Do you ever feel that God has appointed a task to you that you can’t see the point of? These opening verses refer back to previous posts about Jesus asking Martha to move the stone away from the opening of Lazarus’ grave, and also to the man who was given only one talent to put to work for his Master’s benefit:
“Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” – John 11:39
“He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’” – Matthew 25:24-25
As we continue a series on the Beatitudes with the third Beatitude “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” I am reminded of the mid-2000’s TV series Lost, where character Desmond Hume is trapped on a mysterious island and enters a code into a computer every 108 minutes. He does it – even in the middle of the night – because he was told he is “saving the world” by someone he trusts. When the code – 4 8 15 16 23 42 – is entered on time nothing happens except the re-setting of a clock to 108 minutes. “The numbers” are referenced over and over again in the show, individually or all together, and seem to have a mystic power over events. The number of minutes allowed to enter the code – 108 – is the sum of the six numbers. Even fans seemed to believe “the numbers” had power – there was a boom in playing them in the lottery.
As other characters find Desmond and ask questions, the numbers and the button become a case study of faith versus reason. Why is he doing this? Eventually, the button isn’t pushed on two occasions and the consequences are very serious indeed, but this lesson is only learned by failing to act on faith. While initially faith demands that Desmond enter the numbers over and over again, the two failures show that there was a reason behind Desmond’s faith even if he didn’t know it. It wasn’t pointless after all. However, failure isn’t always the best way to learn to be meek.
Every Talent Matters
In a story told by Jesus in Matthew 25:14-30, a man entrusts his servants with some money (the “talents” in the story were a large unit of currency, and the word later came to mean a natural or special ability): five to one servant, two to the next, and one to the last servant. The first two servants use their “talents” to bring in more for their master, but the last buries the money in the ground to keep it safe. This servant might have been thinking: “What’s the point? The other guy has five talents, and with that I might be able to do something. But with only one…Why bother?” But if the master’s intent was to keep the talent safe, why would he give it to a servant? It was only after some time, when the master returned from a journey, that the servant learned the consequence of his inactivity. The servant is cast out and his talent is given to the better servant.
Waiting until we have more to offer, more to do, or a better sense of the possible consequences is like burying our talent in the sand and therefore determining for ourselves that it does not matter and there is no point. In the words of “Shy Away” by twenty øne piløts, you “manifest a ceiling when you shy away.” Whatever purpose God has for our talents – in their exact amounts and types – it wasn’t for us to bury them. The meek servants who took what they had and worked for their master’s interest, were rewarded. “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
For me personally – sometimes I put off, or want to give up, writing because it seems pointless – who reads this anyway? But it’s what I currently feel compelled to offer. Blogging may seem a strange thing to do, but it’s better than burying these ideas in the ground and hoping a fruit tree magically pops up. I don’t know what will happen when I do or don’t write, but I know a refusal to be meek to our Lord has consequences. Sometimes we aren’t sure why, but we know Who is asking.
Play Your Own Numbers
Jesus has not asked me (and probably not you) to enter “4 8 15 16 23 42” into a computer or to move a stone from a tomb, but He knows exactly what He wants us to do, to become, and how He wants to impact others through us. There are specific needs He wants only us to meet, including our own needs for meaning and joy. We should never just copy someone else’s “numbers,” but seek our own. If Lost fans won the lottery with those numbers, they would have to share the prize, but if each won playing their own way their prize would be much bigger. Likewise, I believe the eternal reward is higher when you play the numbers – and only the numbers – God gave you personally.
Consider God’s personal instructions to you as your own lottery ticket, or the most important treasure you will ever have:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” – Matthew 13:44-45
Being meek is not a matter of how much one has to offer but knowing who you offer it to and being faithful to that master’s interests. It is not a matter of knowing why, but a matter of trusting the One who asks you to be meek. He is the King of the Kingdom.
Finally, just because the consequences aren’t obvious to you doesn’t mean there aren’t any:
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Guardian angel Clarence Oddbody, in It’s a Wonderful Life