So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
- Matthew 5:41
The mule is a genuinely intelligent animal that has proved its superiority to the horse in many ways including durability, memory and dietary control. Pack mules have been used for years for exploratory and recreational expeditions. It is said they will carry a certain amount on each side, but only that! According to certain stories, if you put additional weight on the mule, it will buck the load off, refuse to move, or head for a tree to scrape it off. These animals have sensitised their inner scales to the ounce and will haul nothing more than what they think is right.
Jesus warned about the mule in each of us: the spirit of mere duty that delivers only what is expected and nothing more. He encourages us to go beyond that, to love him with the same unqualified depths that he loves us. The mule has an excuse — it's only a mule. What excuse have we got who are made in the image of God, redeemed in the likeness of Christ, and have the Holy Spirit within?
Our giving is a personal thing, the extent of which is highly subjective and very different from Christ. When we observe or listen to people, often we find there is a limit to what they're prepared to do for others.
Some underpin their frugal decisions with, "he can do it himself, he's not helpless" or "I showed her last week, I'm not doing it again", forgetting the many instances where others have helped them.
Our desire to live Christ-like lives incorporates going much further than the limitations of our minds and hearts, both in loving Christ and people.
What if Jesus, having been beaten by the priests and now on his way to Calvary to be pinned to the cross, all of a sudden threw the cross down from his shoulder and said, "I've had enough, I'm not doing this anymore. I have given nearly four years of service to these people, I'm not going through with the cross thing!" Then disappeared. Where would our relationship with God be? Or what if He was washing the disciples' feet, and only got to number 8 before he said, "I can't do this anymore, my back hurts, I'm going home." Then again, what if God, long after the death of his son, all of a sudden said, "Ok, that enough. No more people can get saved. We're all too busy up here as it is!" Where would we or our children end up?
We take so many people for granted, don't we? As if they are supposed to be there for our benefit? Yet, when we, like the mule, are asked to carry more than we consider reasonable, we crack it, and say, "No, I've done enough."
Isn't a deeper companionship with Christ worth carrying extra burdens of love? We are not trying to work our way into Heaven, we are just doing what is "our reasonable service," are we not? (Romans 12:1).
Our precious Jesus did more for us than we will ever know. I am not talking about the Cross experience, I am now highlighting the hours he put in, and the lengths he went to on this earth to show the love that is meant to engulf us.
Cast your mind to the scriptures of him walking up the hills and mountains to pray, long after he was exhausted. Why? His relationship with His father was more important to him than sleep. When healing long lines of people, can you imagine him saying, "Okay, we're closing now, I'm going to lay down" while all the unhealed were standing there begging him to stay?
There are many attributes of Christ we are still to learn, and one of them is the fact that we can carry much more than we think. Like the saying that we only use 5-10% of our brain, we also get used to using about the same amount of love and patience. Christ wants our love for Him to be used as fuel, which burns so intensely within us it transmutes as extra capacity for our own love in helping others.
Jesus calls us into the realm of having an immense amount of love for others, to have a need for Him so great we deny ourselves many luxuries, including time, sleep and satisfaction. The Apostle Paul found his burden for people became heavier as he walked his chosen pathway. He found that the deeper his relationship with Christ became, the greater his capacity developed to deal with the burdens. We should allow ourselves to do the same.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for all the work and labour of love you did for all the people at the time, and for me now. Please help me understand the burden—capacity balance and learn to increase the load.