Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Personal Meditation on Matthew 25:14-30


The thoughts contained in this post are my own personal musings.  I do not claim to speak for God, nor do I claim to know the "correct" way to interpret the Bible.  I only know how this passage has inspired me in my own life.

Matthew 25: 14-30

14 For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, "Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them." 21 His lord said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, "Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them." 23 His lord said to him, "Well don, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." 24 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, "Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours." 26 But his lord answered and said to him, "You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

A Literal Interpretation

It's obvious from reading the story that the literal meaning of the word talent refers to money.  A talent was a unit of weight, and the talents that were given to the three servants represented a rather large sum of money.  More information about talents in the Bible can be found here.  But of course this story is a parable, so it has meaning beyond just the literal.

A Common Interpretation

As modern English speakers, we cannot hear the word talent without thinking of its modern meaning, and that meaning is often applied to this story whenever Matthew 25 is read in churches today.  An interpretation that I have heard many times is that God gives us talents (or abilities) and He expects us to put them to use.  He does not want us to "bury our talents in the ground."  Of course this brings up the inevitable question of just how we are to use our talents.  As Christians we are taught to use our abilities for God's glory, and often think of acts of service.  A musician can play the piano in church, a chef can open a soup kitchen, a linguist can work as a translator in international missions.  But are these the only ways we can use our talents?

My Own Personal Dilemma

Writing about this is hard, because I don't want to get off on a tangent and talk about all of the times I have questioned my faith, or the times I have felt that my fellow Christians have let me down, or the times I have shaken my fists at God and asked, "Why?"  I want to stay on topic, and talk about my feelings about Matthew 25, but when I start talking about talents, in the modern sense of the word, I can't escape the feelings of frustration that often have followed my desire to use my own abilities.  I will try my best to streamline the topic a bit.

I have always viewed humility as a virtue to which we should all aspire.  I look to Jesus's example in John 13 when he washed the disciples' feet.  In addition to that story, there are also many verses in the Bible that talk about viewing others as better than ourselves.  With this mindset, the idea of using my talents to glorify myself is a difficult one to wrap my mind around.

Nevertheless, I struggle constantly with the desire to show off.  And I don't just want to use my talents in church.  I want to show the world what I can do.  I often wonder if this is something God wants me to do.  Then I read Matthew 25 and I have to ask myself, "If I believe in God, and I believe He gave me life, don't I also have to believe that He is the one who gave me my talents?  Shouldn't I also believe that He wants me to use them?"  I've struggled with that question many times.  By way of inserting another disclaimer in here, I must say that the conclusion I have drawn is my personal opinion.  As I stated above, I do not claim to speak for God.

Here's what I've concluded.  If I think of God as my father, I have to think that He sees me the way I see my own children.  If my children are good at something, I want to shout it from the rooftops.  Doesn't God feel the same way about me?  He gave me a voice, so He must want me to sing.  He gave me a body, so He must want me to dance.  He gave me an imagination, so He must want me to write.  And he gave me a desire to do those things in front of an audience, so He must want me to perform.  I remember one day when I was feeling particularly discouraged by my own personal struggle with humility vs. pride I prayed, "God, put me on a stage and let me be your shining star.  Sit in the audience and applaud as I show the world what I can do.  Be proud of me."  I think that he is proud of me.

I know that many of the people who read this blog may be looking at it from different points of view.  Even if you do not agree with my conclusions, I hope that you can find some inspiration in what I have written today.

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