Not all that long ago, I was sitting in a congregational staff meeting, discussing some of the challenges of starting and sustaining ministries, when another staff member said, “Our problem is we’ve got big buts.” When everyone at the table turned to look at her in surprise, she said, “You know, ‘I’d teach Sunday School . . .” or “I’d like to be in Bible study . . .” or “I’d give more to the church . . . ”
She’s absolutely right. As a rule, we are people who rationalize and excuse a lot of our inactivity and our refusal to do what we know we should by plopping down our buts–”but I don’t have enough time/energy/money/experience/knowledge . . .” It’s hard to imagine ourselves simply hopping up and following Jesus whenever he calls us, like those first four fishermen who heard, “Follow me . . .” But it is important to remember Jesus’ words to the man who wanted to wanted to follow but who wanted first to say goodbye to his family: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Jesus had little patience with conditional discipleship.
Those are pretty strong words, and most Lutherans will respond quickly, “But where’s the grace in that?” (actually, I’m prone to respond that way–I’ve got a big but, too). Yet if we’re at all steeped in a theology of the cross and a true understanding of grace, we know that grace isn’t an excuse for inaction–it’s an invitation to action without fear of failure.
My most frustrating encounters with gracelessness are those in which people are trapped in the paralysis of scarcity–”We can’t afford it;” “we don’t have enough money/people/time/space.” I think of another colleague who says of such scarcity mentality–”Do you think you can out-give God?” God’s generosity abounds, but we sometimes miss new gifts because we’re not making use of the gifts we’ve already received–particularly the gift of a willing heart. In fact, I would suggest that there’s a spiritual anatomy lesson here–the bigger our hearts, the smaller our buts.
So what are the biggest buts you’d like to get rid of? How do we get people off those buts and into the life-giving work and reward of the Kingdom? How do we take off the blinders of scarcity and see clearly through the lenses of God’s abundance? I’m eager to hear your responses, and your ideas!