it. When we really think about it, there is absolutely nothing we have as individuals that wasn't given to us by God. Even the good grades and the good job offers, as well as the honors and awards that we "earn", come only because of talent and ability that was given to us by the Lord. Now the cutting edge of this Scripture is that "if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?" How ridiculous for students to boast about their good grades when their intelligence was given to them. God could just as easily have given the brains to someone else since He is the one who "makes you different from everyone else." How stupid it really is for athletes to go on ego trips because of their feats and victories. Their strength and coordination and skill, and even their ability to train, have all been given to them. God could have chosen to give their athletic ability to others. How wrong it is for Christians who have been given more to look down on Christians who have been given less, in whatever area of life we could mention. The Lord could certainly have programmed it the opposite way! When Christians get proud and fail to realize that everything we have is received, a lot of other people get hurt. Not only do petty jealousies and bad feelings develop between individuals, but major divisions and splits begin to take place within Christian fellowship groups. Factions begin to develop as successful, yet selfish, up-front Christians begin to attract and manipulate followers. Many churches have seen the work of the Lord hindered and blessing withheld because of the all-too-common problem of this type of outspoken person. These Christians may be talented and gifted leaders, but at the same time they are proud and self-seeking individuals--although they usually don't recognize their problem. Somehow they don't realize that they really have no claim to fame because all of their outstanding abilities and capabilities have been given to them. This was exactly the problem, incidentally, that was present in the Corinthian church, and forms the background for 1 Corinthians 4:7. (Read all of 1 Corinthians 1-3.) Let's check out the mirror thoroughly before we conclude that this paragraph does not refer to me! Luke 12:48 is the biblical corollary to 1 Corinthians 4:7. While we are not to become boastful for what we have received, we are to be responsible for what we have received. And the more we have been given, the more we are expected to use for the glory of God. We are not at fault if we do not use what we do not have, but we are at fault if we fail to use what we do have. Christian students who are blessed with brains and don't have to burn the midnight oil every night are responsible before the Lord to use their talents wisely and not fritter away unreasonable amounts of time playing video games in the student center! There is a very good possibility that God has given those students good heads so that they can use their extra time providing Christian leadership on campus. It goes without saying that we are responsible to develop and use the spiritual gifts that the Lord has given us. It is wrong to spend most of our time and energy making more money and trying to "get the most out of life" while letting the use of our spiritual gifts become a low-priority sideline. Some day we will give an account directly to the Lord concerning the use of the spiritual gifts He has entrusted to us. Christians with good looks or athletic abilities are also responsible to use these blessings for the glory of God and not merely for self-gratification and self-glorification. A Christian with great physical appearance or athletic prowess has outstanding opportunities to attract people to the Lord. We can see from Luke 12:48 that responsible use of what we have received is not an option as far as God is concerned. It is a required responsibility. We are not to lose or abuse whatever God gives us, but use it for His glory. Faithful use of the gifts and talents which we have received will someday result in praise from the lips of our Lord. (See 1 Corinthians 4:5 and Matthew 25:14-30.) Our claim to fame will never be on the basis of what God has given us but rather on the basis of how we use what we have received.