Aunt May is speaking to Peter Parker in the last Spiderman movie and she says “I believe there’s a hero in all of us.” Little does she know her precious nephew is the real Spiderman, the hero who’s saving the lives of so many in the city all the while sacrificing his own private life so he won’t place those he loves in danger.
Our society is mesmerized by the idea of a hero. Most heroes in our comic book world have super powers, but many of them started out as some regular person who discover a hidden talent and use that talent for the good of the community.
What is it about heroes that fire our imagination?
Is it the incredible abilities, the superhuman strength, or the tragic sense of loneliness that mark most of these comic book champions? Perhaps, but there is a lesson here for we Orthodox Christians.
I believe what should capture us is the lessons of ability and responsibility. Most of these super heroes come face to face with the inescapable truth that with great gifts come great responsibility.
Jesus confronted this truth long before Spiderman when He told His disciples that “…everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required…” (Luke 12:48). Christ makes it plain to those whom God has blessed bear the additional responsibility to use these gifts for good. Consider the blessings each of us possess. Many of us were born with a spiritual “head start” in life. By a happy accident of our birth, we were born under the influence of the fullness of the Christian faith – Holy Orthodoxy. We also have the privilege of living in the freest, most educated, and most economically successful nation that have ever existed on earth. The opportunities in this country drew families from far and wide across the globe to the United States knowing that here anyone can achieve what their hard work produces. So both spiritually and physically, we have received abundant blessings.
But to whom much is given, much will be required. Why, because we who have so much are challenged by the very life of Jesus Christ to confront our deepest motivations and priorities. If we hoard these blessings to ourselves we will watch as those things that were meant to be blessings, the very same things, become a private curse and cancer on our own souls.
Here are three insights we can learn and apply to our daily lives concerning our abilities and responsibilities.
First, Our Abilities are Gifts. St. James said “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). When we are tempted to think we have achieved what we have in life by our own cunning and our own strength, we fall into a terrible trap of pride that eventually will rob us of those very blessings we enjoy. A wise man confesses that his achievements were not had alone, but the very air he breathes, the strength of his mind and body were ultimately a gift to him by a loving God. When we humbly confess our dependence on the mercy of God, we are free to share our blessings with others.
Second, Our Gifts are meant to be Shared. Jesus taught “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Only a foolish man believes his achievements, his wealth, or his wisdom is for himself alone. All the gifts and blessings we’ve received are ultimately meant to be shared with those around us. It is the hallmark of a mature Christian faith that a man’s possessions, his talents, and his priorities include a willingness to share his blessings. Conversely, a man who is unwilling to share his blessings is a man who has lost the ability to believe in “the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come.”
Finally, Our Sharing is meant to Draw others to Christ. Jesus again taught that you should “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). While all of us are gratified by the acknowledgment of our peers when we do a good deed, gifts or actions that are solely motivated by a community “pat on the back” lack the true virtue of authentic Christian motivation. The truth is that we share from our blessings to draw attention, not to our name or our person, but to draw men and women to the Source of our generosity – Jesus Christ. I give because I have received a Great Gift. I have been given eternal life by the Lord Who loves me beyond all I have ever known or expected. I give because He first gave to me.
Some may expect this message to be primarily about money. Well, the truth is you show me what a man spends his money on and I’ll tell you what he truly values. But this is about much more than money. This is about how the truth of the Gospel has transformed our actions and attitudes about our possessions and our multitudes of blessings we each enjoy today. What is your attitude about your possessions? Do you see your blessings as gifts? And does this produce a heart of gratitude toward God for all He has blessed you with? Does this grateful heart in turn lead you to hunger to worship and adore God? And does this hunger in turn cause your behavior and choices to reflect a desire for holiness and intimacy with God? If it does then your heart has matured spiritually and your life will be a source of blessing for others.
If not, then perhaps the wisdom of the Church in teaching us to pray "Lord, have mercy" will make more sense to you now.
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