May 11, 2015
“God doesn’t need your ability; he needs your availability.”
I put that in quotes, because I didn’t say it. And, I didn’t cite a source, because there is none to be found in the www universe. A sentence like that is ubiquitous – “present, appearing, or found everywhere” – and, therefore, not subject to challenge. Word processing apps have automatic spell-check; wise writers use snopes.com to fact check… but where do you go – when “God” is in the quote – to doctrine-check?
The Line shows up in church bulletins, when someone is recruiting volunteers for some ministry role that has to be filled. Zealous announcement-givers use it to route the faithful to clipboards in the lobby, where one’s name-on-the-line becomes a holy vow of service. Pastors use The Line to enlist parishioners for a pet program (but the next time he interviews a prospective staff hire, he wants evidence that the candidate has a past record of success that confirms that their talents prequalify them for the position).
“God doesn’t need your ability; he needs your availability.” Nuggets like that come out of people who are also likely to say – just before the offering – that “God doesn’t need your money; he just wants your heart.” Okay, we’ve taken both talent and treasure off-the-table in our Kingdom conversation. Let’s be clear here: all he really wants is my time?
I’m pretty much done letting people speak-up for God when he’s already spoken, for himself.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).
So, let’s be clear: God gave us all abilities… and, when we’re working for him, he wants those abilities to narrow the focus of our service to those assignments that employ those talents. Instead of using our talents Monday-Friday to make money, and then leaving them at the office when we are working for him… we’re supposed to use our talents as a pre-qualifier for the jobs we accept in the Kingdom! News flash: God wants your ability, along with your availability.
And, while we’re on it: “ ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:8). “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
That foolishness about God only wanting your heart, and not your money? A doctrinal reset: he wants both. If your passions aren’t aligned with his passions (that’s how he “gets” your heart; you get close to him, and come to like what he likes, and disdain what he despises), start there… but don’t end there. If your heart is reflecting God’s heart, holding back your treasure will be impossible. The best single measure of your heart for God is the line on your tax return that reports last year’s charitable contributions. Don’t even attempt to claim you have a heart for God if you’re not releasing the money that he has entrusted to you – for his purposes – back to the things that advance his Kingdom.
Sometimes, with God, the right answer is, all of the above. Ability or availability? All of the above. Heart or money? All of the above. Time, by itself? Not much value; that’s the currency of slavery. Time, talent and treasure, combined: that’s the divine formula for high-capacity living. It works in this present world, and it works even better when you’re working toward the Kingdom!