Lately I’ve been thinking about the Parable of the Talents.
Ever hear of it? No, it’s not a new Reality TV show (but hey, that’s not a bad idea: America’s Got Allegorical Talent!) It’s actually much older than Reality TV; older than TV even. In fact, you might say the story’s been around almost as long as Reality itself, because as you might’ve already guessed, it’s in the Bible. I know, I don’t usually lead with a Bible story, but for purposes of this post, you’ll understand why I must.
It kind of goes like this: A successful Boss Type Guy goes on a trip, entrusting some of his “Talents” (ie. wealth, stuff, what have you) to 3 different people. To each he gives either five, two, or one, according to their ability… Fast forward, he comes back, and finds out what each has done with their respective “Talent”. The first two basically reproduce what was given to them, and get some nice attaboys (👏👏👏👏👏 👏👏). The third, however, took his/her lowly one talent and put it in a hole in the ground. From here the story gets interesting, and the excuses start flowing.
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said,
‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow,
and gathering where you did not winnow.
So I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.
Here you have what is yours.‘”
(you can read the whole thing here, btw, just to make sure I’m not butchering it)
Oh, the excuses! Can you believe it? Waa waa waa.
And you can imagine how this went over with Successful Boss Type Guy. (Not so well, in case you can’t imagine… just read on)
” ‘Sooo*… You knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not winnowed, eh*? Then you ought to have given my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.‘ “
(* added for how I hear it in my head)
Now I don’t know about you, but when I read stories like this, my standard initial reaction often goes something like this: Boy oh boy am I glad I’m not like THAT idiot! Because I think that’s the point of these parables, isn’t it? To shed light on the other guy’s faults so we can feel better about ourselves. Right?
And then, like clockwork, it hits: Oh, crap, I AM that person!
I’m sure you can’t relate, though, because certainly YOU are NOT that person. I get it. But as long as we’re talking about me, let me tell you why I have come to this horrifying discovery.
In a world full of lots and lots and lots of fascinating people brimming and bursting with infinitesimal Talents of every kind, I have to admit, I sometimes feel like I ended up at the end of the Talent line. Kind of like Charlie Brown in the Valentine’s Day special.
And as such, I sometimes am tempted to think my little talent doesn’t compare… that it’s not fair… that nobody cares… and so I despair… and refuse to share… Ok, I’ve run out of rhymes, but you see where this is going?
Poor, poor pitiful, fearful, selfish me.
If I really believe these things, what does that tell me about what I believe about the One who gave them to me?
Must be I think He’s pretty unfair.
It also must mean that I kind of despise my little talent. That the One who gave it to me was holding out on me and doled out all the “good stuff” to someone else. Surely, He doesn’t expect me to do anything of consequence with it. After all, it’s just one little talent. It’s not like I have another to spare like those other lucky pups who got more than me. Besides, it’s miniscule. Insignificant. Hardly worth the effort. No one will see or appreciate the effort, at least no one of import, certainly not the masses. And even if they did, I’d probably just screw it up anyway, and I’m not willing to risk that kind of shame. So why bother? The safest and most responsible thing to do is to bury it in the ground, so at least I won’t lose that one measly little talent I have. At least I’ll have something to show for myself, and I’ll stay out of trouble. Cause that’s the whole point of life, isn’t it? To stay out of trouble. To be safe.
Must be I see God as pretty Unkind. Hard. Greedy, Lazy. Unfair. An exploiter. A Punisher. (oh yeah, by the way, we’re talking about God here, in case the metaphor memo isn’t coming through)
Nah, that can’t be it. I would NEVER think such things… or write them in a blogpost. It’s so… ugly. So… convicting.
But admit it I must. The struggle is real.
I’m sure I don’t always think this way. I hope I don’t always think this way. I like to think that I don’t. I certainly want you to think that I do! And deep down, in the truest part of me, the part that is literally Christ in me, the hope of glory… I know the REAL TRUTH. I know that God is a GOOD gift giver… Kind and generous… and that it’s not my job to critique what He gave me (or didn’t give me), but to see through the lens of REALITY rather than ingratitude. And the REALITY is this: I am here to glorify Him. To enjoy Him, yes, and all that He’s given me, but make no mistake: Big or small, celebrated or obscure, it’s ALL for His glory.
So my “little: Talent is maybe not so little in light of His purpose. But even more than that, my attitude toward my little Talent goes much farther in either fulfilling, or thwarting His purpose. And I do want to fulfill His purposes!
So I will offer my one talent. I will invest it. I may do it awkwardly. I may feel like it’s never “enough”. It may not even be “enough” by the world’s standards, or ever get the affirmation that I used to think was so important. But what has been given to me was never really mine to begin with, when you think about it. So… (gulp), here goes:
I won’t hold it back any longer.
And I pray the same for you… Just in case you (or someone you know) is that person, too!