More than enough

When it comes to the big ticket stuff, stuff like the 10 Commandments, most of us know what to do. Not to brag, but I think we do decent job with the whole “thou shalt not kill” thing.

The thing is, God’s plan for our lives doesn’t stop with the big ticket stuff. God’s plan for our lives includes less visible stuff as well.

But less visible doesn’t mean less important.

Those less visible, less obvious things include the things that God has uniquely equipped each one of us with. The abilities, the hidden strengths, the more than enough that God has given to each one of us.

All that we have been given, so that we can do what God has called us to do.

So what does any of that have to do with today’s Gospel, which is all about the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is how we know. How we know what to do with the more than enough that God has given to us.

God’s Holy Spirit, dwelling in our hearts, is there. Not just to point us in the right direction.

But to give us the grace, the strength that we need to do what God has called us to do with the more than enough that He has given to us.

Which is why, whenever we get too worried about how we’re going to do something, we need to stop. And remember that we’re not doing it alone.

Because God’s idea of more than enough isn’t just giving us everything we need for what He has called us to do.

God’s idea of more than enough is doing it with us. Every step of the way.

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God’s idea of success

Today’s Gospel is the Parable of the Talents. 

In New Testament times, a talent was a large unit of measurement for gold or silver. In today’s dollars, a talent of silver would be about $500,000. Meaning that the servants in the parable were each trusted with half a million dollars. 

Each one got the money to start a business. And time to get that business up and running before reporting back. Knowing how much a talent is worth makes Jesus’ point even clearer. The one who did nothing with his talent wasted half a million dollars.

That is exactly how God wants us to think about our talents. About our God-given skills and abilities. As assets which are that valuable. And everything we need for success.

We get the basic idea - the servants are given talents, and there are consequences for what they did (or didn’t) do with those talents. Because the story ends on the servant who wasted his talent, the what-not-to-do part, it can be easy to miss the what-to-do part.

The part that shows us God’s idea of success.

The servants have each been entrusted with a talent. Along with that talent, God has given them the grace to handle it. And each of them is judged – judged according to their ability to use what they’ve been given. 

God doesn’t say to the servant who used one talent to make five, “You did okay, I guess. Too bad you couldn’t make ten.”  

The servant who was given one talent and made five? Is received just as warmly as the servant who was given one talent and made ten.

Which tells us that God’s idea of success – success in the eyes of the only One whose opinion matters in the end – has nothing to do with comparisons. With keeping up with whoever.

God’s idea of success?

It’s all about what we do with what God has given us.

About being wise enough to follow His lead. And keeping our eyes on Him.

Instead of wasting one moment worried about how someone else is doing.

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To whom much is given

A lot of sayings sound like Bible verses. Stuff like “God helps those who help themselves,” “to thine ownself be true,” “charity begins at home.” None of that’s in the Bible.

Then there’s “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

It’s been quoted by presidents and politicians. And it actually is a Bible verse (in today’s Gospel). One of the scarier ones, if you think about what it really means.

Think about all of the gifts you’ve been given. Your skills and abilities. The things come easily for you. Things you do well. Even material wealth.

They’re not just yours.

Don’t get me wrong, you have them. You’re the one in control of what you do with them.

But those gifts are no accident. You don’t have them for no reason. Or just for your own enjoyment.

God gave them to you for a purpose. To give them away. To help others.

The point of “to whom much is given, much is expected” is that – just like the servants in the parable of the talents – we will give an account to God of what we did with the gifts God gave us.

Which means that you and I need to be asking ourselves if we’re really ready to tell God about what we did with what we were given.

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A Moment before the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday's Old Testament reading is from Proverbs, seen by many as the practical advice part of the Bible.  While that view of Proverbs isn’t wrong, it’s not the whole picture.  The sayings are practical, but (just like the Gospel) they are also meant to be understood on more than one level. 

The Gospel for Sunday is the Parable of the Talents.  Jesus’ story uses the talent (an ancient unit of currency, worth about $500,000 in today's dollars) to mark the high value of skills and abilities (talents) that God gives to each of us. 

With the way that the story ends, it’s pretty clear that doing nothing with your God-given talents is kind of like listening to an investment advisor whose idea of diversifying your investments involves burying your money in two mason jars instead of just one.

Because the story closes with the what-not-to-do part, it can be easy to miss the what-to-do part.  When you hear Sunday’s Gospel, be sure to listen for the what-to-do part in the first half of the story and what it tells us about God’s idea of success. 

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God's idea of success.

Just like the reading from Proverbs, the Gospel (the Parable of the Talents) also has more than one meaning.  In addition to the more literal meaning for investing and entrepreneurship (see yesterday’s post), the $500,000 unit of currency known as the “talent” (back in the day) also represents a God-given skill or and ability, what we think of as a talent.  

We get the basic idea - each of the servants is given talents, and there are consequences for what they did (or didn’t do) with those talents.  Jesus starts off by giving just enough facts to set up the story, going into detail only at the end.  And since the story ends on the what-not-to-do part, it can be easy to miss the what-to-do part. 

The what-to-do part shows us God’s idea of success.  The talents are given “to each according to his ability,” the servants have been entrusted with what they can handle.  And each of them is judged according to their ability. 

God doesn’t say to the second servant “you did okay, too bad you couldn’t handle five.”   The servant who was given two talents and put them to work is received just as warmly as the servant who was given five.

More on this tomorrow.

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What are you, nuts?

Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew) is the Parable of the Talents.  Long before “talent” meant a God-given skill or ability, a talent meant a large unit of measurement (and its related value in gold or silver).  So what’s a talent?  

A talent of silver equals 6,000 denarii (1 denarii = 1 day’s pay), what the average worker earns in 20 years.  In today’s dollars, about $500,000 – meaning that the servants were trusted with $2,500,000 (5 talents), $1,000,000 (2 talents), and $500,000 (1 talent).  

Each servant got the money to start a business, and time to get that business up and running before reporting back.  To the people Jesus told this parable to, it sounds a first century version of Shark Tank, with the servant who did nothing being told “What are you, nuts?”  

So where does our idea of a talent as a God-given skill or ability come from?  This parable. 

More on this tomorrow.

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