Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Matthew 25:14-18 -- On Imperfection and Becoming Shiny

"For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money."
Matthew 25:14-18


I've read the parable of the talents many times, and usually I feel kind of sorry for the last guy with only one talent.  He tells us why he buried it later in the story:  "Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: / And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine."  (Matthew 25:24-25).  He was afraid.  And I think that being afraid is understandable.  In life, there are lots of things that make us afraid.  God has expectations of us that seem impossible.  We're commanded to be perfect, and yet we can't possibly actually jump to that point in this lifetime.  God tells us that he can't look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, and yet we *all* are going to sin.  We know it; we can't get around it.  So, why is the one talent guy the bad guy?  Why does he get cast out into outer darkness at the end of the story?
I think one clue to the answer is right there in our selection.  The man gave his servants goods based on ability... and ability means that they were meant to *do* something with what they were given.  The servants knew that they were supposed to do something, and this one guy didn't even try.  Yeah, he was scared, but he was also disobedient.
In our lives, I think that we face the same types of challenges a lot.  God gives us basically everything, and we have the choice of what to do with all of it.  And we experience the same type of paralyzing fears... but in order to learn and grow, we can't let our fear of making mistakes stop us.  We have to study things out (D&C 9:8); we have to be anxiously engaged (D&C 58:27).  We have to remember that when God asks us to be perfect, he at the same time knows and accepts that we will make mistakes... which is why his whole plan of happiness is set up.  Christ suffered for us so that we would have the *freedom* to make mistakes.  So that we could learn from our mistakes and become better.  Sometimes slowly, but regularly, progressively... as long as we don't stop trying.
This does not mean, of course, that we should just jump into whatever sin we want and worry about repenting later because God doesn't care.  He does care... he cares a lot.  The point is that we have to *improve,* and we don't progress by going backwards.  We have to be aiming high... *trying* to reach perfection.  Not aiming at jumping into the pit of radioactive sludge.  Aiming low is like the guy in the story.  Aiming his talent into the dirt... not hoping or striving for more.  If we just sit around and wait to meet God, exactly as we are, we probably won't get a much better reception than he did.  We have to dig up our talents and put them to use.  We have to prepare for that meeting with God, and improve who we are.  Yes, we'll make mistakes along the way, but that's understood.  We have to accept that we aren't perfect, and then start correcting the problem. :)
Today, no matter what God has given us and whether it seems like a lot or a little... let's build upon it.  Let's live today a little bit better than we did yesterday.  Let's root out the darkness from our lives and live a little bit cleaner, a little bit shinier. :)  And let's keep doing that.  God asks us to aim at perfection, but he knows it will take us a while... and he's provided for that.  If we keep at it, we'll get better and better "until the perfect day" (D&C 50:24). :)

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