I have a friend who often reminds me that we are all “expendable crew members” in God’s kingdom. She refers to the old Star Trek shows when the crew members you’d never seen before go on a mission to never return. They are the expendable ones.
I completely agree with her, as do I imagine most we understand that we are bond slaves to God, that we owe a debt of love that requires our life to be in His hands. But I’ve also been mulling around what makes me uneasy about being expendable, and I think I’ve finally found the answer: I tend to equate expendable with inconsequential. And yet nothing could be further from the truth!
God created in us a desire not just to breathe, but that the hours and days and years that we breathe mean something. That our lives are of consequence to someone else. We want some evidence of our existence to extend beyond our earthly lives. The expendable crew members in Star Trek didn’t have that. They appeared on screen, then they disappeared in oblivion, never to be mentioned again. They seem almost–inconsequential. And yet were they really?
Inconsequential, by definition, means of little or no importance; insignificant; trivial. Those are words we cringe to think of as defining our years on earth. But is inconsequential a synonym for expendable?
Expendable means something consumed in use or not reusable. But something used up could still be inconsequential, right? Consider another definition, the military definition: personnel, equipment or supplies capable of being sacrificed in order to accomplish an objective.
Our life in Christ here on this earth is often referred to in military terms, so to use this definition is not a stretch. The military understanding of expendable explodes the idea of inconsequential, for the expendable thing is sacrificed to accomplish the objective. That sacrificed thing is not trivial. It’s not insignificant. It has a reason for being consumed, a reason that is far greater than that object or person. In our case, when we accept the role of “expendable crew member” in God’s kingdom, we accept that the whole is greater than the part, that the Lord is crafting a picture much larger than our individual lives. And yet each individual life is important to the objective. Each individual life has meaning, big or small. I think this is what Paul meant in Philippians 1:21:
Someday each of us will be used up, consumed. Our physical bodies will become expendable here on earth. But if we have lived a life of obedience to God, our time here will not have been inconsequential, even if we don’t get to see the consequence of our lives until eternity. I want to live in light of that truth–totally surrendered to the Lord and accepting of the “expendableness” of my life while at the same time walking in complete obedience to His call, His purposes, which render my life of great consequence.