Category Archives: John W Rilling
Use it or lose it! We didn’t invent the phrase. It’s been around for generations, maybe for millenia.
My Grandfather, though I never knew him to lift a weight or go for a jog, applies the adage to a quite familiar, but hard to swallow, parable which concludes…
I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence. (Luke 19:26-27)
This is Luke’s version of the parable of the talents. A nobleman (who is disliked) has gone away to gain a Kingship, leaving his slaves to trade with the 10 pounds he’s provided during his absence. Upon his return he finds that some have made more with their pound. To them, he gives more. Some have made a bit less, so they get less. But at least one poor timid soul has hidden the pound away. He gets his reward, and it’s ugly.
“Struggle with it as we will,” Dr. Rilling offers, “Jesus here states a law of life that is as unbreakable as the law of gravity: “Use it or lose it!” There is no third possibility.”
I’m even hearing echos of Yoda: ‘Do or don’t do. There is no try.’
But wait a minute! Let’s not be so hasty and rush to the what we’ll get if we squander a bit here and there part. Surely, at the end of the day, all will be forgiven and the Master will relent and pay everyone the same. But no. Use it or lose it, apparently, applied even back then.
And this, I’ll admit, rings very true with my experience now. We use our muscles or they atrophy; we use our brain cells or they self-select away; we use our gifts or they rust. The human condition itself speaks ‘use it or lose it.’
Thus, for our good, the Father says, “This that I press into the palm of your hand is meant to be used. No need to compare with others because what I have given them is meant for them. This is for you. Go and be fruitful with it.
When I come back, you can tell me all about your exploits. Just you and me, a little Daddy-daughter time. Okay?”
So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
When Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” what Peter really wanted to know was not how long he ought to keep forgiving, but how soon he could stop forgiving!*
Jesus, of course, knowing what Peter is up to, comes in with the high bid: seventy times seven. In other words, keep at it until I tell you to stop.
What if the one we’re tired of forgiving is ourselves? We try and we fail. We up our efforts and still fall short. We rededicate ourselves, plan for success, rearrange our schedules, purchase all the ingredients, engage all the helpers, invest in the best equipment and still…we fall flat on our faces. What then?
Jesus says, “Forgive yourself, again, just as I have forgiven you, again and again.”
Because He knows something we don’t know; the road we’re on is the one he’s paving. It’s not about making the right turn, following the map, or allowing for traffic. It’s not even about where the road leads. It’s about making forward progress. And nothing halts progress faster than looking around to see if anyone just saw that.
We didn’t. And if you still do, Jesus says, forgive yourself that. And while you’re at it, forgive others theirs. Expand the circumference of your forgiveness and see how far that takes you. But start with your own. And stop counting how many you’re up to. God’s not. Seventy times seven means always and forever.
Clean slate. Nothing holding you back. You got this.
Even the least of us must do our part…
How often do you run into an Einstein, Beethoven or Karl Barth? Someone has said such people are like four-leaf clovers, but what really keeps the pastures green, the cows fed, and the bees happy is the vastly more numerous ordinary, run-of-the-mill, three-leaf variety.*
I’ve got my “skill set,” but no one would tell me I’m gonna be one of the greats. Not gonna cure cancer, not gonna save the children, not gonna win the Nobel prize, walk the red carpet, or sit at the head table. No, I’m more of a background color, the beige to your bronze, the pale pink to your magenta, the salmon to your cherry red.
I’m what makes you stand out, what fills you up, what grounds your lift off. I’m there if you need me. That’s what I was made for.
I’m nothing by myself, but together, we’re everything.