(see I. Introduction )
"To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, each according to his ability."
~Matthew 25:15 (click here to read the whole chapter)
This week I am beginning to prepare some practice incentive ideas and goals for my students. I made a couple of lists of goals that my students could acheive over the course of the semester. The first list encompasses all of my students, it contains goals that are acheivable no matter the level, age or instrument of my students. The second is specific to my older, more advanced piano students; it contains more challenging goals that will fit their level of playing. The third list is for my younger piano students, it has challenges that are contoured toward their lower level of playing. The fourth is for my violin students, with goals that relate to the challenges specifically involved in playing the violin. When I hand out those lists next semester and ask them to pick out some goals to aim for, I won't give my beginner piano students the second list or the fourth list. Nor would I give the violin students the second or third list! They need challenges according to their ability.
The Parable of the Talents is a parallel of what God has given us. We are in the not-yet time of waiting for God's kingdom to arrive. He's handed out the talents, but he hasn't come back yet to settle accounts. The 'talents' that he gives us are sort of like the skills that my students already possess, for them it's their understanding of notes, their ability in playing, their instrument at home, their time to practice. For us, those talents are our time, our specific skills and talents, our treasure, our relationships. One day he's going to come back and we'll have to give account for what we did with the "talents" that he gaves us.
Here's the thing: the Master gives to us according to our ability, exactly what He ought to give, and with that we often increase or decrease our abilities. The Lord who knows the heart and mind and soul, who judges with perfect wisdom perceives our abilities and gives accordingly. Sometimes he measures our ability and he gives beyond our ability so that we learn to rely on Him. He knows beyond all our comprehension what is our ability. I can only imagine that His calculation of my ability is far different from my own!
The servant who received five, and the servant who received two were both faithful over little, and suddenly they were given much. In Luke's gospel, suddenly the servants were entrusted with fives or tens of cities! Though in Matthew he doesn't say specifically what the "much" is, we know that their reward for being faithful wasn't just to kick back and relax. Instead it was greater responsibility.We have a tendency to complain about what we have been given, as if the Spirit of the living God were not alive inside of us, moving in us, changing us. We act as though everything is "too much" for us, and yet here we see that can hardly be true. Perhaps we have been faithful in little and suddenly we must be faithful in much—it is a great reward, not a punishment! And if the Spirit of God is in me, even if it is too much for me, I can lean upon him, which is exactly what Jesus wants. Sometimes God sets small tasks before us to give us the chance to be faithful in the small things, and sometimes he rewards that faithfulness with larger tasks, beyond our ability or understanding.
Are you dismissing the small obediences of the Father insteading being faithfully obedient in what is before you? Do you treat the rewards of the Father as punishments instead of blessings? Do you work with joy at the task set before you? This means no grumbling or complaining: faithful obedience in even the smallest and most mundane things.
We find a perfect illustration in C.S. Lewis's book The Horse and His Boy:
' "Are—are—are you," panted Shasta. "Are you King Lune of Archenland?"
'The old man shook his head. "No," he replied. "I am the Hermit of the Southern March. And now, my son, waste no time on questions but obey. This damsel is wounded. Your horses are spent. Rabadash is at this moment finding a ford over the Winding Arrow. If you run now, without a moment's rest, you will still be in time to warn King Lune."
'Shasta's heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one. But all he said out loud was:
'"Where is the King?"'
(The Horse and His Boy, 145-146; C.S. Lewis)
May God teach us to work at his blessings with joy, to learn to that "to do one good deed, your reward is usually to be set to do another and harder and better one." And may we respond, if we cannot respond in joy, at least with obedience immediately and no wasted time grumbling and complaining.