Although it means different things to different people, most of us agree that now more than ever, it’s important. It’s an indicator of status, accomplishment and worthiness for many. It’s how we move our communities to take action - it’s power.
I wonder whether you see yourself in a position of influence, or if you find wondering how to maximise your influence?
In this blog, we are not focusing on to build your brand or become more of an influencer. Because without a true understanding of the context and purpose of influence, life becomes pursuing a series of stunts to boost our sense of self-importance. This blog is also not going to be a list 100 reasons why influence is wrong.
So stick with me.
If this is your first time reading my work, I am convinced that all of life’s most important issues are addressed in the Bible, including through the words of Jesus Luke 12:35-48 which we will explore today. This is because while technology advances, the principles that this world operates remain the same. While ‘influence’ sounds like a new concept reserved for people who are ‘out there’, it’s always been accessible to everyone. By the simple fact that we are alive, we have an opportunity to lead and shape the lives around us, no matter how big or small we see ourselves.
The position that you find yourself in today matters. It is our privilege to have influence, and to actually get it right: to get leadership right. That begins with understanding three key things:
1. Influence is given to us, not self-generated;
2. Influence is a double-edged sword - which can build communities and deconstruct them and ultimately;
3. The benefits that come with influence are to be transferred the way that science describes energy. It’s for everyone.
I hope this post encourages to lean into a life of influence and highlights areas where you may be off-balance. It’s a bit of a long blogpost today, so grab a drink and get comfortable, because it’s worth it.
(P.S. - please click all the links you can in this, and you might see some Bible verses that surprise you)
Influence is given to us, it is not self-generated
In short, we don’t exist for exclusively for ourselves, but for community. The part of Luke we’re focusing on now describes us in a master-servant relationship with Jesus. And for many that can be uncomfortable. In the past I’ve not connected with that ‘servant’ label - I’m supposed to be the head and not the tail, right?
While independence and self-determination are important, it’s all within the wider context of serving, or being a servant. And this is more liberating than it sounds at first. As a servant, you’re not the one who is in the driver's seat. Instead, you’ve been given resources, opportunities and a remit to work in. That’s liberating because if we’re honest, how many of us know exactly what we should be doing every step of the way? In our limited human understanding life is a fragmented picture, not the full blueprint.
“[Life is] God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” - Ephesians 2:10 [emphasis added]
What greater comfort to know that actually, there might be a ‘good work’ prepared specifically for us to do, with God’s help? The pressure comes off. We stop fretting about the future, or trying to heal from our past and are able to fully focus on making the most of what we’ve been given now.
Serving doesn’t mean that we are less than, because even Jesus - the embodiment of God “will dress himself to serve, will have [us] recline at the table and will come and wait on [us].” (verse 37). Just as he did, when He came the first time.
So, what do we do with this information?
Will you build, or will you deconstruct?
When we look after what we have been given, our impact grows. But only if we’ve handled it well, otherwise what we have may be easily lost.
While we are free from the burden of figuring out life, we still have our own responsibilities - as servants, or managers of the influence we’ve been given. Our influence is delegated, so it’s almost even more critical that we take good care of it. Whenever we’re doing something on someone else’s behalf we are less likely to take the opportunity for granted.
But, influence is a double-edged sword, and there’s a real risk which we may all face: misuse/abuse of power - or what my people call ‘growing wings’ (think, Icarus).
“But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.” - Luke 12:45-46
As your influence grows, it’s so easy for ego to take over. Even if you didn’t intend it to, I’ve observed that so much of the way our society is structured focuses on building your own empire. And when you do that it’s easy to mistreat people, or get so carried away messaging your own ego that we forget why we are in our position of influence in the first place.
How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? - Galatians 3:3
And when we forget our purpose, we waste our potential.
We waste it on short-term thinking, irrational feelings or instant gratification. Don’t get distracted by an unnecessary debate about whether partying is right or wrong, focus on the crux of this passage: the servant was asked to keep the house, and he didn’t.
The servant, or manager, was given something for a specific purpose and instead, ended up hurting people, taking advantage of people and squandering his resources. This misuse has consequences - sometimes it’s not punishment, it’s a matter of circumstance.
I know, it’s uncomfortable. It’s easier to talk about the opportunity and benefits of influence, but there are also consequences when we live misaligned to the truth. Irrespective of whether we choose to acknowledge them, the consequences are still there.
And this is why what we do with our influence is critical.
Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities! - Luke 12:48
It’s one thing to be a given a taste of leadership and influence - and it’s a different story to finish the task well. That’s why we’re encouraged not only to be prepared, but to keep the lamp burning.
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. - Luke 12:35-36
"For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God" - 2 Timothy 1:6
The influence we have is for a time and place. Unfortunately, there are situations in life that can throw us off our game. This is why the word ‘responsibility’ is so important.
“You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” - Luke 12:40
This isn’t said to make us feel on edge, but to remind us that there is a lot at stake. Second, it reminds us there will be a time where we will see the full impact of how we’ve handled our influence, and by then, we surely do not want to think we have fallen short of our potential?
It’s a heavy thought. While the Bible is beautiful and comforting, it is also full of very necessary wakeup calls. We are not given a full life only to feel good about ourselves: there is a hope and expectation that we will deliver on a specific purpose. And that purpose, the result of influence, is transformation. Transforming lives in the capacity you’ve been given. To gain skills, and build influence so that you can have an impact.
Without a transfer of influence, there is no growth
Sometimes - for whatever reason - we might hide, or be passive about the influence we’ve been given. And when we do this, there’s no scope for growth.
We see this clearly in the popular story of the 3 servants who were given money to invest. One was so scared to lose his coin that he buried it in the ground and saw no growth. Meanwhile, the other two that shared their talents with the world and saw double the return.
Through the Bible and in my personal experience, I have learned that enriching the lives of others increases your capacity, resources and influence. Sharing reminds you that it never started with you in the first place.
You didn’t build or create them from scratch, you were given them, because you’re the servant/manager, remember?
Sharing affirms just how important community is: a chain of lives that rely on each other. It reminds us that we cannot live this life alone. And while it may feel like giving it all away (with wisdom) leaves you with nothing, it actually leaves you with more than you started with.
“Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?
It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” - Luke 12:42-44
So, to conclude…
I want to ask you if there’s an area of life where you have wanted to progress, grow or expand but for some reason, nothing is happening?
Are you taking things for granted? Are your motives right? Have you been swept away by your own ego, or the desire to keep it all to yourself?
After writing this, these are the questions I will be asking myself in the coming weeks, and praying for recalibration of my mindset where needed.
Well done! You made it to the end of this post. I know this is a ‘heavier’ topic than usual but some matters aren’t to be taken lightly. We have a purpose on this earth, we all influence and lead - no matter how ‘under the radar’ we feel. Recognising this responsibility is the first step to creating a fuller life through a more genuinely connected world. And now you’ve read this, ignorance isn’t an excuse.
Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think in the comments below, and let’s keep the conversation going on Twitter.