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Parable of the Talents

Jesus taught about a man who divvies up his wealth to his servants and leaves for a time.  Upon his return, the master asks for an accounting of his three servants’ effort and productivity to find that some had handled what they were given faithfully and had multiplied what was given them.   Meanwhile one of the servants was so concerned for himself that he focused solely on keeping what the master had given him; he did nothing to improve upon what was given him.  Those who did as the master had expected with his giving were promised that they would be rewarded and given more, while the one who feared was told that he would be punished and the master would take back what was his.

The name of the currency that the master gave happens to be translated as ‘talents.’  A ‘talent’ then, in this sense, is a weight measurement much like a gram, kilogram, or pound.  Precious metals were measured out according to this system of measurement, shaped into discs or coins, and used then as currency.  It wasn’t until over ten centuries after the death and victory of Christ, did ‘talent’ become something used figuratively to describe valuable aptitudes, gifts, or abilities.

To really glean what the parable means then, I think it is important to interpret it from the context of what it meant when Christ spoke it more than in the context of our current use of language.  As soon as a person does make that effort, however, it changes the whole meaning; it leaves us asking “what is it that the Lord really values?”  “What portion of God’s precious giving did He give to me?”  “What is it that he wants me to create with what He has given me?”

This shift in our understanding of scripture – of Jesus’ words – will shift what we want to focus on in our lives.  Instead of exchanging everything that God gives us to multiply our ability to sing, dance, draw, to be seen, to entertain, or to impress, we might redirect our efforts to things of godly value and eternal significance.  Hopefully, if we can let go of our “cares of the world,” we’ll find joy, relief, and peace in such an unburdening ourselves of things that “cannot satisfy” and freedom in the things that really do satisfy.

If someone were to live their lives passionately applying completely new and different meanings to Christ’s teaching, they might create another foolish servant for this parable.  That servant would be the one who exchanged all of what the Lord gave them for fine apparel and unnecessary adornments of every kind with the expectation that the Lord would somehow be pleased with what they had purchased.  That servant could end up returning to His presence only to find themselves disappointed in their expectations – having spent too much of God’s valuable gifts to them only for those things that are of ‘little worth.’

So, I think it is important to recognize that not every talent is immensely valuable and there is a lot of spiritual value in things that might not impress anyone.  Christ himself had no “form or comeliness” or “beauty that [man] should desire him,” but somehow he grew “in favor with God and man.”  He had spiritual talent, gifts, and purpose – true worth.  He was given a fullness and through Him we should seek first and foremost what He has; He is searching for heirs.

Revelation in Writing / The Greatness of God

There are reasons my people would tend to view what I share as some kind of curious vista along their way; they can recognize a beautiful sight when they see one and they are no strangers to the things of the spirit, but it would be a challenge to view it as the destination; the journey is too short, it comes without money and without price, the burden is too light, and looking is too simple.

Have you ever wanted to give a gift and wondered that if you gave it, if it would ever be opened?  To some extent, that is how I feel every time I write, but that feeling is even heavier for me now – thinking of some of the things I f hope to write in the future.  Words can explain, but only God can reveal.  Any eyes can see the shape of every letter, but only minds that read can understand what is really there, otherwise it is just ink on paper, or print on screen.  Revelations on paper are much the same – only ideas to be judged as every other piece of information, thought of for good or ill and remembered or forgotten.

Words and ideas, however, can be gifted by God to become something more.  In some instances they are simply tidbits of light trailed along someone’s path and – according to the will of God — they could be tidbits of light along multiple people’s paths and still leading in every right direction.  So it is with many things that I’ve read; I have been so blessed to bump into so many good things from multiple cultures and faiths.   They were left for me, or so God purposed them, by those who have loved righteousness before me.  One tidbit of light might spark an awakening – or maybe even our very first awakening.  At other times, we seek some blessing from God and as a result we are prepared to love His answer – a blessing He has already bestowed on somebody else.  Surely, God can empower the simplest of words with the full force of His light, so words and ideas can changes lives forever – they can change eternities – and that is awesome.  That is amazing.  That is just God doing what He does.

So, anything I might hope to give in this way, it isn’t something someone can open, it is only opened by God for them.  This is how God can dictate that all men come unto Him.  He retains His “proof” for those whose hearts are earnest – it is how the unbelieving can be surrounded by every blessing and not experience them.  He is the one that changes ideas into revelation.  He is the one who brings the truth to life in our hearts in such a way that it changes the world – for only us.

As much as God reveals Himself to those who seek Him, He withholds revelation from those who do not.  “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand.”  (Mark 4:11)

Still, there are other reasons people will have no interest in what I have to share.  Specifically there are reasons my people would tend to view what I share as some kind of curious vista along their way; they can recognize a beautiful sight when they see one and they are no strangers to the things of the spirit, but it would be a challenge to view it as the destination; the journey is too short, it comes without money and without price, the burden is too light, and looking is too simple.  We’re more prepared to wander, seek out some great thing, and be careful and troubled about many things.

Or at least, this is the impression I get from watching people’s struggles, strivings, and doubts.  Partaking of the better part resolves these issues by being our source of direction, our source of perspective for understanding ourselves, and our source of confidence, peace, and fearlessness.

