Think outside of the box. I think it is a safe assumption that anyone reading this has heard that phrase hundreds of times. It began its life in corporate leadership seminars and creative workshops, and over the years it has made its way into our cultural vocabulary as a very common cliché. At face value, it’s a valuable concept. After all, who doesn’t like the idea of the maverick crusader who refuses to be corralled, who doesn’t play by the rules, and who gets things done in innovative ways? It brings to mind people like Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and whoever it was came up with the idea of using Doritos for a taco shell.
However, as a Christian and consequently part of a love-your-enemy, give-your-life-to-find-it, servant-leader, inverse-culture Kingdom, I would like to challenge you to something revolutionary: think inside of the box.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I believe innovation and fresh approaches are awesome. I enjoy Apple products, I love Disneyland, and I think Doritos Locos Tacos are pretty amazing. The “thinking outside of the box” approach that hurts us, however, is when we ignore or fail to utilize what is available to us already inside of our box.
In Jesus’ famous illustration “the parable of the talents” (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-28), the master entrusted different portions of money to different servants. The servants who invested their portion and brought an increase, yet the servant who was given the least buried it in the yard. The servants who invested were lauded by their master, and the servant who buried what he had was chastised. Even though he returned exactly what he was entrusted with, he was punished for not putting that one talent to work.
When the other servants invested, why did this guy just hide them away? There are lots of possible reasons to speculate. We see a hint of his motivations in his statement: “Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground.” (Matthew 25:24-25). He knows about His master’s expectations of an R.O.I., but he probably thought that only having the one talent kind of let him off the hook. Maybe he thought “well, since I only got one stupid talent I’ll just sit it here. There’s no way he can expect me to work it with just this one talent. If I had more talents like those other guys, I would totally make bank, too.”
We can get trapped in this same mentality. We can look outside of our resources, systems, and limitations and say “if I only had this other thing, if only I didn’t have to be stuck within these boundaries, then I could really fly”.
Remember, the master didn’t chastise the servant for only having one talent, He chastised him for not investing the talent he was given. The servant wanted something that was outside of his box, but the master wanted him to use what was already in his box. One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.
Remember that influencers who truly innovate don’t start outside of the box, but they take what’s already inside their box and invest it in innovative, creative ways. The result is a success that will soon outgrow the box. In another miracle described in the New Testament, a child brought Jesus a box with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and a crowd of thousands of families were fed. It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t create food from nothing – though we know he certainly could have if He wanted to. Instead, He took what was already in that young child’s lunchbox, and brought about results more wildly productive than anyone could have ever imagined. Let’s not become discouraged with limitations in our time, resources, or systems, (“if only I had…”), but instead let’s realize that the God limitless power can take what’s in your box and blow it up beyond all of your expectations.
Let’s take what we have, as large or small as it may be, and be faithful, creative, and passionate about it.
Let’s think inside the box. Don’t worry, you won’t be stuck there for long.
Grant Parkki is the Christian Education Associate Pastor at Kenai New Life. Kenai New Life is located at 209 Princess Street in Kenai, with Sunday services at 9am and 10:30am, with programs for children, youth, and adults at 6:30 on Wednesday evenings. You can find out more about the church and its ministries at kenainewlife.org.