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Why Power Is a Gift

Power is a gift from God for the sake of human flourishing.

This is the compelling—and controversial—theme that runs through Andy Crouch’s new book “Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power.”

At first, this claim might seem counterintuitive, or just outright false. How can power, with all of its negative connotations and corrupt manifestations, possibly be a good thing—let alone a gift from God for our good?

Crouch first points out that the conditions and circumstances we often associate with power are in fact perversions of it. For instance, in his recent book “The Locust Effect,” Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission recounts story after story of devastating acts of violence toward the poor and vulnerable around the world. According to Crouch, this is power at its worst—the gift of power abused for the “unmake of humanity.” This is not true power.

To understand what power is meant to be and how it is meant to be used, Crouch calls us back to the words of Jesus in Matthew 19: “From the beginning, it was not so.”

Power originates from God. In creation, the all-loving God declared, “Let there be,” and in the ultimate display of power, called into being the complexities and beauty of the universe. But he also created human beings in his image, thereby making space for us to issue our own “let it be” as co-creators along with him, reflecting his nature to the world.

This is the essence of true power. Indeed, “power is all about image bearing—reflecting and refracting the creative power of the world’s Maker into the very good creation.”

[pq]Freedom and enterprise tear down the walls of poverty and tyranny that enslave God’s image-bearers.[/pq]

But God has not only blessed individuals with power. He has also embedded power within institutions, such as families, governments, churches, and businesses. Although they have been corrupted by the Fall along with the rest of creation, institutions—at their best—channel power for the sake of comprehensive flourishing for individuals and all of creation. In the Biblical narrative, this all-encompassing wholeness is called shalom.

But, how is this achieved? How can institutions, and the individuals serving within them, practically steward God’s good gift of power to cultivate flourishing?

I would argue, one of the most compelling exercises of true power is found when institutions secure the blessings of free enterprise for all individuals, particularly for the poor and vulnerable around the world. Freedom and enterprise tear down the walls of poverty and tyranny that enslave God’s image-bearers, empowering them to pursue holistic flourishing in every part of their lives.

This is one clear manifestation of the “reweaving of shalom”—an exercise of true power. Indeed, it is a reflection of our Creator God, who would see more and more of His very good creation and His people restored to full flourishing and humanness. And by this we fulfill our fundamental duty in the world:

To unfold the world’s abundant possibilities and deep meaningfulness—to cultivate and create in such a way that the true God’s identity and ways are named and praised.