How to embrace your dispensability

May 2, 2018

In our family, I’ve been the primary cook the past 17 years. I enjoy cooking and baking, and have happily served in that role. Over the past few years, my oldest daughter has also developed an interest in baking. As I’ve sought to transfer my limited skills to her, we’ve enjoyed making cakes and cookies and some dinners together.

Already at age 14, her skills are surpassing mine. One Saturday morning, I woke up to the smell of delicious homemade cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. Even though the recipe I’ve always used called for pre-made dough, my daughter had decided to make her dough from scratch.

“How did you know how to make these?” I asked in disbelief as I looked at the beautifully spiraled cinnamon bread.

“I just found a recipe in your cookbook and followed it.”

What a sweet reminder that my skills are not indispensable—the very person I was trying to teach and pass them off to was now teaching me.

Lessons from the Promised Land

Moses had done an amazing job leading the Israelites for 40 years. He had persevered through their complaining, interceded for them when God’s anger was hot, and led them to the very border of the Promised Land. But due to his failure to obey God in one particular, weighty moment, he would not be allowed to enter Canaan. As we’ve seen, however, Moses was not angry or bitter. In fact, he demonstrated much compassion when he asked the Lord to appoint his replacement—another man to go before the Israelites as their shepherd (Num. 27:16-17).

Pride says, Everything will fall apart if I’m not involved!

Humility says, Things could probably start to run even better without me.

In response, the Lord appointed Joshua, one of only two men from the original group of Israelites who were able to enter Canaan. Moses was to commission Joshua by laying his hand on him before Eleazer the priest and the congregation. He was to transfer some of his authority to Joshua so that all the people would obey him.

“And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the Lord directed through Moses” (Num. 27:22-23). What a beautiful example of a ministry continuing with a new leader in place.

Oftentimes, we’re tempted to think things will fall apart if we’re removed from the equation. We’re afraid to give up control and trust that someone else can finish the task just as well, if not better, than we can. I see myself doing this whenever I fail to allow my kids to do certain chores because I think they won’t be done well enough. I’m just going to unload the dishwasher because the kids do it wrong every time. I’d better clean the floor myself or it will still be dirty.

It can happen at work when we don’t ask for help on a big project, exhausting ourselves with long hours because we fear others wouldn’t be as thorough. And it can happen
 in our ministries when we don’t invest the time to raise 
up new leaders because we think there isn’t anyone else qualified for the job. I can’t step down from leading Bible studies because there is no one else to do it well! This kind of thinking stems from pride and can often rob us of needed rest, as well as rob others of opportunities to serve.

Pride says, Everything will fall apart if I’m not involved!

Humility says, Things could probably start to run even better without me.

Humility in the face of change

Moses demonstrated amazing humility as he submitted to God’s plan for a transfer of leadership without grumbling or self-pity. Moses trusted that he was not an indispensable leader.

Joshua, for his part, was deemed “a man in whom is the Spirit” (Num. 27:18). He was an obedient follower of God, even when everyone around him was rebelling. And God rewarded him for his faithfulness.

God’s purposes will stand despite changes in leadership. Human beings are merely God’s chosen vessels to carry out his plans, by the power he supplies. So, here are a few practical ways to help you let go of control and remind you of God’s bigger plan:

  1. Acknowledge your limitations. Are you constantly stressed? Do you take on too many things? Be willing to step back and evaluate your heart. The first step to releasing control is recognizing that you can’t do everything yourself.
  2. Pray for new leaders.  Whether you’re leading a ministry in your church, running a business, or raising the next generation, be diligent to ask God to raise up capable, new leaders. Keep your eyes open for those who are ready to be given new responsibilities and trust that God is able to do more than you ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).
  3. Train others. It takes time to invest in people. Often we can resort to doing everything ourselves because it seems more efficient. But in the long run, we’re making things more difficult by not passing along our skills to others. More can be accomplished when we’re willing to equip others to share the load.
  4. Delegate responsibility. Assign specific chores to your children each week. Be willing to give your new employee a chance to spread their wings. Ask the woman passionate about Bible study to lead the next women’s study. Look for ways to offload the tasks on your plate while providing others new opportunities to serve.
  5. Encourage others. A humble heart can see many blessings, even when things are done differently than how you had previously done them.  Be the biggest cheerleader for those around you beginning new endeavors. Seek to be a help and resource to them. Be generous with praise and gratitude.
  6. Rest. Do you take time to rest? Or are you constantly working on the next thing, fearing the world won’t go on without finishing your to-do list? Finding time to intentionally rest each week, and putting aside work and chores, is a means of trusting the Lord is in control. He can accomplish his purposes without you. Lay your burdens on the cross (Matt. 11:28-30).

Editor's note: This article was adapted from Wilderness Wanderings: Finding Contentment in the Desert Times of Life.

Stacy Reaoch

Stacy Reaoch is a pastor’s wife, mother of four and co-author of Making Room for Her- Biblical Wisdom for Healthier Relationship with Your Mother-In-Law or Daughter-In-Law. She’s passionate about studying the Bible and helping women apply God’s life-changing truths to their daily lives. Stacy lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24