“Invest this until I get back.”
So much of who we are and what we are called to do is contained in this brief line in the parable of the talents. We are called and gifted. All that we have – all that we are – we have as “gift,” given to us for a very special purpose.
The contrast Jesus uses is amazingly contemporary and is very helpful for our everyday lives. Jesus does not want us to take what we have been given and simply preserve it – to protect the gifts, out of some fear, in a risk free way. Jesus wants us to “invest” our gifts – to take some risk, in order to grow the value of his investment in us.
In many ways, the message of Jesus is very counter-cultural. We resist, even though we know the truth of what Jesus says, from so many examples in life – muscles grow when we use them and they atrophy when we don’t use them. In our self-absorption culture, we are often discouraged from taking personal risks. We are often told – in hundreds of direct and subliminal ways – that we should always choose what will keep us “healthy.” Personal sacrifice – even for a greater good – is not always seen as good for me, and is therefore to be avoided. Being “stretched,” denying myself, serving the needs of others before my own, suffering greatly to stay faithful to a commitment, giving my self away in love, are all viewed with suspicion in a culture adverse to self risk.
Jesus frees us. The one who has given us the gifts we have will give us even more. However, even in the spiritual life, the “rate of return” is directly related to “the amount of risk” we take. Jesus stimulates our desires with this parable, stirring in us a confident desire to make better use of the gifts he has given us, by risking more and more to invest them for a higher rate of return.
Each of us today can go through our day, asking if we are being “overly cautious” with the gifts that have been given us. We can ask how much energy we are expending on avoiding risk, and how “tired” we are, from protecting ourselves. We can imagine ways to take a gift we have and use it to love more, listen more deeply, do something more self-sacrificing, offer forgiveness, spend some time for others we’d otherwise use on ourselves. And, at the end of the day, feeling some of the fatigue that comes from being stretched, we can look at the summary of our investments for the day, and give thanks.
By Andy Alexander