IF you are…

This morning’s reading from the Liturgy of the Hours asks us to consider our unique talents and passions and how we put them out in the world:

As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:10-11, New American Bible)

We each have a gift. It might be a skill, such as the preaching to which Peter points, or organizing groups, or renovating houses. Or it might be a personal quality like compassion, encouragement, or generosity.

Our lives are enhanced as we organize them around sharing these gifts. God’s strength, joy and glory fill us and radiate from us.

Peter has to remind us to use our gifts, because God’s opponents will tell us to set our gifts aside and be busy with other stuff. You should sense a warning when you are approached with any kind of “If you are x, then you should do y” assertions. They are designed to fill our lives with trivia so we’ll burn out, despair or seethe.

“If you are a good Christian, you should _______________.”

“If you really love me, you’ll _______________.”

They tried to pull this on Elijah. The king sent an armed party to haul the prophet in. Their commander addressed Elijah as “man of God,” with the clear implication that IF he were a true man of God, he would come meekly before the monarch. But Elijah flipped that,

Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty men with his fifty. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’” But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. (2 Kings 1:9-10 ESV, emphasis added)

Elijah asserted his gift for declaring and demonstrating God’s judgment rather than “come down” under the king’s desire to define and control him.

The devil tried to abort Jesus’ work on earth with an “If you are” ploy.

And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3 ESV)

Three times, the evil one tried to redefine “Son of God” as “someone enjoying power, pleasure and privilege.” But Jesus obstinately asserted his humility, endurance and submission to God’s will. He lived by the painful gift he had to carry to the cross.

Look, we all have to pay the bills, pick up after the dog, lube the car and a thousand other things that might not shine like the gift that God’s given us to use. But we will find more abundant life when we push those things to the margins and keep our gift central to how we live.

Even when the world is screaming “IF YOU ARE x, you’ll do y” to make the marginal stuff seem more urgent.

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