“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48). These words of Jesus are quite different from the famous Spiderman quote, which says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Each quote sheds light on the theme of “responsibility,” but in Luke 12, Jesus is also teaching about preparation.
What Is Our Responsibility?
Luke 12 begins with a warning: “nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:2-3).
Hypocrisy eventually comes to light, and this is the kind of bad news that spreads rapidly. Honesty and authenticity are foundational to the life of a disciple; confession and repentance before God.
Consider what Jesus told the crowds as recorded in Matthew 23: the religious leaders “preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (vv.3-4).
These men had great power and responsibility, but they abused it. God knows what is in our hearts, but regular people can also discern our motivations and the truth about what we think and who our Master is by the connection or disconnection between our words and our actions.
If the disciples wanted to be effective workers, they had to make sure their thoughts, words, and deeds lined up with each other before doing anything: even before addressing the chaos of suffering and sinfulness in front of them.
Jesus taught that trust and responsibility begin not with powerful actions but with a heart that puts God first and honors His power.
What Were the Disciples Entrusted With?
A Christian leader is responsible for guiding people towards the light; into a right understanding of who God is. Those who are chosen to lead have been entrusted with the care of the Lord’s sheep in both spiritual and physical ways.
Pastors wield power and influence, which some will use well, and others will misuse spectacularly. Just consider all of the famously fallen pastors who were corrupted by fame and success and let their congregations down.
They did not check their hearts with God; did not seem to ask him to “search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Jesus criticized the Pharisees (Matthew 23) for their abuse of power. God had strong words for bad shepherds:
“Shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them” (Ezekiel 34:2-4).
Disciples are sent out to heal and feed, serve and proclaim in truth, protecting God’s people from wolves who lie, neglect, and abuse.
Jesus’ parable about the servants waiting for their Messiah to return while diligently and gladly doing their Master’s work is the opposite of the rich fool.
These servants keep their eyes on Christ, so though they have the run of their Master’s house, they do not let their position and privilege go to their heads.
Jesus describes what it looks like to be unprepared for the Master’s return. The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) thinks he can live life greedily and carelessly for now as long as he knows there is a backup plan for later when crisis hits, but that backup plan will not avail him.
Putting off spiritual discipline and devotion to the Father is foolishness, exposing a heart that does not love God. This kind of person, if he is in a position of power and influence, is doubly condemned because he also leads others astray.
No one knows when that day will come. Diligent servants “stay dressed for action” (Luke 12:35). They do not put off worship but make their hearts ready to meet their Savior.
How Does This Affect the Sheep?
Leaders who behave as though they can live an unrestrained and self-involved lifestyle are no leaders at all. They have abused and misused their bodies and their resources while their sheep suffer.
They have obscured the truth that we were made by God to worship him and to have a relationship with him. Greedy shepherds expect to be served; they expect to have a good time, and they neglect their spiritual lives.
The sheep who follow their example are also sucked into a world of self-involvement and lose sight of the eternal and joyful nature of a life lived for Christ today.
On the other hand, those who make their lives and hearts ready for Christ are servants, caring for others while giving their devotion to God from a place of joy, not obedient drudgery.
Not only do these shepherds take care of people, showing empathy and compassion, but they also exemplify a life lived for Jesus.
Their good example draws positive attention to the church and to the love of Christ, who uses their genuine devotion to draw even more hearts towards him.
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8).
The disciples gave their lives for the reward of serving their neighbors (every person within their sphere of influence) and for the promise of eternity with Christ.
Paul wrote, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” This is the primary blessing; receiving more of Christ and the great satisfaction of doing what pleases him.
Is There a Scale of Responsibility?
But what more were Peter, Paul, et al. given, which was not given to all Christians? Certainly, those first believers had access to Jesus in the flesh: they walked with him, knew him, were perhaps hugged by him, or felt him squeeze a shoulder when they were suffering or confused. He was with them in person, which is a gift we can only long for. And we do.
But what about those who believe without having seen Jesus? Or the individual who is no pastor, speaker, or writer with a large audience? Is the average person also expected to fulfill the great commission to make disciples? (Matthew 28).
“Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?” (Luke 12:42). Certainly, there are some for whom the responsibility of ministry is heavier than others.
The Lord will reward those who invest what he has given them by sharing the Good News and living life for him, whether they influence five people or 500 people for Christ.
“For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).
The gift is also an investment, one which we are not meant to keep for ourselves but use for Kingdom purposes, aware of the eternal consequences of either growing that investment or burying it.
How to Be Ready
With great love for Christ comes great opportunity, all according to his will and by his power. Servants do not have to earn a theology degree or gain a platform as speakers and writers.
We must prepare for the work by staying in the Word of God and spending time in communities where people do not know Christ. We are responsible for yielding our lives to Christ’s call, but saving lives is Jesus’ responsibility.
Meanwhile, as we yield, Christ works his power in and through us for his glory, for our good, and for the good of others who will cross our paths. When we are weak (not powerful), then we are strong, but that power is all from Christ (2 Corinthians 12:10).
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.