‘In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews, that is, Jews who had adopted the Greek language and culture among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”’
It is very difficult to know when you are doing too much. The demands of daily life – no matter who you are, or where you are – are real, pressing, and seemingly never-ending. And, once you hit adulthood, people look to you: to take on more responsibility; to do the right thing; to lead – and all of that means taking many matters in hand.
There is a kind of glory in being given responsibility for something, or someone: You begin to feel more like an adult; you are reminded of people you respect, who did the same thing, and you feel part of something larger than yourself. You become a parent, and remember your own parents: “Boy… they did pretty well, at a very hard job.” Or you begin to thrive in a field you have wanted to be a part of for a long time, and now you’re following in the footsteps of people you admire, deeply.
If you’ve been given that kind of responsibility, why not take on more; and a little more; and, okay, maybe just a little more? Won’t you experience more of the same, good, adult feeling? Eventually, of course, we reach our limit. The cracks start to show; nerves start to fray; all the unresolved stuff in our lives, rises up and demands a solution, even though, now, is not the best time – not at all.
How do we know when we’ve taken on too much? Strife. Argument. Disappointment. Dissension. If only that realization – “Hey, I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew…” – if only we could reach that in private, with ‘face’ saved, and no one but ourselves affected. But usually it goes down the way that the passage from Acts describes: A very important job is not being done, by the people who should be doing it, and everyone knows it!
I love how honest the early church is – the church we read about in the Book of Acts: They could have left this difficult story out of the record – a vulnerable group was being overlooked, by the people who believed they were charged by God, to care for them. Far more convenient to have papered this over, and written something like: “These two groups of people got along fine – both were well-taken care of. Praise God!”
The church in the Book of Acts kept their honesty: “We messed up!”, and they did the right thing: “Hey, I can’t do this on my own – maybe it shouldn’t all devolve on me. Let’s get people who will do that job to the letter, so we can do ours to the letter.” God has another way of describing this way of delegating – that each of us is a member of Christ’s body, and He, alone, is the head (Colossians 1:18) We always get into real trouble when we think we’re the head – the lead guy or gal; the head honcho; the head that turns the body.
What are you juggling today; this week; this season in your life that – really – is meant to be a shared responsibility? You’ve taken it on your shoulders, because you’ve got a good track record. But you’re beginning to sense that it may be too much, and if that’s what you’re feeling, this may be the time to talk to your family, friends, and colleagues, and say: “I need you to take this part – I still have this part – but in order for these parts to work, I’ve got to hand this off.”
Prayer: Lord, it is not all up to me – I confess it. I thank you for all the ways that you’ve blessed me with good, serious responsibility: a family, a job, a church. But, Lord, help me to know that you are in charge – you are the Head that turns the Body, and I am just one, small part, called to work in your Name, in this, small part of your Kingdom. What a blessing to know you are in control, I am not, and there are other brothers and sisters, who are called to carry the load with me. Amen.