Saturday, August 27, 2005

God's Investment in the World

When I read the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25 beginning at verse 14), when I ask myself, "What has God given me?", I think I usually miss the point. My focus is too easily on myself and my abilities, and I don't think this was Jesus' point at all.

Jesus spoke the parable of the talents in Jerusalem during the days immediately before his arrest. In Matthew's account, this parable follows immediately after two other parables which are basically "parables of the long absence" -- parables whose main point is that Jesus will be gone from this world longer than anyone expects. After the first two parables address the havoc that his long absence causes amongst his followers, this last parable finally speaks of servants who were productive during their Lord's absence, during which he went away to be crowned king. The master gives his servants each a certain number of "talents" while he is away.

And here, I think, is where I often start to go wrong and imagine that the "talents" are really something about me. Back in the day, a "talent" was an amount of money. The story uses the earthly image of making investments for a profit. But what is the investment the servants should make? What is the "talent"? What is it that Jesus has given us, particularly what was it that he gave us right before he went on his "long journey to be made king"?

It's probably not entirely wrong when we think of "talent" in what has come to be the standard way: natural abilities such as athletic ability, musical ability, learning ability, leadership ability, and all the other natural gifts which every person has, each in his own kind and measure. Of course God gave these abilities to us. But is a gift like that really the most valuable gift I've been given? And how do the faithful servants really invest God's "talents" on his behalf?

What Jesus said next shows me what he expects his faithful servants to do: acts of mercy, kindness, and love. What Jesus teaches next is the last teaching of the set, the one that caps them all: the teaching of the sheep and the goats on the last day. Jesus tells us what his faithful servants do. The faithful servants show mercy. They show it without worrying who is "deserving" and who is not. The faithful servants seek out the hungry, thirsty, naked, lonely, sick, and imprisoned of the world to show them God's love in action. These are the investments he expects us to make in this world.

God's rich gift to us -- the "talent", the valuable thing we are managing for him -- is his love. The treasure that we put to work in the world is God's compassion. His great investment in this world is forgiveness.


J.L. Hinman said...

Hey WF, nice blog. I am honored to be the first to comment on it.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey Meta

Glad to see you here. It just seems right that you should be the first one to post here, since you're the first on-line friend I made what, 7 or 8 years ago now.

I really enjoy your blog.