“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 12:48
My life, I must confess, has always been comfortable. From birth to this day I’ve never lacked for much of anything. I grew up in a home where we were well provided for, and have been fortunate enough to provide well for my own family through the years. Like many, we have certainly suffered our share of financial struggles, but nothing ever close to poverty. But neither would we necessarily classify ourselves among the wealthy.
While we ourselves may not have ever suffered extreme poverty or been showered upon with extreme wealth, we have at least had opportunities to get a glimpse of both worlds. We have, for example, spent time serving and befriending the poor in our local community, and participated in mission work in third-world countries. At the same time, we have rubbed elbows with some of the wealthiest in our society, been guests in their opulent homes, wined and dined with them, some becoming dear friends.
So, all said and done, I’m content categorizing myself as middle-class – maybe even upper-middle-class, depending on where the lines are drawn – but certainly a person of privilege, living in a free land. And that’s where I’ve struggled with some internal conflict. Too often, I’m afraid, pride led me to abuse my life of privilege by taking it for granted, believing I was entitled; then squandering it on selfish endeavors, wasting what could have been put to better use. Later, after some spiritual awakening, I began to suffer pangs of guilt about being among the privileged. Why me, I would ask? Why were others born into poverty, or disabled, or burdened in other ways, and I was not?
In fact, both attitudes are off base; for, it is not a matter of the conditions into which we are born or those we may attain, rather what we do with it. Someone once said that freedom is a two-sided coin. On one side is privilege; on the other, responsibility. Jesus was clear about this when He said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” To pridefully abuse or squander what God has given us is to be selfish and greedy. But to feel guilty about what we have is also a misuse of God’s gifts. The gifts we receive from God – wealth, wisdom, talent, leadership, intellect – are given for a purpose, and come with specific instructions: “To be used responsibly.”