“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
The last line from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day is probably one of the most inspirational lines ever written in poetry and one of my personal favorites, but it is also a question my husband and I have been asking ourselves most intently this new year.
Last year, I began to meditate on Jesus’ parable of the talents. In this parable, a master gives each of his servants a number of talents before leaving on a long journey. To one he gave more, to the others he gave less, but to each of his three servants he gave something. The master in this story represents God. To some, God gives much and to others he gives just enough but to everyone he gives something, and he is never mistaken about what and how much to give you. If there is only one thing you glean from this story it can be summed up right here in the beginning: God is the great Giver and he has given to you.
In the story told in Matthew 25:14-30, each talent represented more than a thousand dollars, but I believe the talents could represent so much more than just money. The talents could represent your very life, your days, your skills, your faith, your possessions or your time. It could also represent all the things God gives us in relationship with himself: his Son, his Spirit, his presence and his love.
And he gives us the ability to…
so much more.
Your talents are anything God has placed in your possession. When the master finally returned from his journey and settled accounts with his servants, the two men that immediately went out and used their talents and profited were rewarded by the master with yet more, but most importantly, they were rewarded by a joyful relationship with their Giver.
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25: 21, 23 (emphasis mine)
They were rewarded with his presence, his joy and his fellowship. The master also never compared the two faithful servants. Both began with different amounts and produced different amounts. While one had more and gained more than the other, their reward from the master was exactly the same. What a comforting truth! We may hopelessly compare ourselves to the people around us, but this is not what God does. He sees that you are faithful with what he has given you and nothing more. Each one of us, although differing in gifts and abilities, can each be showered fully in the joy of the Giver.
But there was a third servant.
And the third servant did nothing. He did worse than nothing. He went away covered up and buried the something that they master gave him, and he lost everything because of it. But when we are honest we think the master to be overly harsh to this poor servant. So he was afraid (Matt 25:25), aren’t we all? Yet the master lectures him then bans him from his presence saying,
“And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25: 30
He calls him wicked, lazy and worthless. Why was the master so harsh? Was he mad because he needed a few hundred extra bucks? No, the true sin of the “wicked and lazy servant” was not that he was financially unwise, rather his sin was that he denied the gift, and by denying the gift he denied the Giver of the gift. He denied his relationship to his master and forfeited his opportunity as his servant. By ignoring what his master had given him, He denied he had a relationship with the Giver at all. The sobering reality of this parable, the one that gives me cold chills when I think of it, is not that the third servant was punished for doing something wrong, but simply for doing nothing at all.
Mark Batterson in his book All In puts it like this:
“I’m afraid we’ve reduced righteousness to the absence of wrongdoing, but goodness is not the absence of badness. You can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right…breaking even is bad. You’ve got to ante up everything.”
And anteing up everything is exactly what the two faithful servants did. I think it’s interesting that in the story, it fails to say what the two faithful men did with their talents, except only that they gained more than what they had. Perhaps there is a reason for this. Perhaps it just doesn’t matter. Because God has a different calling for each of us, a different way to live life. Perhaps this is exactly how he wanted it to be. Because you can’t box God in. You can’t create a formula to life with God. Life with God is first and foremost and always a relationship and there are no formulas for that. We certainly try to create formulas that make sense of a wild, unfathomably holy, untamed and majestic God, but it can never be done. When once we think we have God pinned down, he will do something unexpected and shocking, something we never could have imagined because well…he’s God.
Leaving Jesus’ parable and going back to the book of Genesis, I can only imagine the first two people that got to trod the wild jungles and explore the mountains God laid out for them when time began. I think God was watching them, excitedly smiling, waiting to see what they would do with all of his goodness. I think he must have been beside himself with joy!
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ ” Genesis 1:28
In essence I believe God was saying, “Go! Enjoy all of me! All that I have made!”
The Message bible puts it this way:
“God created human beings, he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: ‘Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of the Earth.” Genesis 1: 26-28
God’s call to “Go” hasn’t changed since the beginning of the world. He still beckons each one of us to wild abandon and adventure with him. Even in Jesus Christ, this message to go and live and increase remains.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you may go and bear fruit– fruit that will last and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16 (emphasis mine)
We didn’t choose God. God always chooses us. We didn’t create ourselves. God created us. He enters into our lives, walks with us in relationship and says “Go. The world is your canvas, your playground, your field. Go spread yourselves out everywhere, explore, create. What will you do with all I’ve made for you? What will you do with all I’ve given you? In a relationship with me, when I am the Giver in your life, what we do together will be good and beautiful and meaningful and right.”
Our lives are here and then gone in a moment…What are you going to do with your life?