I have publicly confessed many moral failures, some in my Chapter, The Worthless Servant. Occasionally, I hear from friends/relatives with whom I grew up, somewhat surprised that I am so critical about my past. They remember an outwardly nice guy, a studious, shy person who cared about others and, as one of my high school classmates remarked regarding my future career, “you’re going to go far.”
The truth is, my pursuit of that good guy image obstructed my path to true fulfillment – knowing God. I fell into a trap that many of my fellows unwittingly enter. What trap? The trap of defining success by comparing ourselves with others. “Well, nobody’s perfect!” and “I’m not as bad as so-and-so!” “I’m glad I’m not like those trouble-makers!” “I haven’t done too badly in this life; on the whole, the good things I’ve done outweigh the bad.”
That thinking may make us feel good about ourselves and our eternal destiny. But, would it make any sense to use, as the standard for entering God’s eternal dwelling, whether individuals perform more good deeds, and fewer bad deeds, than their peers?
Why would we think that God measures us this way? Rather, He measures us by what He gave us; and what we did with those things He gave (entrusted to) us – our time, our talents, abilities, opportunities, etc.
To those He gives much, He expects much.1
Jesus illustrated this principle in His Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), one of many Biblical illustrations. To his servants, the master gave (entrusted) five, two, and one talent of money, respectively. Why? “Each according to his ability.” (25:15)
To the man who received the five talents and then doubled his master’s investment, He commended and rewarded with five. To the one He entrusted with two talents, who also doubled the return, He commended and rewarded with two more. But to the man who was entrusted with one talent, but did nothing but sit on the investment and then made excuses and false accusations against his Master for not investing it, His master rebuked by calling him a wicked and lazy servant, withheld a reward and, even worse, threw that worthless servant out, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (25:30)
Note that the Master entrusted the first two servants with different amounts. But their rewards were proportional. He knew what talents, abilities He had given them, and expected no more. He expected the least from the servant to whom he entrusted one talent, yet that servant did nothing to show for it, except grow resentful toward His master. Undoubtedly, despite having been given some, he would eventually yield less – nothing.
Would we invite peril by applying this principle, this standard, solely to God’s church servant-leaders – pastors, teachers, etc.?
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.James 3:1
Scripture does not excuse laypersons from accountability to God’s principle (in the Parable) merely because they do not choose a “religious” vocation. We laypersons are not, as the saying goes, off the hook.
Even before people place their trusting faith in Christ, God has “prepared good works in advance” for them to pursue. Ephesians 2:10
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.Hebrews 3:1
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.Ephesians 4:1
By this measure, then, I was indeed wicked and worthless while concentrating on secular goals and an outwardly admirable reputation, apart from God. He entrusted me with much. Yet, I under-valued (“despised”) His gifts, and I gave Him nothing in return.2 Instead, I was living for self-gain and praise from others – not to honor and please God.
It stands to reason, then, that no one has a valid excuse to claim that they can’t meet God’s expectations. He gives us tasks according to our abilities.
Indeed, after God prepares good works for us in advance, He equips us with everything we need to accomplish those deeds.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.2 Peter 1:3
We constantly pray…that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.2 Thessalonians 1:11
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.2 Peter 1:10
While I undervalued and neglected to credit God for the talents, gifts and opportunities He gave me, don’t we all do this to some degree? In fact, we do it to others, do we not?
In Genesis 25:34, Scripture equates undervaluing God’s gifts with despising them, and thus dishonoring Him. For just a bowl of soup and bread, Esau traded his inheritance.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.Genesis 25:34
Looking back, I see God’s generous hand, rescuing me time-and-again from my foolish choices even while I despised those gifts, squandering the talents, treasures, opportunities, and time He provided me to carry out those things he had prepared for me in advance. Being born in Mexico, of mixed Indian and European ancestry, having lived and attended almost two years of schooling there, and then emigrating to the country with the greatest opportunities of all, I was uniquely positioned to carry out the good tasks He had laid out for me before I was born.
Now, I view my heritage and my experience as tools to invest for His kingdom, tools to help others draw closer and know Him. I have even used my Brown Privilege (yes, Brown Privilege) to break down barriers in order to further God’s purposes. Didn’t the famous abolitionist, William Wilberforce, use his White Privilege to battle and abolish the slave trade, thereby laying the groundwork for advancing God’s Kingdom, and helping create a better United States? Likewise, my cultural and racial background give me unique opportunities to help others reconcile with God; they are not detriments to earthly success. Isn’t that the way God meant it to be? Why despise them?
Why would other believers despise them? If members of an ethnic group feel shame for being born into those groups, are they not despising those things which God gave them to equip them for His glory? Why would we denigrate and humiliate others simply for belonging to other racial/ethnic groups? If we succeed in humiliating and shaming them, aren’t we pressuring them to despise their gifts, talents, and opportunities intended to glorify God? Can we reach people for God in ways only those of other ethnicities can? Of course not.
Before attempting to denigrate others of different ethnicities for being born that way, we might recall what Jesus said when even one of his own followers (thinking he was helping) was actually resisting God’s purpose –
Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.Matthew 16:33
When I hear someone say they are “ashamed of being White,” I conclude that they are despising one of God’s gifts, dishonoring God, and bringing His name into disrepute. It is no different than when I felt shame after being ridiculed for being a dirty Mexican. Both contend against God’s purposes. Why not use God’s measure instead, and not look at outward appearances as deficiencies, but as tools to use in alignment with God’s Word, according to His purposes?
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.2 Corinthians 10:12
1 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 12:40
2 Hebrews 11:6
Manuel M. Melgoza
5 thoughts on “By What Measure?”
Another great article Manuel. Thank you for your insight and knowledge in the way of serving for the one and only person that matters: God.
Thank you, Lori! I’m glad you like it!
Hi Manuel, greatly enjoyed reading your article & found it to be very relevant, revealing, relatable & inspirational! I agree we often squander the gifts in us thinking we can do better or pick ones better than the ones our Creator has already picked for us.
Thank God He is so patient with us & waits for us to come to our senses!
Looking forward to your next article, but especially your book!
Thank you, Ampy! It’s encouragement like yours that shows me I’m doing something right!