Once in a while I hear someone point out that talents, as used in New Testament times, meant money not “playing the piano” or whatever example they pick on. 🙂 I see the point; point granted. Obviously it’s a parable; we can think of any thing God may have given us, which includes what we tend to call “talents” today.
But on Sunday I was listening to a talk on using our talents because they are gifts from God (it was a nice talk in and of itself) and it made me think again about talents as money, though. What if we actually read the parable in terms of money? What’s going on there?
I was thinking about how when I “feel” poor (whether or not I am by statistical standards is another story) what do I want to do? Hide up my money, don’t use it, look to others in hopes they will fulfill my fantasies, feel upset with kids if they leave lights on or whatever, because it’s up to me to “not fail” and lose what I have been given, which at the time feels very small. I think that these feelings can be felt at almost any income level; this isn’t a commentary on my own personal situation as much as a commentary on an attitude towards money.
So back to the parable for a moment. When I am in that sort of state of mind, it’s funny how I don’t actually see that what I have is a gift from God. It feels more like a trick, a trap, a test, or even chains. It feels like I’d better not lose a penny or I’ve done something wrong! Rather, as the parable suggests, money is given to be used. This doesn’t mean squandered or spent on frivolities just for the sake of spending – but actually producing something with the money. I am going to step aside of the parable here, since in the parable what is produced is more talents, but I think the idea of producing something is important. God gives me money as a stewardship, and he wants me to do something with it. To create, bless, prosper, enjoy. In all wisdom, and in a spirit of joy, I can counsel with Him and with my husband as to how to bless others with what we have. A simple trip to get ice cream with the kids could be a frivolous use of money, or, it could create a space of conversation and community that blesses our family for the entire week. There’s no list of “perfect uses” of our money; it depends on what we want to accomplish – for God’s work – in that particular moment.
We have collected over a thousand – maybe even two thousand – books over the 10 years of our marriage. At times I have wondered how much we have spent, collectively, on those books and whether or not I should feel guilty about the money that is in them and not sitting in the bank. That’s when I realize I am trying to hide that talent of money in the ground, in fear of failing God and losing it. I think it is a beautiful thing that we have a library in our home. Even if every book is not picked up every day or every year, they are there. Their presence says something, teaches something. And they are available. I love especially our kids’ library. Fun and interesting pictures books. Books for those beginning to read. Chapter books. My childhood favorites like The Mouse and the Motorcycle and The BFG. Books our kids have taught us about, like Percy Jackson, and some we discovered together, like A Series of Unfortunate Events and Harry Potter. I love our collection of “learning books”: the Childcraft series has been wonderful, and picked up often, books on science, art, the body, castles, Egypt, history, maps, stars, and animals. Even the pictures teach something. I am grateful that as my children’s curiosity is so strong right now there are books they can explore and give that curiosity something to work on. So, a good use of money over the years? If I hear it in terms of “money” I almost can’t answer the question. This isn’t something that fits into the terms of investments and nest eggs; this is a work of creating and producing something besides money. And something has been produced here that I absolutely love!
So whether I am “rich” or “poor” (or likely somewhere in between), I have been given a great gift from God: an opportunity, a command, even, to use whatever money He gives me (since it really is all from Him) to do great things. And that also involves a trust that as I do that, my daily, constant needs of tomorrow and then next day will be met. Wisdom in all things of course; but also joy and trust and work. I suppose that’s my understanding of what we call “consecration.”
(More thinking coming, I assume…)