I was in a Bible study at church the other night and a woman was present who expressed a sentiment that many of us feel.
“I can go to Bible study after having read my assignment and I think I know what the verses mean. I listen to people discuss the verses and then I go home with very different ideas, ideas people have shared around the table.”
Such it is with the parable of the talents [Matthew 25: 14-30] as Dr. Willard expresses a new view [for me] of the famous passage.
Dr. Willard seems to think the parable is about the human perception of God as taskmaster. Of course when the master gave talents to two of the servants, they increased their talents by 50%. The other servant buried his talent and gave it back to his master.
He explained that he did that because he was afraid to lose the money and he anticipated his master’s anger if that happened because the master is a “hard man.”
What made the master mad was his servant’s conservatism, his inability to take the money and make it grow.
What the conservative servant did was misunderstand his master.
It is not too much of a leap to see that the master is God and we are the servants.
Do you see God as a hard man?
Do you see God as a conservative taskmaster?
Do you fear God’s punishment if you make a mistake?
Does that fear keep you from taking action in this world, action which God wants you to take?
Dr. Willard says God does not want to be our “cosmic boss, foreman or autocrat, whose chief joy in relation to humans is ordering them around, taking pleasure in seeing them jump at his command and painstakingly noting down any failures.”
How would God prefer to see us?
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
1 Corinthians 3:9
“For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
It is a shame that some people don’t understand how God wants to relate to us.
Yet that is what it is for many people.
I had a good friend who told me that he did not want to believe in God because God just keeps “black books” on people. He is waiting for us to mess up so he can put black marks in his book. He told me that that type of life is not for him. He wanted to have fun with his alcohol, his partying and his “fun” lifestyle.
His misconception is keeping him from joining the church. His misconception is keeping him from understanding God. His misconception is keeping him from knowing “the peace that passes all understanding.”
The irony of this misunderstanding of the role of God is that if you want God to be your taskmaster, He will fulfill that role, even though He does not want to fulfill it.
Dr. Willard says “He [God] …often condescends to us because our consciousness cannot rise any higher.” He admits if we have had harsh taskmasters as parents, bosses or other superiors, that can distort our view of God. But that is a shame. God does not want to be our personal autocrat.
To be our friend, we must share our thoughts with God.
To be our coworker, we must be willing to do what God wants us to do.
It is not easy. I know of many people who cannot share their concerns with others. I don’t know if they feel their thoughts are unimportant or if they feel they must live a life of secrecy and they are quiet people who don’t feel compelled to share.
I also know of people who are stuck in a routine that is the opposite of growth. They are mired in concrete, trying to maintain their status quo. I know some folks who are scared to death of change and get ill if anything in their life changes.
As I mention these two problems, I return again to the parable of the talents.
The disappointing servant would not disappoint his master if he had practiced good communication with his master, sharing his perception of his task and asking questions. The disappointing servant would not disappoint his master if he had been willing to take a chance and invest his talent so it would grow.
Question of the day:
What are you doing with your talents? Are you taking what God has given you and doing something with your talents? Are you wasting your talents by being too conservative?