Don't Bury It
Not many things scare me as much as failure.
I don’t know where it’s come from. Maybe it’s because of the academic goals I’ve always felt expected to achieve. Maybe it’s the result of growing up in a big family full of loud personalities and talents. Maybe it comes from the whole idea of being ‘born again’ – somewhere in my brain I’ve decided that mistakes were for the old me, I need to be careful with this new life, there is no room for error.
Whatever the reason, it’s painfully clear to me how flimsy my faith can be when confronted with my fear of failure.
Fear has this amazing ability to perforate and permeate every atom of our being. Before we know it, uncertainty becomes nerves, nerves become anxiety, and anxiety seeps into every aspect of our lives, causing us to pull away and retreat inwards when opportunities present themselves. It alters our behaviours whether we give it permission to or not, whispering in those still moments that we aren’t good enough, that others are so much better, that had we been dealt another hand things would be different, that we just need to focus on the safe tasks before us and leave the risk-taking to others.
The parable of the talents is steeped in such a fear. In it we see a servant who is given a talent, not a special aptitude as we consider the word today, but here used as a unit of measurement. Unlike the other servants who invest theirs, this servant is fearful of the opportunity which has been placed into his hands and so decides to bury it.
The first time I read this story, I reasoned that the third servant’s approach was just as logical and justifiable as that of the first two. If anything, I supported his decision all the more because he wasn’t taking an unnecessary risk. In my eyes, he was being a responsible steward of what his master had entrusted him with. Yet, to my surprise, he wasn’t praised for his cautiousness, but admonished for his lack of proactivity.
The message of this parable is that your life as a Christian isn’t just about avoiding messing something up.
It’s about burning up your life for your King’s glory.
Through this story, Jesus told his disciples, and is now telling us that whilst we wait for Him, we should work. We shouldn’t sit around just watching the opportunities he has given us go stagnant, fearful of making a wrong move and blaming it on the excuse of avoiding foolish behaviour - foolishness and risk are two very different things.
Instead, we should take up the opportunities and responsibilities that God has given us, whatever they are, and capitalise on them, working faithfully and energetically. Because guess what, if we make a mistake there is grace enough for our failure.
In this parable, the size of the return is not the main object, but rather the attitude of a heart. A heart which instead of trying, allowed itself to be ruled by fear and prevented itself from ever seeing any fruit.
Some of the most powerful truths of Christianity are some of the simplest ones. Things which when we speak them aloud sound almost naive in their straightforwardness, but when we allow them to take root in our hearts, have the power to change everything.
The truth here is that fear is the great enemy of faith - we cannot allow it to rule our decisions and shape our lives.
We must live by faith and not fear.