Summary: A look at the parable of the talents and God’s ability to know us intimately.
When I was in 11th grade I was in the library of my high school at lunch with friends from the science club (my nerd herd) getting ready to plan a new dungeon for Dungeons and Dragons. My friends went to get a rule book out of a locker and left me to hold the table. A pretty and popular girl (re: cheerleader type) named Marilyn came over to my table. I knew her because as Sophomores I had been assigned to be her “Peer Math Mentor”, which she disappointingly discovered did not mean I would do her homework. She leaned over to me as her friends from the other table watched with big shark-like smiles.
“Can I ask you something?” She said invitingly.
“Sure,” I replied with resignation.
“Do nerds know?” She asked mysteriously.
“Do nerds know what?”.
“Do you know that you’re nerds?”
“Do you know you’re geeks and everyone else in this school thanks God every night we are not like you?”
I paused for a moment, mildly distracted by her Farrah Fawcett hair, and then answered her patiently.
“Nerds know there is more to life than high school.”
She stomped away with a hair flip, terribly disappointed I wasn’t more interesting prey, and my friends returned in awe of me, because I had been seen talking to Marilyn.
I remember that day in the library as clearly as if it happened yesterday. Did I know I was a nerd? Sure. Did I know other kids thanked God they weren’t like me? Well, no. But it wasn’t surprising. But what did that knowledge do for me? What did knowing I was a nerd have to do with anything? I think I remember it so well because it had to do with everything. It was the first real awareness that I was someone in the world’s eyes. That lead me to discover I was also someone else in God’s eyes. Those two views helped me overcome social shallowness, and become the child of God I was meant to be.
Does God Know?
The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) answers that question for us very well indeed. It describes a master who gives 3 servants talents (a monetary denomination) of different quantity. The first gets 5 talents, the second, 2 and the last, 1. The first doubles the charge and returns 10 the Master. The second also doubles his amount and returns with 4. The last guy is afraid of the master and hides the talent. He later digs it up and gives it to the master (a little dirtier than before). The master tells the first 2 servants they are good and faithful and promises them more. The last servant he rebukes and tells him that he could have at least put the money with a bank and got interest instead of burying it. He takes the 1 talent from the man and gives him the boot – casting him out to the darkness with gnashing of teeth. It’s a pretty harsh story when you think about it. Is Jesus telling us God can be cruel to the losers among us? No. There is a greater message among the coins. What does God know?
God knows what we can do
The master is said to give the talents to each man “according to his ability”. This tells us the Master knew his servants well enough to know how much each could handle. The Master has unique knowledge of the history of each person and the ability they have to achieve. God knows what we can do too. Often when faced with a challenge we want to throw up our hands and say “You have to be crazy, Lord. I can’t do this!!!” However, we forget God formed us and knows our abilities better than we do. Remember God’s knowledge isn’t based on what we WILL do. But what we CAN do. The Master knew the first servant could handle 5 talents. He didn’t know if he would or not. So he is happy when he sees the first servant choosing to fulfill his potential. Always remember: to God we are a promise, not a package. God sees what we can do. God hopes we will deliver.
God knows what motivates us
God knows what motivates us to make the choices we do. God knows when we choose to do things out of love, or out of fear. God understands when we say cruel things because of bad memories or sullen regrets. God sees why we are afraid to reach out with more freedom and confidence. God knows why we hide the talent. God understands people who just can’t say “no” (and people who say it all the time).
The first servant is like all Type A – first born children – motivated by productivity. So, the Master praises him and gives him more to do. The second servant is motivated by success. So, the Master praises him and raises the stakes. Notice his says “’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Mt 25:23, NIV). The first is good with many, and gets many. The second is good with few, and gets many. But, the poor third guy - he is motivated by fear. He fears the Master, and losing the talent. So, when the Master sees his choice, he fulfills that fear. “You were afraid of losing your talent, and so you shall.” He takes the talent away and throws the servant out. Now why would a Master do that?