Every Sunday we partake of symbols of Christ’s sacrifice for us; we’re physically taking the bread and water into our bodies.  Is this not a symbol of our spirits taking in the blessing and power of Christ’s sacrifice?  I don’t fulfill “always remembering Him” in the brief fifteen minutes of the sacrament as surely as I don’t get my fill of Christ in those same fifteen minutes. Most of my ‘partaking’ of the gift of Christ has taken place outside and apart from an ordinance – much like my “always remembering Him.”  The hard truth is this: you are only adequately remembering to the extent you are adequately partaking.  We remember Him as He intended when our hearts utilize the power of the atonement.  He didn’t intend for us to forcefully but meaninglessly rehearse images or stories of Him over and over in our minds.  We need to remember him by allowing the atonement to part the veil for us.  To do this ‘always’ does result in us feeling the spirit ‘always.’

With the confidence the atonement was intended to impart to each of us, prayers feel perpetually heard and there is no heart stained enough for Him to shy away from.  He is all-powerful; through the work of Christ, God isn’t hindered by our dirtiness, He is only hindered by our unbelief – or by the belief that the atonement wasn’t adequate to bring the worst of us into His presence.  If He has promised to do it at judgment, why don’t we take Him at His word and enjoy His presence now.  I, personally — and to my great surprise – haven’t slipped in anything unpleasant enough to result in Him not being there.  I was, however taught that getting dirty beyond some very, very minor things meant “the spirit couldn’t be with me.”  I was taught to feel alone as a result of my mistakes; I was taught to expect it; I was taught that God couldn’t actively love on me if I was doing something wrong.

As far as I am concerned that teaching is a complete lie.  In my darkest times God was always reaching for me, making invitations, and regardless, letting me know I was loved.  My experience has told me that I was lied to – not just once- but over and over and over again.  *Queue the defense of the faith with minimizing, redefining what was “really” meant in the teaching, quote some authority that asserted what I called false, question my faith, call me names… all for the sake that that you might be comfortable and justify yourself in a course that appears to leaves you quite hungry.  Meanwhile I’ll point you to my experience and say “Hey, I know what I’m experiencing here, God’s filling me in on it all the time; is there maybe somebody bigger than Him you might quote or a list of people that accumulate to ‘bigger than Him,’ or maybe you should just quietly distance yourself from the heretic and call me some different names and see if that changes anything.”  I really can’t explain how or why God’s reach to the sinner and involvement in their life appears to extend well beyond the belief and policies of the Church – I’m making no judgment beyond my previous ones – I don’t know.

My experience with Him tends to teach me that readiness is far more important to Him that worthiness.  Really, God’s love for me leaves me experiencing no limitations, no minimum worthiness requirements in order for me invite someone to a better way of life.  There is nobody dirty enough to write-off or for me to be afraid of.  I have this witness, if God can clean me, He can clean you.  “Oh, you think you’re dirtier than I am?  Okay you could be right, maybe you’re not, but miracles are miracles and I have experienced the infinite atonement and I’m telling you, He’s got you covered in the exact same way he has me covered.”

So the Church may have been given its standards that it is governed by, but God has given me mine and I love how virtually all-inclusive they are: anybody who genuinely wants clean is okay by me.  I’m not going to be the medic that faints at the sight of blood; people are a bit more important than that.  In this regard, let their blood fall ‘upon my garments’ and it will be a witness to God that I was actually there and doing something whether they ‘make it’ or not.

So, where I see the spiritually squeamish, the condemning, and the exclusive, I see people who need help, who lack the Spirit of God, because it doesn’t appear evident to me that they know Him.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

The Reordered Laws of Heaven

When we know that love and love Him in return, our relationship with God becomes something that enables God’s love to not only fill us and satisfy us, but to overflow from within us and into the world.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is a prominent teaching broadly spread and often repeated in our conversations and meetings.  It was first spoken in 1896 and was apparently of such significance that it has been passed on through the generations.  We find it in speeches throughout the last century, church manuals, and recent conference addresses.  It’s really a shame then that I – and the part of the heavens that dwells in me – finds it so utterly false and its latter-day effects to be so very heartbreaking.  Do you believe that “obedience is the first law of heaven?”

Continue reading “The Reordered Laws of Heaven”

Uncomfortable Things as They Really Are

The change God desires will only occur if we are willing to listen directly to the voice of God… Our love for God and the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is in the heavens needs to be more powerful than the love of this kingdom of God as it now is and things as they now are… We can still pray with all of our hearts “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

There is a busy world out there with an infinite number of invitations to do what is right.  The opportunities to love and lift are endless.  Sure, there are other voices, more persistent and readily noticeable, that may catch our attention at times and tempt our hearts in very angry, selfish, or dark, sometimes day-dreamy ways.  When sin enters our hearts in such a way, we, as people whose experience with God has taught us better, repent and turn our hearts towards the Love of God and delightedly savor His assurance, peace, confidence, and purpose.  There is so little in the realm of evil that has any appeal; it is all seen as dead-end roads with nothing to make them worth traveling.

But the truth of our situation as people of God is that not all of us can ‘walk into’ the love of God as easily as walking into another room.  For some the hunger becomes so strong that they frustratedly throw everything they have into finding God, only to find the heavens still seemingly closed tight.  They’re left feeling that they must not mean much to their Father who sees and knows everything while leaving their thirst for His goodness blatantly unattended to.  They know so surely in their minds that God loves them, but still sit alone, trying to dismiss the way they feel in their hearts. Continue reading “Uncomfortable Things as They Really Are”