Who is Strong?

by Lois Tverberg

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10

In our sports-minded world we care a lot about who is fastest and strongest. But the rabbis had an excellent definition of strength that we might never think about. They said, “Who is strong? He who can control his evil inclination.” (1)

Spiral StaircaseIf you think about it, most sins come from lack of strength to say no to our inner desires — from giving in to sexual temptation, or getting revenge on someone who has hurt us, or lying because it is easier than telling the truth. Our broken nature always seems to want to pull us downward into the gutter of sin. Getting out of it requires an inner strength that fewer and fewer people seem to have, now that the message from our culture is one of self-indulgence.

Our habits of eating junk food, watching TV and never exercising make us weak and fat physically. Could it be that our habits of gossiping, fibbing, cheating on taxes, ignoring traffic laws and other little sins cause us to get flabby and weak spiritually? Jesus says that if we can be trusted with little, we can be trusted with much, but if we can’t even be trusted to obey in the small things, we certainly can’t be trusted to do the right thing when it is very important.

By contrast, God can use a person who has integrity to do heroic feats of courage. For example, Corrie Ten Boom was a leader in the Dutch underground during the Holocaust, and saved many Jewish lives from the concentration camps. Her actions were not a surprise to those who knew the Ten Boom family, which was very devout and had a history of helping the mentally ill and the needy. Corrie had lived a life of obedience, and in her mid-fifties when the Nazis came to her town to murder the Jews, her inner strength caused her to emerge a hero. Tragically, very few Christians had this kind of moral fortitude, and because of their spiritual “flabbiness,” most did nothing to help the Jews during the Holocaust.

If we want God to trust us with important tasks, then even today we should make sure that he can trust us with the littlest of things. Each time we say “no” to our selfish desires, we strengthen ourselves for greater tasks that God might send our way, giving us strong legs to conquer mountains for the Lord.

(1) Mishnah, Pirke Avot 4:1, Ben Zoma.

(2) Ten Boom, C. The Hiding Place, Bantam Books, ISBN 0553256696 (c) 1984.

Photo: Chad K