Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shiny Talents

On Friday all the SI-DR missionaries gathered for a day of studying the parables of Jesus.  This is going to be the early morning Bible Study for the groups coming down on outreaches, so our leadership wanted us to know what they’d be learning.  In this way, we can incorporate what they are reading in the morning with their time with us at our ministry sites. 
We spent time alone reading through the various parables and study questions, and then in small groups.  I love studying scripture with others who are really keen on learning new things from familiar passages.  We’ve all studied the parables so many times, but to hear other ideas, other insights, was wonderful. 
Now, I know what you’re thinking:  That many missionaries together, talking about Jesus, well, the holiness must have caused a glow that lit the countryside.  Nope, sorry to disappoint you, it was nothing like that.  Although, considering how bad the power has been lately, that would have been good!
Instead, we’re just us.  On the one hand, yes, we have given up a lot to come here.  On the other, when we look at the life Jesus has called His followers to live, we’ve hardly laid down one thing.  Instead of being content to bask in the warmth of our own awesomeness, each one of us sees how much more there is to give and do. 
In the Parable of the Talents, the one who buried the talent proudly handed it back with pious-sounding words, “I return to you what is yours.”  Sounds great, right?  We give Thee but Thine own and all that. 
But, who does the king reward?  The one who went out and put the five talents to work.  As one of my co-missionaries pointed out, he risked it all.  Am I carefully guarding my one talent to return it shiny and ding-free, and never taken out of the package?  Or, am I willing to pour it all out, put it all into action, not holding a bit of it back to caress and cuddle? 
When I'm feeling like it's too much to give, it's time to look up to the cross and ask, What is that worth?
Or better, What isn’t that worth?  We have eternal life because our Savior did not consider His glory, His life!, worth more than bringing His Father glory through our rescue. 
Jesus didn’t hang out on Planet Earth, carefully keeping Himself whole so that He could return to His Father, See, I’m returning to You what is Yours!  He didn’t calculate a tithe of time to inhabit human flesh, hungering, aching, weary.  Sorry, folks, I’ve done my 10 percent, time to get off this cross!  Instead, He emptied Himself.  He poured out His very life to win us ours. 
Compared to that, my sacrifices don’t even merit being called sacrifices. 
I’m not trying to make you feel guilty.  Really, I’m not.  There’s plenty enough of that out there.  Instead, I’m inviting you to take another look at what God has given you.  You have talents – yes, money, but also skills, experiences, education, gifts.  Do they look pretty sitting on the shelf, or are they scuffed up from use? 
I can tell you from experience, the more you spend, the more you give, the more you empty, the easier it does get.  The amazing thing about how God works is that by risking it all, you find you have more and more to risk.  The man who earned five more talents was given the one of the wicked, lazy servant. 
It’s actually kind of hilarious.  The more committed I am to giving away, the more there is to give.  I can hardly keep up because the blessings keep coming. 
Holding on and being cautious actually causes even the bit we have to shrivel.  The irony is, living like this ensures that we won't even have the one talent to present to God.
Jesus said it, and He meant it, we truly do lose our life by clinging to it.  And, there truly is life, and abundant life, when we give it away.  Oh, what a God we serve!   

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