“To whom much is given, much is expected” We hear such a truism so frequently that, perhaps, we have failed to actually stop for a moment and examine what it means.
This phrase has always been a challenging one for me: after all, doesn’t it also say something like along the lines “little is expected from those who have little”? Doesn’t it say that we have to possess to be responsible? Certainly, this is in the same thread as “we have been blessed with our wealth because God loves us” — which is the foundation of the teachings of a segment of Christian faiths, a statement that makes material possessions proxy of God’s love. Such an understanding is unbearably false. Certainly, this statement is saying more than just an ancient support of the Gospel of Wealth.
In fact, the phrase finds its origins in the Gospel of Luke, 12:48. With its roots in a text in a language other than our own, it bears mentioning that the text can be translated in a different way: indeed, more literal translations read along the lines of:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be required”
While expected and demanded are very similar in denotation, the connotation and term are very different. The quote transforms from an statement to a command.
When we have — knowledge, power, wealth, ability — we are obliged to act. When we act, we act in a way that must affirm the humanity and dignity of every person. Doing so celebrates and shares knowledge and sees power and wealth as a means, not an end, tools like a hammer or a pen, a view which is most certainly counter-cultural in our own society.
And we have — by luck, and little more — so much. Hopefully, the statistics exercise yesterday illustrated this is some way. So you have, right here, right now, the tools that demand you act. You have, right here and right now, the ability to transform the world.
Much is expected from those to whom much has been given.”
We have been given the same Word,
graced by the same Spirit
and nourished at the same table as
Oscar Romero, Rutilio Grande,
Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel,
Jeanne Donovan, and Maura Clark.
— Stephen Privett, SJ
(From Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits)