Summary: Our contributions to the gains in the lives of others are the keys to our own personal inner growth.
When I started studying economics in the college, one of the first lessons in economics I learned was this: Business is first and foremost a community service which brings a gain on the investment in return. A businessman or a shopkeeper from this perspective is a skilled and responsible administrator of the goods of the community. Every time I read the parable of Matthew 25,14-30, this image of trading fills my mind. So I would like to call the message of this parable “a godly trading in service to our neighbours”; or we could call it “the fundamentals of a divine economics”.
Long ago I heard a story similar to this parable. A king had three sons. He entrusted his three sons with the task of caring for his people and went on a long journey. When he was away, a severe drought broke out, leading to the death of people and cattle. When the king returned, he called all his sons and asked what they did for his people in the moments of their suffering and death. The eldest son said, “My only possession were my sheep. When I saw the people dying, I fed your people with my sheep. Now I have no sheep left.” His second son told him, “All I had were the fields and the trees. I fed your people with fruits and vegetables from my gardens, and when they were finished, I cut the trees down to provide warmth to your people to keep them alive. Now there is nothing left.”
The third son told his father, “When all the people were dying of starvation, I could not provide them with anything. All I have are my artistic skills. I could not feed them with some artistic skills?” The father spoke up, “Even if you did not have anything to feed them with, why did you not atleast try to cheer them up with your dance and songs in their moments of despair and death? Now come on, dance for me!” As he put on the costume and began to dance, he realized to his great disappointment and despair that his limbs could move freely any more for the dance and that he had lost his ability to sing in various voices, necessary for an entertainer.
Now, what happened to the third son is also something that can happen to us. We look at what others do and admire when they do well and dislike when they do ill. Often we think of what we do not have and what we cannot do. We forget what we have and the good that we can do. We have excuses that we have less than what others have and bemoan that we do not have the same. We hardly realize that everyone has received a cup of different size, but all are filled. We think of what we could lose if we swing ourselves into serving others, or we suspect whether what we do would be appreciated and admired by others or not. We have so many inner inhibitions, blocks and conscious and need-related considerations before we start making use of our gifts and talents in the service of others. Since all our concentration is on ourselves, we end up using very little of our gifts and talents, and end up losing them eventually. A very bad trade indeed! Neither has it helped us nor has it helped anyone else!
When we have to understand the trading of gifts, we have to consider three things. First, we have the gifts of nature. Second, we have the grace of God that comes to us in His Son through the gospel. Third, we have our fellowhumans who are deeply occupied with their own living. If we disregard the second gift, we are inclined to trade our gifts with the needs of our fellowhumans in order to make a gain for ourselves. There we put ourselves at the centre of our trading. Then we speak of our rights. But if we have to trade from the perspective of God – that is, you realise yourself in what you do for the fullness and happiness of others – then the attitude changes. When the trading of our gifts is guided by the spirit of the gospel, our fellowhumans take the centre of our trading. And the gifts that our fellowhumans offer us in return becomes our gain. Then we will realize that these gifts do not belong to us and they are to be used further. It is not something that is inborn; it is something that is still to be cultivated.
It is important to discover that we are only the servants of our own gifts which nature and God have given us. The grace of God inverts the centre and goal of our trading from ourselves toward our fellowhumans. The reward is the greater trust that we receive from the Giver. The first two sons did not mind losing what they had, but made gains in the lives of others. It is important to realize that many of the gains of our good actions never come back to us. All the same, they are the gains of our good actions. They are the only way to our personal inner growth and to receiving greater graces from God. Those who make gains in the lives of others also gain greater trust from God and from one another. There is no point in complaining when people turn away from us. The question that we have to ask ourselves is this: “How can I make gains in the lives of others in order to earn more trust from God and our fellowhumans?” When we do that, we can be sure that God and our fellowhumans will entrust us with greater treasures. It is an economics guided by God.