“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded . . .” – Luke 12:48
“You will be like God,” the notorious serpent assured Eve in the garden, thus enticing she and Adam to take a bite of the fruit God had clearly forbidden them to eat. Ever since that incident that precipitated the fall of mankind almost every child starting around age two has carried on the tradition of believing they too can be like God. Anyone who has ever been involved in raising or teaching small children knows what I’m talking about. And one of the symptomatic behaviors of that age is the demanding phrase “I want!” I want a cookie, I want that toy, I want ice cream, I want you to swing me. In our household we refer to it as having a case of the “I wants.”
One of our grandchildren happened to be going through that stage of the “I wants” a few years ago when I saw an opportunity to give her a dose of her own medicine. It happened one weekend during a sleepover at our house, when we got up early on Saturday morning and cooked up a big platter of pancakes, her favorite. Sure enough, in the blink of an eye she grabbed the biggest one for herself and plopped it down on her plate. That’s when I stuck out my bottom lip and cried out in a whiney voice, “But I wanted that one!!!” My hope was that she might get a glimpse of what she sounded like when she had the “I wants,” maybe teach her a lesson. Fast forwarding a few years, either it worked, or she eventually out-grew the “I wants” because now that whiney voiced “I wanted that one!” has become a joke between us, a trick she plays on me as much as I do her.
Now I am no child psychologist, but it seems to me that the “I want” phase can be healthy in a child’s development, that is if it is channeled properly to develop ambition and work ethic instead of becoming a spoiled brat by being given everything they want. Likewise, ambition too can be healthy if it is channeled in such a way that leads the child to success (however that is measured). Success, however, must not be the ultimate outcome, for success is healthy only when it is channeled toward responsibility, meaning responsibility for others – our families, neighbors, communities, for those less fortunate – that is, loving our neighbors as ourselves. Success thrives only when it is shared, just as surely as it will die when squandered on self-gratification. Jesus made that point crystal clear, “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.”