Have you ever felt used or taken advantage of? I guess we all have at one time or another. It’s not a particularly good feeling, is it? I find that I am just as upset with myself -and the fact that I let it happen, as I am with the person that used me. It’s never fun to find out that your acceptance was based merely on the fact that a person needed something you could provide, and when that well ran dry- or they no longer needed you, suddenly you were cast aside.
I’d like to say that only happens out in the world, but Matthew and I have seen it happen in ministry settings, too. Just ask former church goers why they no longer attend church and you’ll find, more often than not, they were victims of this circumstance. The scars are real.
But here’s the truth. We are all either tools or instruments. To be called a tool these days is not a compliment. A tool is someone who allows themselves to be used for someone’s selfish gain, and they don’t even know they are being used, or if the know, they don’t care. Who wants to be a tool? I don’t.
We aren’t meant to be tools, instead we are meant to be instruments. Tools and instruments are similar, but different. Both are allowing themselves to be used, but the purpose for each is unique. The prayer of St. Francis is familiar to many, and it explains perfectly how to be an instrument rather than a tool.
No one likes to be taken advantage of, but sometimes we allow someone to use us in order that we might show humility or meekness. Some equate meekness with weakness, but true meekness takes real strength. Meekness is choosing humility when you could just as easily, and perhaps justifiably, be harsh and unkind. It is meekness that allows us to show mercy rather than judgement. It is meekness that points people to Jesus.
2 Timothy, Chapter 2 speaks about taking care and not following unsound teaching. Instead we are to recognize ourselves as instruments with a specific purpose:
“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
If we are instruments worthy to be used of God, we will seek righteousness, faith, love, and peace. We will show kindness to all, be instructional, and helpful in showing others the truth. But if instead, we choose to be a tool of the enemy, we will pursue immaturity, stupid arguments (I’ve had more than a few of those), and will harbor resentment.
In the hands of a skilled surgeon, instruments of that profession are positioned to bring life and healing into the lives of many. Those instruments are delicately cared for, protected, painstakingly cleansed and kept… and used. As Christians, we cannot say that we will never allow ourselves to be used, but it is in carefully choosing to be an instrument of God that our use effects real change in the lives of others.
I want to be one of the Father’s favorite instruments, one often used. For that, I have to be willing, ready, and available. I want to fit comfortably in His hand. When this life is done, I want my edges to be worn, and the shine a bit rubbed off from repeated and familiar use. I’ve seen tools, and I’ve seen instruments… and there’s no doubt which one I want to be!