Ability + Opportunity = Responsibility
Over the past couple of years I’ve heard this phrase used several times in reference to teaching others about the gospel of Christ. While it seems simple, the message it sends is one that comes directly from God’s word. If we have an ability to help further the gospel and the opportunity to share it, we have the responsibility to do whatever we can with it to bring others to Christ.
First, we need to figure out what abilities we have and use them in a way that will benefit the Kingdom. Matthew 25:14-30 contains the Parable of the Talents. In this parable, Jesus tells us about a man who entrusts his servants with talents. He gives one servant five talents, another two, and to the third he gives one talent “each according to his ability” (15). As we read on we see what each of these servants did with his talents. The servant with five talents traded to receive five more, the servant with two talents traded for two talents more, and the servant with one talent went and hid his in the ground. When their master came to them, the first two servants told him how they had traded and make more talents. To both of these servants, the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (23-24). But when the last servant with only one talent came forward here is what happened:
Master I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours. But his master answered to him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You know that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 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. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (24-30).
Here, we see that each servant had talents based on their abilities — what they were able to do with their talents. But what they do with what they’re given is the important part. The first two servants recognized their abilities, and were willing and happy to trade and grow in their talents, but the last servant selfishly hid for himself the one talent he had. He was in no way ready to take his opportunity, so he was not allowed to go with his master. In the same way, if Christians see an opportunity to use what talents we have been given –even if it’s just one small thing that we can use to help — we need to take that opportunity to lead other souls to Christ! If we’re not willing to share this gift that we have so graciously been given, then how can we expect to inherit the Kingdom? We cannot be selfish. This leads me to the last part of the phrase — responsibility.
Jesus talks in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:13-16 about the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” We have the responsibility to spread the gospel all people. In verse 13, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Salt is used for seasoning food and for keeping many foods fresh. Without salt, many things are useless. Here, Christians are compared to salt; we are to season the blandness of this world with the salt of gospel, but we can’t stop there. We have to keep spreading the gospel and encouraging others because without us, the salt, the Kingdom probably won’t grow. In order to do this, we have to make sure that we remain genuinely zealous for the Lord.
Next in this discussion, Jesus uses a visual of the light of the world. He says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (14-15). So, now we are both salt and light. We refresh the world and give light to the world with the gospel. If we have light, why would we hide it? Light is used so that we can see and open our eyes to what’s around us. It’s not meant to be “put under a basket” — what’s the point of hiding what we’ve been given? We are to give light to all in the house. Not one, not a few, not the people we feel like giving it to. We give the light to all. So, while we are in our earthly home, we have the responsibility to shine our light to all people — whoever we have the opportunity to share our abilities with. He concludes the discussion about salt and light with “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (16). While we’re letting our lights shine, we have to remember we’re living our lives to glorify God. God will use our talents, and our good works to further his purpose. We need to let others see the Christians we are, and tell them who God is and about the plan He has had for us since the beginning.
That being said, of course we don’t all have the same abilities, but God has given each of us something we can use for His glory. There’s no room for excuses to not spread the truth to the world — especially when that’s the very reason we’re here. We have the ability and an abundance of opportunities, leading to a responsibility to work in God’s Kingdom. Everyone needs to hear the gospel, and withholding that from them is selfish. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it, because while we do our part, God will do His. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (3:6). If we have the faith in God that we should have, we will be willing to work in whatever ways we can spread the truth. Let’s work diligently so that we, and others, can receive and eternal home with our Father.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16