Winston Churchill once said, "Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the master, and fling him about to the public." (Quoted in Winston Churchill: His Wit and Wisdom , Hyperion Books, p. 135)
Over the several years that I have written this column, I have effectively written the equivalent of a book or two, and I can attest that it does become your master and tyrant after a while.
The task of wowing one’s audience with brilliance week after week is daunting and not always successful, but it is fortunate that the focus of my efforts is a very special Book brimming with pearls. Those pearls lay hidden, awaiting someone to pry them free, but when one uses the Bible as a base, there is solace in knowing that the pearls really are in there somewhere.
The grain of sand that forms the pearl sometimes comes from the irritations in life, and so it has been with this column. It might seem like I am writing to you, but in reality I am writing to myself and reflecting on something that I need to learn.
And so it is with this week’s column. Not long ago I was studying Matthew 25, which contains three parables. It was the last two that caught my attention: the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. I was surprised to see that both parables teach the same lesson, a lesson I sorely need.
Some people have lots of talents to invest and some have just one or two. More is required of those who have more, but if you have only one talent God doesn’t expect you to produce ten with it. He expects you to do with what you have. Jesus honored a woman for the small kindness of anointing his head because "she had done what she could" (Mark 14:1-9), and the master would have honored him with one talent – if he had "done what he could." As it turned out, he did nothing with his talent and was roundly condemned for it.
Many of us have trouble finding this one talent in our lives, but sometimes what we consider the lesser gifts are of greater importance God. That’s the lesson of the sheep and goats, the parable that follows the one about the talents. In that parable, those who were admitted into the kingdom (the sheep) gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and clothing to the naked. They visited those who were ill and went to those who were in prison. But it is evident from the story that these sheep did not see what they were doing as great things. They were, in a sense, given one talent, but they did what they could with it, and for that they were honored.
The other group (the goats) had the same opportunities for service, the same talent, as it were, but rather than investing that talent for the good of all, they buried it. They let the opportunities of the moment pass, and for that they were condemned.
As mentioned earlier, the lessons I discuss in this column are ones that I need to learn. Where is the thirst that I can quench or the hunger that I can satisfy? Where are the hurts that I can heal or the souls who need the comforting? Most of us do not have the five talents to fill a stadium with God-seekers nor have our voices carried on the radio waves. But there is a neighbor next door, or a child in the next room, or a spouse in the easy chair whom we can anoint with oil. There are people all around us who need our one little talent even if we in our own minds diminish its value. We must do what we can do, and for that we will be honored.