Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Best Investments

This morning I read in my Bible about the master who went on a far journey and left 10 of his servants with a pound a piece, then later returned to see how they made use of them.

I'm sure you're familiar with the parable.  For those of you who aren't, "pounds" were a currency back then, and Jesus was telling the story to His disciples to make a point. This "master," who gave out the pounds and then came back had basically told his servants to invest the money on his behalf, and to keep at it until he returned to collect.

Simple tale.

The first servant gained 10 pounds from his initial one pound. Pretty good investing, if you ask me! He was rewarded by being put in charge of ten cities; faithful in little, faithful in much. The second servant had gained 5 pounds. Still not bad.

The last servant had not only NOT invested the money given to him, but he had a few choice words to say to his master. In an excuse, to explain why he'd simply hidden the money in a napkin and done nothing else, the servant said; "I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedest not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow."

He seemed to think that explained everything. The master was angry with him, and told him he should have at least lent it to the bank and gotten interest. Then the master took away the one pound, and gave it to the wiser servant. So the last servant was left with nothing; not even the pound he so carefully preserved in a napkin.

I've heard this story many, many times. Most of the time, it is used to illustrate the matter of "talents." When God makes a person, and saves them, He gives them abilities. Some of them are natural, that the person is born with, and some of them are spiritual gifts, that are dropped in when the person is born again. A natural gift would be something like the ability to play an instrument or understand computers really well. A spiritual gift would be something like having a special capacity for mercy, or being able to preach.

God gives us these abilities and tells us to invest them; we are to use them and develop them, and serve Him with them. If we don't do this, we are like the last servant, who kept his money hidden away. The master was not pleased with him.

I think many of us have heard that many times. But the last few times I have read this story, a new thought has entered my mind.

You see, I never could figure out what that last servant meant by what he said to his master. I thought it was an odd excuse to make. I used to shrug it off; what difference did it make what the servant said? The point was that he hadn't used his talents for their intended purpose. I did think it was a little odd that, since the master is supposed to represent God, the servant called him austere - selfish and cruel, basically. And the master agreed with him! But I just supposed that part just didn't apply to God.

Lately I've begun to understand. Let me rewrite the scene in my own words.

Master: "Well, Servant, how have you used what I gave you? Did you invest it like I expected you to? Have you caused my assets to grow?"
Servant: (clutching the money, still wrapped up, to his chest) "No. See - here; I kept it safe, right here. I wasn't about to do the work of investing it; checking the stocks, taking inventory, doing paperwork. I knew you would come back to claim it all. I knew you'd take it all away from me. You're a cruel, selfish man! Why should I do all that work, just so you can come and snatch it away from me?!"
Master: "But it is mine. That money is mine. The growth of it would have been mine as well. It is your duty to return it to me. Why didn't you at least put it in the bank and let it gain interest?"
Servant: (Grasping the napkin even tighter) "MINE!"

I seem to see a bit of myself in this servant. Often I want to hold on to my talents, and use them only when I profit from it. It's all well and good to say I'm serving God, but do I really hold my fist loosely closed? Am I willing to let Him have all the interest; and the principle, too? Do I hang back from serving, because I know that He is going to claim the profit? Any time I do, I am JUST LIKE this foolish servant.

That's something to think about.

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