Are you familiar with the parable of the talents? This is one of those common stories we hear all the time from Sunday school on up, but also one of the stories that I most struggle with because of the layers of meaning. First of all, the use of the word “talents” as referring to a specific sum of money tends to get people thinking about their specific talents (as in gifts, abilities, things they excel doing). But I’ll get into that momentarily.
The story goes like this. A rich man was going on a trip, and he called three of his servants together. The first one he handed 5 talents, the second, 2 talents, and the third got 1 talent. It says that he gave to each according to their ability to handle it. And he left.
So the first servant went out and doubled his money, as did the second. The third servant was scared and buried the money in the ground. And the master came back (Matthew 25:20-23, ESV):
And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
The third servant didn’t fair quite as well – being called wicked, having his money taken away and given to the first servant, lots of weeping, etc. He clearly messed up. Each time I read or hear this passage, I find something new in it. Today is no exception, because I am continuing my focus on joy. Each of these servants was given responsibilities, and when the master returned, the two who had followed through were invited into the master’s joy. But they were also told “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” So the joy of the master is not a life of leisure and rest. It involves more work. Presumably the master himself continued to work while on his journey. This life does involve working. While the human, sinful inclination is a life of sloth and laziness, the joy of the Lord comes through hard work and serving others.
As I wrote about a few days ago, for me, depression comes easily. And what I have learned is that it tends to sneak in when I’m being lazy. I don’t intend for it to happen, but I start out with a night where I didn’t get enough sleep, followed by a morning without a meeting scheduled. So I let myself sleep in, then take my time in the morning with breakfast and watching some television. Pretty soon, half the day is gone and I start to feel guilty about that, but I’m hungry so I eat lunch (in front of the television) and I just need to finish this show… You can see where it leads.
I started paying attention – getting in the shower first thing makes me feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day. So I’m making a new commitment, to do just that. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but I refuse to let the morning roll past without taking a shower. Somehow it triggers the switch into productivity for me, and that’s really all I need to get a jump start on my day. My prayer is to end each day, instead of feeling guilty, hearing my Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”