Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hide and Seek

How good are you at hiding things that you don't want others to see?  Where do you hide the Christmas gifts that you buy early and then stash until Christmas Eve?  Have you ever hidden something and then forgotten where you put it?  Most of us have done these things.  We put something somewhere with the intention of being able to find it again when we want it but then we forget where we put it.  We think that we will not forget such an easy thing but then find out that it is often harder to locate lost items than we imagined it to be.

Jesus told a parable about some servants who were given some large sums of money to keep until their master returned from a journey.  One servant was given a huge amount, one was given about half of that amount, and one was given a small amount by comparison.  The first two servants invested their master's money and made enough interest that they could double the amount they had been given.  They were given praise by their master upon his return.  The last servant had gotten scared because he thought the master may be hard to please so he buried what he had been given and dug it up to give it back to his master.  The master scolded this servant and told him that he should have done what the other two servants had done.  He was punished for not using what he had been given and his money was given to the servant who had the most.  Jesus concludes the parable with the words, "For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." (Matt. 25:29)

What an odd story and what an even stranger meaning that Jesus attaches to it.  We have heard this story preached upon over the years.  It is called the Parable of the Talents.  A talent was a unit of money in the ancient world.  The servants were given various amounts of money and what they did with what they had been given brings about the conclusion and meaning of the parable.

Some ministers have used the word "talent" as used in the story to mean a specific skill or ability as we normally use the word instead of a monetary unit.  I suppose there is a correlation in that whether it is money or skills that we possess, how we use what we have has something to do with how things may turn out for us in the future.  Some people have been blessed with great financial reward, possessing many millions and billions of dollars.  They have so much money that they do not know how to spend it.  Some in this situation have spent their money on very selfish causes amassing much property and living a lifestyle that is very self-centered.  Others who have great wealth decide to bless others with it and begin a life of philanthropic or charitable giving so that others can find relief from disease or have a better life through education.  So, if one has much financial gain, great responsibility for its use comes with it.

Most of us do not have the quandary of what to do with great amounts of money but perhaps we do have special skills or abilities that we have been granted and we are responsible for how those skills, abilities, or talents are used.  Some persons become entertainers, actors, or sports figures and use their skills so that others can see them as positive role models.  Others may become involved in those same professions but they choose to live lives of dishonor or rebellion or excess that leads to their ruin and they are remembered for their problems or challenges rather than for their great talent.

I think that Jesus' meaning attached to the parable indicates that as one uses one's talents or wealth wisely, then greater use of those skills or abilities or resources will come about in life but when one misuses what they have then they will soon find that all they have is vanishing.  I think Jesus told this parable to emphasize the idea that whatever we have in life, we possess because we are to use it wisely to benefit the world around us.  Our wealth is ours to meet our own needs but if we have more than is required for our own use then we should share some of what we have with others through our church or organizations that do good works in the world.  Our skills and abilities are given to us to use for God's glory and to benefit others.  If we do not use what we have been given, then we may find that we no longer have that ability or skill as a result of disuse.

I am recovering from surgery that I had to correct bone spurs that were pressing against nerves in my spine.  I had great pain for months in my left leg and tried not to stand on it or do much exercise with it because of the pain I had experienced.  As a result, I have some muscle atrophy in my left leg and even after the surgery I still have to build up those muscles that had gone unused for so long.  Our lives are much like the muscles in our bodies.  We have to use what we have in service to God and others or risk atrophy of the talents with which we have been blessed.  It is exercise that brings life to those muscles and it is exercise of our talents that brings life to what God has given us so that we may be useful servants to our Creator.

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