No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. - Romans 6:13
"He's a real tool."
Being called a tool is not flattering. It implies that you are kind of spineless and self serving - that you promote whatever agenda you can to get ahead. That co-worker who always flatters the boss in meetings to try to get special treatment might well be called a tool. The heroin dealer who sells to kids in order to get his own fix could be called a tool. A politician who supports unethical legislation that benefits his donors in order to be re-elected can be called a tool. What we mean when we say "he is a real tool" these days is similar, I think, to who those Paul is referring to as "Instruments of wickedness." It's a person who allows their life to be given over to things that are unimportant at best or damaging at worst in order to gain personal comfort, control or power. What a tool.
It is not too hard, really, for me to think of lots of examples of people who are instruments of wickedness in the world. I've even known some of them personally. So I guess the invitation to us in Paul's message here to the Romans is to consider how we, as followers of Jesus, can be something other than that. How can we instead be instruments of Righteousness? Instruments of Peace? Instruments of Courage, Truth, Love? Instruments of God? How can we avoid being hapless tools in this life, and instead be intentionally focused instruments of goodness?
Over the past few Sundays we've been looking at Matthew 10 - Jesus commissioning his disciples into a life of mission. It has not been without challenges and discomfort, for a life of mission does not bring personal comfort, control or power. Chapter 10 will conclude this Sunday and Jesus will have some simple but not always easy advice on how we can practice being instruments of righteousness, helpful tools of God. I will look forward to exploring his words with you this Sunday!
Note: during the season after Pentecost, we will be using the readings in Track 2