Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hijacked

Jesus tells us a parable.

"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants talents, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20And 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.' 21His 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.' 22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' 23His 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.' 24He 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,25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26But his 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? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

So the talents here are obviously anything God has given you to glorify Him, i.e. abilities, money, or something else of value.  If we’ll only utilize them as God has commanded He will bless us with even more so that we might glorify Him with them.  Right?  Isn’t that obvious?

Or what about this verse?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Obviously, “these things,” which Jesus referenced above are earthly things.  Food, water, shelter.  God is saying don’t be anxious because he’s going to give us all this stuff so that we don’t have to worry about it…right?  What else would he give us?  And wouldn’t we be required to do the best with what we have, so that we might glorify him?    

The two verses above are, I believe, two of the most hijacked verses in American culture.  It is almost automatic, as we live in one of the most well provided for nations in all of history, to believe that God has given us His stuff so that we might glorify Him.  But is this what Jesus was talking about in the parable and the paragraph?  Was he really so concerned with our welfare as it applies to our home on earth?  Just above the verse about the lilies of the field Jesus says to not store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.  So which is it Jesus?  What are we supposed to be looking for?

Well let’s think for a second.  And then let’s look at some of the people Jesus supposedly cared for.

The first person I can think of, and possibly one of the greatest examples in history of God using crazy to break preconceptions, is John.  The Baptizer.  This man ran around in nothing but animal skins and ate locusts and honey for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (possibly also elevensies.)  He was also called the “greatest man to be born of woman” by Jesus.  Jesus.  Not by other crazies.  Not even by the smart people of the time like the Pharisees.  By Jesus, the man born of a virgin who lived his entire life so that he could eventually sacrifice it, and then raise it on the third day for the glory of his Father.  That guy. 

But what happens to John?  Sure he eventually uses his talents, right?  Is eating bugs a talent outside preschool?  He died, in case you were wondering.  In fact, he died a pretty unimpressive death.  John lives a brief life and is executed during Jesus’ ministry by an old pervert named Herod.  THAT was the greatest man to have ever lived?

What about the disciples?  Surely Peter eventually got his fishing boat business together for the glory of Christ, right?  Not really.  Tradition says he was crucified upside down.  And the other disciples?  Only John lived to a ripe old age, and he was imprisoned for the majority of it.  These men, Lord?  You provided for these men? 

Now let’s be honest for a second.  If you were on a ship that you knew was going to sink because God said it was, wouldn’t you be a little anxious?  If Jesus specifically told you that you would be persecuted for the sake of his name, would you not be anxious?  If Jesus says don’t be anxious, but himself sweat blood before the cross, then what in the hell was he talking about?!

God if I can’t use my talents for your glory and my ambition as the fuel for my ministry, then what am I? 

I am loved.

What was Jesus getting at in the parable of the talents?  Did he mean earthly abilites?  What does it say?  The master gave his servants talents—how?—according to their ability.  In other words, they were already able, and God blessed them.  Now what is a talent, and why is it important?   Because if a talent is my earthly ability, then I have a lot of catching up to do.  In fact, I’d say I’ve totally dropped the ball in multiple areas God has gifted me in.

But what if instead God is talking about talents that matter eternally? 

Jesus says, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”  In heaven.  Jesus, in this parable, meant the Spirit.  How can athletic ability be given to someone because they were really good with money while they were on earth (the one talent man has his taken away from him)?  And why?  Jesus wasn’t saying that the man who horded his ability to play baseball would be stripped of that ability (although naturally if you don’t practice, it’s eventually lost anyway), he was saying that if we do not share and multiply the Word of God, Jesus, the Spirit, we will be cast out of eternity with him.  Does God apportion His Spirit differently depending on a person’s ability to receive it and multiply it? 

What kingdom are we working for now?  Why did the disciples all die horrific deaths?  Why did Paul say that if there was no resurrection of Christ, then we as Christians are to be most pitied?  Because we’re working for the end.  We’re working for an eternal, heavenly kingdom.  One which we cannot see, and one which at the moment often does not make sense.  We pursue and love God not for ourselves, but because he called us to do it. 

If God says do not be worried about life, because we need to observe the grass of the field, did he really mean that our calm comes from knowing God is going to keep us rich?  What is the very next part of that verse?  What happens to the grass?  It’s thrown into the oven!  Birds eat each other.  Animals are devoured by plagues and fungi.  Death reigns on earth right now.  But do we fear it?  Well we’re not supposed to.  Why not?

Jesus says he will be with you.  Seek first the kingdom, and all these things will be added.  God is saying the lilies of the field are glorious because they simply ARE.  They are.  You won’t find a flower slitting its stems because it doesn’t want to live anymore.  God gave us His Spirit so that we could live as His Son lived.  Completely content with our future as we know God to be sovereign in it.  Jesus desired the will of his Father more than anything else.  And how does God refer to himself?

I AM. 

God is.  We are.  Jesus came so that we might have life, but if you hide that life, what kind of person are you?  If I hide the Word, the one eternal truth that gives life to all things, would I not be worthy of the “outer darkness?” 

Jesus calls us to live and breathe with him.  Fall in love with God, and suddenly it won’t matter how He uses you, because your desire was always to be with Him in the end.