The Care and Use of Power

20 04 2012

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Lord Acton)

Power comes in many different forms.  Executive position, influence, knowledge, ability, pedigree, wealth.  Whatever your station in life, you exercise varying degrees of power.

Some of us are single and are empowered to direct our own lives and influence the people around us.  Some have positions in the marketplace carrying significant executive weight and accountability.  Others of us are born into privilege and responsibility, a greater degree of power carrying commensurate benefits or consequences depending on its stewardship.  One can’t help thinking about the Kennedy’s and the Rockefellers.  Or the House of Windsor.

I’ve noticed, after nearly five decades of living, that power, when given—as in, say, a sizeable job promotion—tends to bring out what is hidden in the heart of the one to whom it is delegated.

For some, it brings into relief the most noble qualities—service, care, efficiency and fairness.

For others, it simply discloses the rot of the inner person.  It is not pleasant.  Such are those for whom power helps them “to be somebody” rather than to serve.

When Jesus turned thirty, he began his ministry as an itinerant preacher.  First baptized by John the Baptist and filled with the Holy Spirit, he then went into the desert “to be tempted forty days by the Devil.”

Jesus was tempted to use his power for his own benefit.  Turning stones to bread would satisfy his appetite.  Falling down and worshipping the Devil would have given him wealth, position and fame. (God obviously has a sense of humor.) Jumping off the pinnacle of the temple–about seven or eight stories high–into the hands of waiting angels would give thrills to onlookers and boost his ego.  Jesus as Evel Knievel.  Oohs and ahhs.

Jesus resisted all of these.  And when he returned from the desert, successful in this period of testing, the Bible tells us he was “full of the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Then he began doing miracles.

There’s a lesson here.  Power carries great responsibility and potential for good or evil.  It must be stewarded carefully.  Selflessly.  It’s not about you or me.  It’s about them.

Challenge: Begin to look at the power with which you’ve been entrusted in various spots in your life and see it as just that: A trust.  How can you use power to help others?  It’s in helping others win that we win!

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