As the New Year settles, I find myself bumping up against the questions that accompany the new beginning of 2019. The final months of 2018 were filled with God’s radical calling on my life and even more radical promises. It seems in my life that the greater the promise, the more radical the call. God has promised healing, but He has also called me to terrifying places of obedience. I’m simultaneously giddy with the joy of anticipation and gnawing my nails off in intimidation.
As I opened up my Bible tonight, God led me to the parable of the master, the three slaves, and the talents. Lately, Jesus’ parables have freshly come alive as God illuminates truths that I never caught before in my 30 years of Bible study and memorization. I love that God’s word is living and active, coming alive in our hearts as we humbly and prayerfully approach the text in obedience.
As I read Matthew 24:14-30, God placed this question in my heart: What stories am I believing about God?
Upon reading this passage repeatedly, I am left with this resounding question bouncing around in my head: What story am I telling myself about the Master? I don’t know exactly where the third slave started to veer off course, but one statement read like it was surrounded by flashing neon lights: “Master, I knew you were a hard man.”
Knew? He was a hard man? I do this. I make assumptions about people, and my assumptions end up creating chaos and hurt. False narratives drive so many forms of brokenness, and they can destroy relationships.
If his first blow wasn’t enough, the servant went further to make accusations against the master: The third servant claimed that the master reaped where he did not sow (was a cheater and exploiter), and he gathered where he had scattered no seed (was untrustworthy). Because of the narrative that the third servant believed about the master, he did not honor the gift from the master. In fear, he buried it. Because the master represents God in this parable, I am confident that the third servant was living in a false narrative. I am also confident that he believed it whole-heartedly. What a tragedy! If only he had known the master’s heart. If only we took time to examine our hearts, our narratives, and seek to believe the truth about God and one another!
The third servant operated out of a false fear-based narrative about the Master, and as a result, he did not trust Him. I find God prying at my heart tonight: “What narrative are you believing about me? How is it influencing how you use the gifts that I have given you?”
He is also asking me, “What narratives are you believing about other people in your life? Where are you turning your back on relationships based on your lack of trust and your fleshly inclination to believe the worst about others?”
I am confident that we must first examine our narrative about God. Who is God to us? We must humbly kneel, and prayerfully under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, pour out our hearts honestly before the Lord: What are your core beliefs about the person and character of God? Jesus? The Holy Spirit? What beliefs do not line up with the truths of scripture? Which beliefs lead to fear, shame, and away from love? What parts of your God-narrative is the Spirit leading you to lay down in surrender to the Lord? How is this influencing your behavior and relationships?
The first two servants do not present nearly as detailed of a narrative as the third servant. I believe that they did not feel the need to justify their behavior, and as a result, did not hurl accusations at the master. But one word hits me as indicative of their relationship with the master. Upon the master’s return, they both say to him, “You have entrusted five (or two) talents to me.”
Entrusted:What does it mean that they see the talents (in this context, meaning units of money) as entrusted by the master? They are not a “loan,” or even an “investment.” Entrusting implies committing with absolute trust and confidence. It is no small thing to entrust something to someone’s care. These servants understand the honor and burden that they carry, and they see their relationship with the master as deeply valuable. As a result, they carefully consider their actions with the talents that have been given to them. They believe the master to be trustworthy, and they believe his character to be solid.
What narrative do we believe about the Master? How is that narrative informing the way that we live our lives? Do we trust Him? Do we see Him as just and trustworthy, or the opposite?
Are we choosing how to invest our gifts and talents based on a fundamental fear of the Giver of those gifts? Does this inform our assessment of others? If we are living from this narrative, I believe that we are missing out. If we continue to live from this narrative, I also believe that one day we will find ourselves deprived of the great joy of the deeper trust of the Master.
Who is the Gift-Giver to you?
James 1:17 assures us that:
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
There is no variation, and no shifting shadow in God. The Message version of this verse says, “There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.”
I have lived in the shadow of fear regarding my gifts and did not trust God. I have lived in the shadow of comparison (I only have one talent, and that person over there was given five!), and I have sulked in the corner, burying my seemingly meager talents as I watched those whom I assumed the Master loved more than He loved me, all the while, hurling accusations rather than investing my gifts.
But when I got to know the Giver, everything shifted.
As I have experienced the faithful, trustworthy, loving character of God, I have begun to trust the Giver of every good and perfect gift, recognizing that He has entrusted to me the gifts that He deems appropriate for me. I am learning what it takes to multiply those gifts diligently through prayer, surrender, service, training, and stewardship of time and energy.
I am growing to trust the Giver, and as a result, my overall narrative is shifting. As I grow to see God for God, I am slowly learning to see others for who they are as well. I am safe to stretch my talents, to engage in passions that up to this point have seemed to “risky.” God has entrusted me with gifts of teaching, writing, intercession, discernment, worshipping through music, preaching, and encouragement. And that’s just the beginning. I have hidden my talents in the dark for too long.
The Master loves me, and there is absolutely no fear in His love. And because the Master loves me, I can pour out love to those around me, choosing to believe the best narrative about others as well. As my narrative of God becomes more solidly rooted in the truth, the faulty narratives that I have built regarding other people in my life are slowly being exposed and corrected.
As God challenges our narratives, we might find ourselves uncomfortable. As we step out in deliberate trust of the Master who has entrusted to us great gifts, we feel our breath catch in our throats, and the mutant butterflies wreak havoc in our insides. But believe me, the temporary discomfort is nothing compared to the joy that is involved in the further trust that the Master wants to place upon us with greater gifts and deeper fellowship with Himself.
And the outcome is this affirmation from God: Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master (Matt 24:23).
What a promise. Enter into the joy of your master. May we all enter into that joy as we learn to see the gifts for what they are: Entrustments. May we enter into the love story with the Master vertically as we learn to see God for who God is: Deeply, overwhelmingly loving us. May we engage with one another horizontally as we choose to see each other for who we are: Friends, loved-ones, learning what it means to love and be loved.
Let’s re-evaluate our false narratives and let God write our true love story: In this narrative, we are loved extravagantly, and we are entrusted with extravagant gifts, which we, in turn, pour out in love for the world.