Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Burying talents (part two)

We can all agree that our family is our number one mission field. We also know that serving our family is full of fairly menial tasks that resemble foot-washing and carrying the cross. But what of all the unused talents? Why does serving the Lord seem to involve so many wasted gifts and unused talents?

Consider Peter, he was strong enough to drag a net of 153 wet fish (this could easily be close to 500 pounds!) and to slice off someone's ear (I still wonder why Jesus ordered the disciples to bring swords before he was arrested). But Jesus said that he didn't even need Peter to be strong enough to dress himself. Consider Stephen (Acts 6), he was singled out "as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" to fulfill the glamorous role of... waiting on tables. And then he dies in the next chapter. Consider Our Lord whose insights into the human heart make Eugene Petersen and Pope John Paul II appear like ignoramuses by comparison. He ended his teaching ministry to get nailed to a tree. Consider Maximilian Kolbe who trained for years in a seminary - then volunteered for death by lethal injection so a young man with wife and children could escape death. And the list of prodigious scholars, musicians, and athletes who gave it all up to serve the Lord goes on and on and on.

We all know that the greater good of loving others far outweighs the value of the unused talents. But why does God give us all these talents and gifts and not ask us to use them? Couldn't he give these talents and gifts to someone who would live in such a way so as to use these talents and gifts in the service of the Lord? Why do we even have these gifts to begin with if we are not going to use them? Perhaps the words of Our Lord can answer this question.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds
(John 12:24)

Perhaps we should view the "wasted gifts" not as "buried talents" but as "buried kernels". And perhaps within the paradox of allowing God's gifts to go unused in order to serve him there lies the reason behind.... giving things up for Lent. It gets our priorities focussed on loving others instead of efficiently using our gifts to maximize our results.

At times I think we should be singing "Our God is a wasteful God" for he seems less concerned with efficiency than we are.


Dave King said...

I think the story of the talents is more about risk than maximizing every little detail. The guy who got punished is the guy who couldn't let go enough to do anything.

- Peace

Richard said...

Maybe I've been conditioned by all those "stewardship" drives which urge us to donate of our time, treasure, and talent.

God seems to have plenty of uses for my time and treasure and almost no need for my talent.

I've been conditioned to think that something was wrong if I wasn't putting my talents to good use (can't remember if I got that at St Thomas More, McLaurin, or IVCF - I suspect it was all three). Now I think that not using talents is a normal part of living out one's vocation of loving others.

Dave King said...

I think we need to recognize that as geeks & nerds we will tend to take those things further than others. Like my church in NB was heavy on the intelectual side, with my personality I tended to see the faith far more in those terms than others who were raised in that same church. It's partly env, it's partly us.

- Peace

s.o.e. said...

I know for myself, using my talents often becomes more about feeling special and talented than about serving God.

Being able to give up selfish aspirations has been an important part of learning obedience for me.

Nate said...

A talent was a unit of money, right? Surrendering your gifts to God, letting them die, is a different issue, right?

Not using gifts/talents in order to serve God makes plenty of sense to me, I think the idea you developed in this makes a lot of sense, at least in Christ logic.

The stewarding of money/talents story seems to be a separate issue of encouraging risk and teaching against hoarding, which we all want to do, with our money, with power, and with our gifts/talents.

So I agree with Lisa's comment.

Richard said...

Lisa, thank you for sharing the insight. Using gifts and such does have a danger of being more about feeling special and talented than serving God.

I was at my parent's Church at easter time and realized that my "longing" for music ministry was all about playing that fancy grand piano (bordering on idolatry in my case even) and nothing about serving God or making good use of talents.

I'm beginning to think I've totally missed the point those "stewardship drives" which exhort us to "use our gifts in service God". I've been focussing on using my gifts more than serving God.

It was probably a reasonable starting point (given that God lets us start pretty much anywhere) to get me into the practice of going to Church willingly rather than having my parents drag me to Church. Those days are long gone now.

Perhaps I should describe the common practice of surrendering gifts to God and letting them die as "leaving the fishing nets behind" rather than "burying talents".

And to think the answer to these ramblings has been preserved in Jesus first words to his disciples all along...