“To whom much is given, much is required.” Jesus tells us this in Luke chapter 12, and it’s a principle that has numerous applications. Here Jesus is telling us that if God has given you great wealth, God expects you to use that wealth to benefit your neighbor, not to build up your own glory. If God has given you great power, say as a king or a president, He requires you to use that power for His glory and will, namely by defending those He gave little power. If you have the gift, you are the means through which He wants to pour out that gift on someone else.
In our reading from Romans today, Paul shows us how this also applies to strength. And in this particular context, Paul is talking about doctrinal strength, theological wisdom. In Romans 14, Paul tells us how to view our neighbors who are weak, those who are easily led astray by foolish controversies and to bear with those with tender consciences. He tells us to be patient with them. And to complete that point, here in these words from Romans 15, Paul tells us how to view ourselves when we are strong, when we get it, when God blesses us with the ability to understand the Christian faith more robustly.
Your strength, Paul tells us, doesn’t exist for you to glorify yourself. It exists for you to serve the weak. If people are confused about whether they can eat meat sacrificed to idols, God gave you understanding not so that you could lord yourself over the confused but so that you could bring them to clarity. The church doesn’t exist for the strong to puff themselves up. It exists to lift up the weak, the poor, the lowly, the illiterate and simple. So let us listen to Paul. Let us listen to Jesus.
When you see people caught up in the foolish pop Christianity trends of the day, don’t despair. When people fall in love with schlock and corniness in their worship services, don’t get angry. When people get terrified by the latest false prophet to predict the end of the world, don’t let their gullibility drain you of your strength. Instead, give them your strength. Speak the truth to them, clearly and kindly. With your words and prayers, carry them to the foot of the Cross where Jesus pours out the blood that forgives you both and covers you both in the wisdom of God.
Once you were foolish, but thanks to the mercy of Christ, now you are wise. Once you were weak but now you are strong. Don’t use your strength to build up your own glory. Use it to carry your weakened brothers and sisters to the glorious throne of Jesus Christ.