One of the characteristics of the earth is its great abundance. For our benefit God has cached away in sixteen inches of topsoil the ingredients for food and clothing in rich abundance. A good farmer using proven agricultural methods may get many tons of a given crop from this earth-reservoir and still have his sixteen inches of topsoil left undiminished. The Creator has provided most growing things with many times more seeds than are necessary for their reproduction. Think how many kernels of corn grow on one stalk, and each kernel is capable of reproducing the entire plant.
But the most interesting manifestation of this super abundance is seen in the great possibilities that the Creator has placed in human life. It has been illustrated that by the right kind of regular exercise a man may build his arm, leg, and back muscles so that they are many times stronger than is required for ordinary use.
Each of our bodily organs was built much stronger than our needs ordinarily require. Our stomachs will hold far more food than is needed to keep us alive. We could see well with just one eye, but the Lord gave us two. We could hear with one ear, but the Lord has given us two. He gave us two kidneys, two lungs, and two nostrils. It is also true that by the same process of exercise, our minds, our personalities, and our faith can be almost inconceivably expanded. But our greatest possibility for expansion and development comes in the area of our talents, our virtues, and our abilities. These great personality powers are capable of the most fantastic multiplication.
In his significant parable of the Talents, Jesus told some interesting success stories about different people. Two doubled their talents; one buried and lost his. (See Matt. 25:14–30.) What tremendous people all of us could be if we were to develop the full power of our kindness, our righteousness, and our love. We could develop some of the muscles of friendship, leadership, fairness, and happiness that would rival those of a mental Charles Atlas or a spiritual Hercules. The Lord announced the purpose of his own mission by saying: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10.) He expects us to develop that abundance and manifest it in all of the areas of our lives.
When any good engineer designs a bridge, he makes it capable of bearing more weight than will ever be placed upon it. When the great architect of our souls created us in his own image, he endowed us with all the potential of our eternal heavenly parents. God was thinking in terms of our own futures when he gave to man his own attributes. Jesus also had this in mind when he taught the philosophies of life involving the Golden Rule, doing more than is expected of us, and going the second mile.
During the ministry of Jesus, Judea was a province of the Roman Empire. There was an unpleasant military regulation in force that allowed a Roman soldier to command a Jewish civilian to carry the soldier’s burden for one mile. This inflicted an unpleasant duty on those who hated their Roman masters. Jesus added to the difficulty when he said to them, “… whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Matt. 5:41.)
To many it must have seemed a disgraceful surrender to voluntarily go even beyond these demands that had been made by imperial Rome. We can imagine how it would clash with twentieth century temperament to be forced to carry the heavy burdens of an oppressive foreign conqueror. It could not have been less distasteful to the Jews in the meridian of time. Yet in this philosophy there is a great power that can help us to solve our own problems. We can overcome most of the hates and dreads of life by cheerfully doing more than is required of us.
Here we might recall the novel Ben Hur, whose setting was in a time contemporary with that of Jesus. The central character was a wealthy Jew who was made a Roman slave and consigned to work at the oars of a Roman galley. Ben Hur’s companions accepted their assignments with bitterness and hate, and as a consequence, their naked backs were bruised and cut by the lashes of their Roman masters. But Ben Hur adopted the philosophy of the second mile. He did his work as though his oars were taking him on a pleasure cruise. Ben Hur knew that no effort was ever lost, and therefore in his own interests he worked twice as hard as he was asked to work; and of course he received benefits in proportion.
Ben Hur’s willing attitude and effort pleased his Roman masters. He asked for nothing in return for his service except that he be permitted to alternate his labor and work on both sides of the galley so that his body muscles might be developed equally. Then came a shipwreck, and Ben Hur with his powerful muscles rescued a Roman tribune and won freedom. He then engaged in the chariot races at Antioch, where again those mighty arms that were developed in the galleys enabled him to master the horses, win the chariot race, and gain many privileges and much prestige for himself.
It is interesting that the Lord always fits the back to the burden. If you desire a strong back, all you need to do is carry a great load. By this same procedure, we may expand the abundance of our own abilities to almost any dimension.
This important idea may also operate in reverse. When our stomachs get empty they shrink. Our minds and our personalities can shrink as well. The power of a million tomato seeds is lost if they are not used.
The Lord grants us our decreed abundance on a kind of lend-lease basis where he takes back everything that is not used. These are terms similar to those under which he gave manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness. Each day an abundance of manna covered the ground and the people gathered as much as they desired, but that which was not used spoiled. So it is with our abilities. Most of us never get strong backs or have great minds because the burdens we have given them to bear have never been heavy enough. All of our potential that is not used is lost.
Faith can live in neither isolation nor disuse. When you take away the works, the faith dies. It always dies. There is no such thing as preserved faith. The same thing happens when we tie up our righteousness in a sling or try to keep it in isolation. When our righteousness is not used, its power is being transferred to evil. When our righteousness is too weary to go the second mile with a song in our hearts, then we are in trouble. When we begin giving in to evil, it soon becomes too much of a chore even to go the first mile. Then a song in our hearts becomes an impossibility.
One of the best applications of this second mile idea is found in the important institution of marriage. Someone has said that marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition. At first thought that seems like a pretty good idea—each party meets the other halfway. But in many marriages a shortage sometimes develops on both sides. Then our mathematics may indicate that instead of having a fifty-fifty marriage, we have only a forty-forty marriage. This would mean that there wasn’t enough marriage to cover the territory.
The best remedy for this problem, as for all others, is one of prevention. We need in our marriages a little more of the second-mile or Golden Rule or turn-the-other-cheek kind of philosophy. With a better philosophy we might then be able to construct a sixty-sixty marriage or even a hundred-hundred marriage. Then even if both partners should stub their toes or turn in a shortage, there would still be enough marriage to cover the requirements and fulfill all of the needs.
Major Martin Treptow had a second-mile kind of philosophy that might be helpful in marriage. He fought in World War I, and just before the battle of Chateau-Thierry, in which he gave his life, he wrote his great philosophy of life in his diary, saying, “I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully, and do my utmost as though the entire conflict depended upon me alone.”
Martin Treptow was a good soldier. Undoubtedly he was a great husband. He was willing to go the second mile and the third mile and the tenth mile.
What a marvelous husband such a philosophy would make of anyone who was willing to live it. It would make him the kind of person who would have enough strength and enough love so that should it become necessary, he could carry the burdens of both. Likely he would also have enough faith and enough love for both. While the idea of one’s doing all of the work may not be the best idea for the long haul, it might help temporarily to get the marriage over the rough spots. To make a better team, both of the partners should learn to spend their love and faith at about the same rate.
When one of the marriage partners is tired or feels a little bit under par, however, it will provide some wonderful assistance if the other has enough strength, understanding, courage, trust, and love for both and is willing to invest it in their common interest. When one goes on an automobile trip, the car should have a minimum of four tires, but it is also very reassuring to have an extra tire just in case. Or you may have enough money in the bank to cover your outstanding checks, but a few months’ pay in some kind of a standby reserve makes the world look a lot brighter to you.
So it is in marriage. A fifty-fifty marriage is wonderful; an eighty-eighty marriage is far safer; but a hundred-hundred marriage is the one to which the prize is awarded. May the Lord always bless us as we build up this area of our abundance.