I still enjoy playing basketball several times a week. I admit it can be challenging. More often than not I’m the oldest guy on the court. I wasn’t quick even when I was young. Now I’m playing with guys half my age. They actually make two moves faster than I can think one move. But God and my parents gave me some height. We are supposed to use our spiritual gifts and God-given talents to their fullest….right? Always….right? I do find some significant satisfaction when I add my three inch vertical leap to my long arms and block the layup of some young whipper snapper half my age who thought his next juke to the basket was going to land him on ESPN’s Top Ten.
A couple of younger dads occasionally bring their twelve year old sons with them to play. I suppose it is a good learning experience for these kids to have to be stretched in their abilities while playing with a bunch of adults. So now I’m wrestling with the fact that I recently blocked the shot of a middle schooler. It is not exactly something I could go home and boast about to my wife or brag about at the office. But we’re supposed to fully utilize our gifts….right? Always….right?
It has made me think some (again) about talents, gifts and pride. This issue was reinforced as news just broke of a very talented professional basketball player who wants traded from his champion caliber team so that he can be top dog somewhere else rather than the number two guy on his current team. Apparently he ran into a quandary: Is the goal what is best for the team and organization or what seems best for him personally? What if he does what is best for the organization but thereby is limiting the full use of his strengths and talents? Is it arrogant for him to want to spread his wings fully and fly as high as possible?
I pondered it further as I recently listened to a concert. The singer had maybe the best voice I had ever heard. I want to note that I have no reason whatsoever to think that his motives in his concert were anything but fully and only to glorify God. Yet I had to ask myself: Could his showcasing of his vocal talents (given by God) ever become a distraction where the talent outshines the message? Where the skill overshadows the higher goal?
I think that deep down we all know the answers to these questions. The win for the team is of more value than my accolades and stats. The advancement of the Kingdom is of greater importance than me fully flexing my spiritual muscle. Often the development and empowerment of others should win the day even though I have to take a step back to allow it to happen. Scripture has much to say about humility. And there is much warning against pride. I’d like to proclaim my pure and humble motives in all things. I can do a pretty good legal defense to get myself acquitted from the charge of self-promotion. But, to paraphrase a well-known author, “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”
Jesus is our model. He set aside much of the glory of His divinity to accomplish the greater good (see Philippians 2). We’d be doomed if He didn’t. I need to regularly evaluate my actions and assess my motives. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I always should. Yes, it honors the Father to use my God-given talents and spiritual gifts in full obedience. But sometimes it is good and honorable to pull back and let the twelve year old try a layup. Maybe in some situations the poster of my dominance and the tally of the final score are not the most important things.
Jeff Miller, District Superintendent