Saturday, January 29, 2011

So I Was Afraid...

When I read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30, I know which of the three servants I am; I am the one who buries his talent out of fear.

This is the servant that the master calls wicked, lazy, and worthless. Pretty harsh language. But what did the servant really do wrong? In the parallel Parable of the Minas in Luke 19:11-27, the king explicitly charges his servants to "put his money to work."

But in Matthew's account, the master simply "entrusts" his property to them. He may expect that they return it to him with interest, but he doesn't verbalize this. So the "lazy" servant puts the one talent he has been entrusted with in a safe place; he buries it. Seems like a perfectly natural, responsible thing to do.

If my father entrusted me with $100,000 in this economic climate, I honestly would probably put it in an ING account at (a pitiful) 1% interest, rather than investing it in the stock market. I would be afraid to lose it, to come back with less than I started with. I imagine he would be more pissed if I lost money.

But with the Master, that is not the case. He doesn't respond to the two that gained a 100% return, "You fools! Why would you gamble with my money? What if you lost what I had entrusted you with?" No. Instead he praises them for their ballsy wager and entrusts them with even more.

There is one defining difference between the one servant and the other two, though: the servant entrusted with one talent acted out of fear. "Master," he says, "I knew that you are a hard man...so I was afraid, and hid your talent in the ground."

The words "Be not afraid" appear some 366 times in the bible. Despite this admonition, I still live in fear. I'm afraid of driving in the snow. I'm afraid of parking garages. I'm afraid of screwing up at work. I'm afraid of becoming a widower. I'm fearful of all kinds of shit. I feel like lately I am basically living most of my life in fear, with an aversion to risk, and little trust in God's providence. The older I get, the safer I want to be.

How did I get this way? Does God see this, and as a result, entrusts me with less? I feel like God asks a lot of us, and I'm not giving him a return on his investment in me. I feel like I should be working in a soup kitchen (for lack of anything more creative) or something, volunteering my time at the very least, but my laziness and my unpredictable hours at work prevent me from committing. What am I being charged with? How is God asking me to "put myself out there?" How am I building up the Kingdom on earth?

I can't shake this feeling that I am just not doing what God wants me to be doing, either because I don't know what that is, or because I'm afraid to risk anything for the sake of the Gospel. God spews the lukewarm from his mouth, and I am about as lukewarm as they come right now.

Lord, send your Holy Spirit. Set me on fire.

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