Playing it Safe: The Need to Expand My Capacity

up to your eyeballs in work, dreaming about a beach vacation

Do you find you’re playing it safe these days? When someone asks you to volunteer, do you shake your head? Saying “no” when I should say “yes” may indicate a need to expand my capacity. That requires faith.

In my last post we talked about our tendency to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes our way. Saying “yes” when we should say “no” indicates a need to embrace our limits. It takes humility to do that.

We’re always living our lives in the tension between yes and no, between embracing our limits and expanding our capacity. Yes, it’s a wisdom issue. We should pray, seek counsel, weigh the pros and cons. But it’s also a heart issue–which means it’s a sin issue, which makes it a gospel issue.

That’s right, the life, death, resurrection, and ascended reign of Jesus my Savior is relevant to these daily dilemmas.

Playing it Safe

Our life is like a fenced field. The fence is the God-imposed boundary of time, talents, energy, and every other resource of my life. But inside the fence I’m free to cultivate the field. How do you and I live within our fence? Now I have a long history of being a limit-pusher, but recently I’ve been tempted to play it safe.

The dangers of playing it safe aren’t sudden, obvious, and dramatic. They don’t make headlines.

Harvard Business Review

What does “safe” look like? In my life you might observe that I’ve become:

  • Very realistic about my limitations
  • Very good at counting the cost of commitment
  • Factoring in problems, but verbally leaving God out of the equation
  • Focusing on my limits, but blind to my opportunities
  • Avoiding risk

That’s what it looks like. But here’s how it feels. I’m tempted to:

  • Become easily overwhelmed
  • See my resources with pessimism, not faith
  • Guard my comforts
  • Be fearful of failing God and others
  • Protect myself

Do you see the unbelief that fuels a temptation to play it safe? Can you relate? Let’s return to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) to see what it says not just about our limits, but about using the capacities God has given us.

A Story About Stewardship

Jesus told this story to encourage his disciples to live fully until his return. They didn’t completely understand it at the time. They weren’t expecting the crucifixion, didn’t have a clue about the resurrection, and couldn’t imagine the ascension. We know the full story, but can still miss the point of the parable.

We see it as a story about stewardship. True to a degree. Each servant was entrusted with a different amount of his master’s treasure. The amount didn’t matter. What they did with it was important.

The first two servants did exactly the same thing. They went. At once. And traded. And made more. The amount they started with and the amount they produced were inconsequential. Their actions showed that they took their stewardship seriously. Both were praised and rewarded when the master returned to settle accounts.

The third servant acted completely differently. He didn’t engage in trading. He didn’t even put the money in the bank. No, this servant played it safe, burying it in the ground, so he could dig it up again and hand it back. The master wasn’t pleased. The moral of the story: playing it safe is not stewardship.

The moral of the story so far? Get out there! Use your gifts!

The Good Master

But that’s not the whole story. It’s not just about stewardship. First, it’s about the Master.

We see what the one-talent servant did, but why did he do it? He tells us why–he was afraid. He was afraid of the Master, that he would be easily displeased, unreasonable, harsh. Is that the kind of man the Master was? Look back at the parable. He trusted his servants, made a wise distribution, gave them freedom, returned as promised, praised lavishly, and rewarded liberally. By every indication, he was good.

The one-talent servant was judged not for poor stewardship, but for unbelief. He didn’t believe the master was good.

But that’s not all. Second, the story is about the Master who became the Servant. Jesus told this story about himself. He’s the Good Master who became the Faithful Servant. He perfectly stewarded what God entrusted to him—us—because he perfectly trusted the Father for each moment of his task.

Consider Him

What would it look like to

“consider Jesus…who was faithful to him who appointed him”

Hebrews 3:1-2

the next time you are considering an opportunity to serve? As the good Master, he is reasonable, understanding, and eager to reward. With that kind of Master you can take risks with joy. As the faithful Servant, he knows what it takes to serve by faith, and he did it perfectly for you. His perfect record is yours by faith.

Embrace your limits and expand your capacity the same way—by his grace.

This is the second post of a four part series on Kingdom Productivity.

You can find the rests of the posts here: Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.

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