I recently listened to a podcast by Malcolm Smith called "Buried Potential" (episode 207). It was suggested to me by my friend Ian. Malcolm talks about the parable of the talents that Jesus tells, and he talks about how the talent, or gold bar, represents the love of God, the Gospel, the Spirit of God Himself. Here's the parable (the "it" in the first sentence is the Kingdom of Heaven).
For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, "Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more." His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.
And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, "Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more." His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter the joy of your master."
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours." But the master answered him, "You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest."
I find this story profound, after having heard Malcolm explain it, and I felt I needed to write it down.
The master gives these servants more money than they've ever seen in their lives (Malcolm estimated that even 1 talent, or gold bar, would be worth close to twenty years wages!), and even more than that, he gives them freedom to invest it how they see fit. All of a sudden they are not taking orders any more.
These men are not prepared to invest money, but they are invited to join. It doesn't matter that they didn't have the prerequisites for the job, because they have the job. As Malcolm points out, what good is a resume if you have a job? The master can do with his money as he pleases, and it pleased him to give it to these servants, so now they have it.
This is the situation we find ourselves in as Christians. We did not deserve the love of God. We could make no case that we did. But it was given to us, so now we have it! And the overwhelming question is, what do we do with it? We share it. We invest it in the lives of other people.
Another point I loved was that the master gave them the talents so that they could feel the thrill of watching it grow and multiply. That is the master's work and the master's joy, but he is inviting his servants into it, because he wants them to experience it as well and to be a part of it. He is inviting them into his passion.
Again, we find ourselves in a similar situation as Christians. God's work and joy is to create and to love and to bring joy and life wherever he goes, and by giving us the Gospel, he is inviting us to feel what the feels like, to sharing in his work and his joy. What a gift! The Gospel is a living, pulsing, blooming thing. It has brought life and joy to us, and God means that it would bring life and joy through us as well. It shouldn't stop with us. What a shame if something so full of life comes to us and then dies.
Why do we so often approach things with the attitude of "This can't be done." Jesus says to us "All things are possible," and certainly when we have the Spirit of God pulsing in us how many things are now possible that were not before?
Why do we think of all the things we don't have? In Christ, haven't we been given more than we know what to do with? And though of course there are parts of God's will that are shrouded in mystery, isn't the will of God to bring life and love and hope and joy no mystery at all?