"For it is just like a man about to go on a journey. He called his own servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent, depending on each one's ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more. In the same way the man with two earned two more. But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master's money." Matthew 24:14-18The parable of talents gives us insight into the ethics of work that correspond to gifts granted by God. Each worker in the parable was granted a gift, money that did not come from their own pockets or bank accounts. The first two workers stewarded what they were given, doubling it. They held what they had been given. The last worker did nothing of the sort; what he had been given was left buried and stowed away. The parable goes on to describe the outcome of these actions. The man returns home, is pleased with the workers who held his money well and is astounded at the folly of the man who buried his lot. Like the servants in this parable, we are only in as much control over what we're given according to our stewardship; we are called to be faithful with what we're given. We cannot afford to stow it away, ignore, or abandon it. We put our hands to the plow. We work. We hold our gifts and opportunities, albeit with an open hand, knowing that what is ours is truly something we're expected to steward. We work at an incredibly small church, we come from small means, and sometimes we're working with only small faith in very difficult moments. But I wake up daily with the prayer, "God, help me to be faithful to what You've tasked me with." I try to attend to my own spiritual needs and be attentive and sensitive to the needs of those around me. I try to work hard, even when I don't feel like it. I try to grow in affection toward God, despite Him sometimes seeming so far. I try to steward my giftings, even when I want to keep them to myself. I try to be faithful. I try my best to hold things with an open hand. But I still must hold them. I have to acknowledge that God is the One who is sovereignly in control of outcomes, and I am merely called to be as faithful as I can. I oftentimes falter, but when I succeed it is nothing short of God attending to the things in my open palm, grasping and guiding the things around which I'm tempted to clench my own fingers. We often view the relinquishing of control, the holding of circumstances with an open hand, as an upheaval of work. Not only do we relinquish control, but we relinquish activity, halting all semblance of stewarding the things to which we've been called by God to attend to. I've fallen into this many times. However, control is not work's equivalent, and though we must let go of our insatiable need to be in control of our lives, we still must hold our lives. We don't clench our fist around our trials, but we cradle them. We don't grip tightly to this life, but we steward it. We don't have control, but we are faithful to attend to what God has appointed and thoughtfully placed in our hands. We hold with an open hand, but we still hold. Something lovely happens when we defer to God's control rather than our own–we are allowed to look back at our lives with perfect vision, knowing that the Lord caused. He caused the success, He caused provision through the unsuccess. He carried, bore, strengthened, provided, and nourished. God did it. It was never in our control to begin with. Sarah Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Grace Co.
I'm a control freak. There's no getting around it. I have a schedule that I like to maintain; I keep a tight grasp on time. I have a certain way of arranging and organizing my desk; when there's disarray I cannot think. I like to have plans and get grumpy when there's a disruption. I don't play games if I know I can't win, and I don't start projects if I know I can't finish with excellence. I want control within arm's reach at all times. I want a map that gets me from point A to point B with no stops in between. This obviously doesn't jive with the Christian walk, and I'm constantly confronted by my need to surrender jurisdiction. The irony is that my being in control leaves me with little security; I am a finite being who is diametrically unable to perform perfectly even if I am in control. I need a God who will act on my behalf, fitting the proverbial puzzle pieces of my life together. I rely on a God who takes my meager 2-cent offering and multiplies it for the sake of His glory and the wellness of His church. I must daily pursue a God who will take whatever faithfulness I can muster and use it for His purposes. In my life, work, and ministry God has taught me something incredibly challenging but endlessly valuable: how to hold with an open hand. It isn't easy, and it sure isn't fun, and I'm certainly no professional. When I want to clench my fingers far more tightly around an outcome, God admonishes me to relent. When I bear down and weigh my hope with my own plans, He quickly shows me my folly. My husband and I recently had a conversation about what we have been given. My job, one of his new opportunities, our education scholarships, our ministries–all of these things were arisen from nothing. We weren't necessarily looking for these prospects. We weren't seizing countless doors in hopes that some might open to us. These things just occurred. They were introduced as we were just living our day-to-day lives to be as faithful to God as we knew how. Please do not mishear me–Paul and I don't have money bags falling in our laps from the sky, nor are we notable people. Nothing of the sort. In fact, I spend a lot of my time wondering if I'm really doing anything at all; shaking my fist at Heaven and demanding to hear if God is pleased with the work of my hands. I still grasp and pine after control. I still struggle in the daily war waged against sin and flesh. We aren't just magically or mystically blessed, and emphatically are not without trial or despair. In the small landscape of our lives, in the short term, it can be challenging to perceive if we're really in the right place at all. Life is just a conundrum like that. But in the long-term landscape, in the sweeping brushstrokes of months or years, our eyes are enabled by the Spirit to view things as the came to us: divinely appointed workings from the Lord. He did it. He provided it. We've just tried our hardest to be faithful with what we're given. We've tried to hold things well.