We remember Ben Franklin’s famous quip, “Do not put off till tomorrow what can be done today.” Not hard to picture his lips moving on the 100-dollar bill saying this quip for the benefit of our ministry and life. It’s a very Christian thought, what Ben thought up, coming from a Deist.
But what Mr. Franklin offers is only half of our Lord’s teaching from the Gospel parable. Not putting off until tomorrow what can be accomplished today assumes we have the time to finish today what needs to be done. Some of our lives are so busy, even some of you retired folks, that trying to finish up all that can be done today will keep you awake well past the time when the skunks and raccoons come out from hiding.
At the heart of our readings is the word faith. And, Jesus being commanded by his Apostles to increase it in them. There’s a twist. They command him. But the command is for something worthwhile, and not about who’s the greatest. The increase our faith command is one we best be ready for. If we tell the Lord we want a deeper intake of some virtue, like faith, get ready for the response to overpower you in God’s time. Or any virtue.
When’s the last time we said, “Lord, increase my love for people.” Do we even want to go there? Or to hang on to the bitter pills of people who frustrate and anger us? Yet, there’s a way out of that bag of misery. ‘Lord, increase my love for people.”
Or, “Lord, increase my capacity to forgive.” Increase my forgiveness toward those family members, former friends, strangers, and even politicians? Is that even possible? Increase my forgiveness toward them? Have we ever demanded and commanded such things from the Lord, even in the silence of our hearts? From the One who said on the Cross, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” Don’t be shy when commanding God to increase your forgiveness. It will pay immeasurable spiritual and physical dividends.
All good increasing from the Lord, however, begins and ends with faith. For faith one day will end when we gaze upon the face of Christ in heaven, where faith is replaced by an everlasting vision. “Blessed are those who see God forever, for your faith will no longer be needed.”
But right now, faith it necessary. And the Apostles offer to us the perfect command that tells Jesus what we want him to do for us, “Increase our faith.” Their search for increasing has nothing to do with Powerball, our 401-K, or increasing any sort of mammon. We’ve touched on the mammon stuff the last two weeks. We cannot serve both God and that. Financially, we can put off till tomorrow what can be done today. But with faith in Christ, there’s no guarantee of tomorrow.
Increase our faith is always a “today” command. It’s not a “tomorrow” command, even though it took the Apostles a good part of Jesus’ public ministry to arrive at their command to him. Which really begs the question, “Where are we in our faith journey at this time? Have we commanded the Savior to increase our faith? Are we miles away from commanding him to increase our faith? Or will we never command him to give us such a gift?
By commanding Jesus to increase their faith, the Apostles are commanding the Lord to touch their hearts so intimately that when the day is done, they will accomplish all they were commanded as unprofitable servants, doing all they were obliged to do. Faith does not concern itself with any tomorrows. As the Lord teaches, “Do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.” Faith is a coin that has two sides: today, and eternal life. Increasing faith today, living a life steeped in Jesus Christ, brings us to the other side of the coin.
With all the commands that God has sent our way for our benefit and good-living, here’s a Gospel that presents us the opportunity to command God in return. Where we can tell God what to do, and it’s not done through the sin of pride, but through our search for holiness. “Okay Lord, you desire me to have faith in you, now increase it in me!” So, if we’re going to tell God what to do, let’s make sure it works to our eternal benefit, and not to selfish motives.
“Lord, increase my faith, my love, my hope, my forgiveness, my generosity, my compassion, my visits to the sick, my tending your sheep, my better language, my presence with your people, especially the dying. Increase it all! Turn me into a Saint! If you want to increase my bank account a little, that’s okay too.”
But that’s not the first objective in commanding Jesus what to increase in us. It’s the virtues. The virtues that we don’t put off until tomorrow.