Almost every Friday, I play basketball at a ridiculously nice health club. I’m not a member because I don’t think membership fees to health club should cost as much as a car payment for a brand new Lexus. But some friends of mine have made arrangements to reserve the basketball court every Friday at a really nominal price. As it turns out, the court is hardly used—I suspect the members of the club aren’t members because they actually want to break a sweat—and so outside reservations are welcome.
This is how it came to be that I and about 15 other pastors and college kids trample the hallowed grounds of the rich and powerful every Friday morning. You should have seen the looks we got when we first started showing up in the parking lot with Honda Accords and beat up Jeeps and Japanese cars that were probably made shortly after World War II. The moms in overpriced luxury SUVs weren’t sure if they had pulled into the right place. Nevertheless, after a few weeks, people went on with their normal routines: men in sweater vests in the lobby continued sipping lattes and swapping business cards and women in designer warm-ups carried on with their morning workout before a quick trip to Pottery Barn to buy a much needed candle for $24.99.
People love feeling powerful. In our day, as in every previous generation, there are an abundance of opportunities to accommodate that urge. Money is chief among them. I once heard a millionaire say that he is at the point that he never asks “How much?” anymore; he only cares about “How long?” He’s so rich the price is irrelevant, just don’t waste his time. That’s power.
But the rich are not alone in their quest for power. Even in my middle-class suburban life, I have added things that give me the illusion of power. I drive an SUV in hopes that I will be more powerful than the winter elements. I have a great retirement plan and robust life insurance so that I can feel more powerful than the uncertainty of what is to come.
None of these are bad things in themselves. But pursuing them in order to feel powerful will be prove to be misguided. After all in God’s economy, it is better to be powerless.
In the book of 1 Kings, there is a strange story that is somehow included in the book. 1 Kings is largely the account of the kings of
When we meet her she is out gathering sticks to cook here last meal for her and her son. Yet she obeys Elijah’s instruction and gives him a small cake she’s baked with the last of her oil and flour. Miraculously, the flour and oil never run out. Later, her son gets ill and stops breathing. The prophet proceeds to raise him from the dead. These events stand in stark contrast to the vulnerability of those whom the world considers powerful. We are eyewitness as wicked kings fall prey to famine, leprosy, loss in battle, and even treason within the ranks. Their wealth, armies, position, and power did not prove helpful in their time of need. Yet this obscure little widow, who simply hopes in God and in the man of God because she doesn’t know where else to turn, is protected and preserved through famine, poverty, and disease.
The problem with money or status or success is that it becomes easier to fool ourselves into feeling powerful because of those things. The truth is, no matter what position we hold or things we possess, we are in the end powerless. The rich are no more immune to disease or tragedy than the poor. The powerful are still powerless over forces of a global economic crash or a terrorist strike. We are not as powerful as we think we are.
It’s a good thing to recognize that early. Step 1 for any addict is to admit that he is powerless over his addiction. We would do well to follow the same course. Once we admit that we are ultimately powerless, we can turn to God, and depend fully on Him. Only God has the ability to prevent and to redeem. You may recall in an earlier blog, I made the case that redemption is more powerful than prevention. God can do both. That means that even what He does allow—by virtue of giving us free will—He can still work through it for our good and for His glory. Now that is power.
Blessed are the powerless for their hope is in the Lord.