We heard one of Jesus’ parables this morning, the Parable of the Talents. A ‘talent’ was not a special ability, like painting or dancing or writing; a talent was a weight of silver or gold. A large weight. The talent referred to in the parable probably weighed about 35kg, and was worth around $18000 or so today.
This parable isn’t too concerned with the first two slaves, who received ten talents (350kg of silver!) and five talents (175kg!).
The main character is the third slave, who received one talent. Still, it’s a lot of silver! And this slave goes and buries it, all 35kg of it. Must have been a dirty great hole! I’d be worried that someone would come along and find it.
Which reminds me of another parable. Can you guess which one? It’s the one about the Treasure Hidden in a Field. Listen:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
In other words: if you have a treasure—dig it up, don’t hide it away!
I say ‘if’ you have a treasure, but you know—we all do. Each one of us has a treasure hidden within. Every of us is made in God’s image, each of us is a co-worker with God, each one of us has a seed planted within that wants to bloom and grow.
For some of us, it’s hard to find that treasure. Perhaps we’ve always been told we’re not good enough. But there is a treasure—and not because there’s something ‘special’ about us. We all have a treasure within, hidden by God.
Some of us allow that treasure to be seen by the way we care for others, or the way we connect with the earth. Others make beautiful things.
We all have a treasure within. In the parable, the slaves were given different amounts. The amount doesn’t matter! We are not meant to hide it, to bury it deep within ourselves.
What treasure do you have?
It can take a lifetime for our treasure to be seen by others. Sometimes, life takes a few turns we never expected.
There was a young man who wanted nothing more than to become a great writer. He said, ‘I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!’
His dream came true, after a fashion. Now, he writes error messages for a software company.
Perhaps one day, his treasure will be more fully known. Maybe he can still write words that connect deeply with his readers.
If he doesn’t give up.
Sometimes, it takes adversity to bring out the treasure within, it takes a setback to get us to truly use our talents.
I read of a man named Matt Lamb. He may have ended up being someone who kept his treasure buried. Matt ran the funeral home in Chicago that his father had had before him. That is, until the late 1980s. But then a doctor told Matt that he had a fatal disease. So he closed up the funeral home and pursued his true passion: painting.
Sometimes it takes a shock for us to let our treasure be uncovered. Sometimes it takes a change or even a loss. We lose a job, or a marriage, or the confidence of health.
Matt had always wanted to paint, but he’d settled for security. Not that there’s anything wrong with running a funeral home—it’s a fine thing to do if that’s your talent, your treasure.
Soon, Matt’s art drew national attention. He became quite successful. Only after Matt had found success in his dream career did doctors discover that they had misdiagnosed him. He didn’t have that illness. He wasn’t going to die after all.
We usually don’t want our doctor to get the diagnosis wrong. But this misdiagnosis may have saved Matt. The funeral home was fine, but it simply wasn’t Matt’s true talent, it wasn’t the treasure in his heart. His treasure was painting. He would never be truly happy, even truly alive, until he pursued that dream—wherever it finally led him.
There’s one other reason why people may keep their treasure buried, and that is fear. In the parable, the reason the third slave buried his talent was that he was afraid of the Master. He said,
Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.
We may fail to uncover the treasure we have because we are afraid. We’re afraid
- of what others will think;
- of the future;
- and sometimes, we’re afraid of displeasing God.
Faith means trusting that God is for us, wherever we are and whatever may happen. Faith means learning to let go of fear. Faith means trusting that God has placed a treasure within us, a treasure to be developed and celebrated. A treasure which can bring life to others.
That’s the invitation to us today. Don’t forget: you have a treasure. Don’t wait till you have bad news from the doctor. Don’t be afraid. Dig it up, don’t hide it away. Let your treasure see the light of day!