Changed by Power?

Reading: Matthew 4:1-11

Hero or Nero? is a meditation from The Daily Stoic – a good rhyme as well as an intriguing read. The point made: whether power corrupts depends upon the character of the person who wields it. In the words of Holiday and Hanselman:

It looks like it comes down, in many ways, to the inner strength and self-awareness of individuals – what they value, what desires they keep in check, whether their understanding of fairness and justice can counteract the temptations of unlimited wealth and deference.

Lent is a time for taking stock of inner resources. Understanding my strengths can lead to a deeper sense of self, greater gratitude for God’s grace, and an expanded ability to serve others. Awareness of my shortcomings gives me a chance to accept my limitations instead of denying them, to remember that they cannot separate me from God’s love, and to refrain from hurting others because of them. I’m better able to act with compassion and love when I am aware of my inner state, with all its pluses and minuses.

At the end of the meditation, Holiday and Hanselman move the focus from those with political power and position to everyone, including me:

Both personally and professionally. Tyrant or king? Hero or Nero? Which will you be?

For Jesus and for us, there is no avoiding the temptation to exercise power to achieve recognition and to remake the world in significant ways. When tempted, Jesus recognized and acted from one eternal and central truth: God-given power can only be exercised properly if done with God’s help and guidance. If I forget this truth, if I act by and for myself, whatever power I have will harm others even as it crushes my spirit.

Guide my feet, dear Lord. Hold me fast. Amen.

Excerpt from: Holiday and Hanselman, The Daily Stoic (New York: Portfolio/Penguin Press, 2016), p. 11


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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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