One of my all time favorite movie lines comes from the 2002 Spider-Man movie. One of the last things Uncle Ben says to Peter Parker is “With great power, comes great responsibility.” There is some debate as to the original source. The quote resembles something FDR wrote about World War II, but he died the day before the speech was given and it is unlikely Stan Lee was familiar with his quote, published many years later.
There is of course a resemblance to the parable in Luke 12, in which Jesus teaches us “to whom much is given much will be required.” The parable is about being ready. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” At age 12, Jesus told his earthly parents that he must be about his father’s business. We must be about our father’s business; we are told elsewhere to work for the night is coming. The parable is also about responsibility, the commitment we have to be good stewards. American Christians in this time period should really contemplate the meaning of those words: To whom much is given, much will be required.
Think about what we have been given.
The innovation of printing happened in Europe just as the Protestant Reformation was beginning. New ideas were able to spread more quickly than ever before. The number of English translations of the Bible has multiplied several times in recent decades (Bible Gateway lists 33) while many people groups have no Bible they can read at all and many others not in their native language. In addition to print, think about the sheer volume of data transmitted via the Internet, tablets, smartphones etc. on a daily basis.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the United States in 2011 was over $15 trillion. We are still worth more than we owe. Even in our economic crisis this is the most productive economy on earth at this time. There is a reason we can buy $4 coffees at Starbucks and people wait in long lines for the iPhone 5. There is even a new saying rapidly growing in popularity: first world problem. A recent survey reports that Americans discard over 40% of our food, or $165 billion worth annually. The Pharisees tithed of their spice racks while widows starved in the street; at least they tithed, we tossed ours in the garbage.
We still have, be honest, a great deal of religious liberty. For many of us (American Christians) persecution is a foreign concept. Not being forced to memorize the Ten Commandments in public school hardly equates to the persecution of Christians. Our churches enjoy tax exemption, we have thousands of hours of religious programming on television and radio each week and free use of the Internet. You are reading this, after all. My leather recliner bears little resemblance to where Paul was writing from.
We have incredible economic stores, 98+% literacy rate, and practically unlimited print and electronic media resources. We have more potential than any other Christians in history – but are we reaching more people with the Gospel than any Christians in history? To whom much is given, much shall be required. Think about that warning, in light of what we have been given. Yes we’re in a recession, but how many of us had Chick-fil-A on August 1st? Those faithful over just a few things will be made rulers over many. Again, look how much we have.