The case of the all-star servant
The Parable of the Talents has always fascinated me. Part of that fascination lies in my curiosity over who the parable is designed to reach. Let’s assume for a moment that Jesus wanted to speak with those who were like the first servant.
This guy, upon his master’s departure, received five talents. He wheeled and dealed, perhaps bought a sno-cone franchise, and parlayed those five talents into ten. The first servant was rewarded by his master’s appreciation and admiration. But he also received something else. The first servant, the all-star, received the one talent of the foolish third servant. What a deal.
What can we say about this all-star. Not everybody can take the largesse of a venture capitalist and double the investment in fairly short order. Sure, it happens, but much more often it fails to happen. The reality is that as many as 80% of new small businesses fail in the first few years.
The all-star beat the odds and was rewarded. He had the knack. He had, it seems, everything! Don’t you hate people like that?
The risk for the all-star is that he starts to believe his own press. That wasn’t the point Jesus was aiming to make, but it’s true. When we have everything, we can fail to appreciate the difficulties of those who don’t.
- In what ways can you identify with the all-star servant? Do you ever find it difficult to remain humble?
- How do you feel about the all-stars that you encounter? Do you appreciate them? Resent them? Some of both?
- Pray that God will help you to identify and use the abilities present within you that can move you toward being an all-star.
Wives (and husbands), be ready to submit.
There aren’t that many passages in scripture that can start a fight as readily as the idea of wives submitting to husbands. Biblical teachers can take great pains to explain precisely what they mean and to emphasize that command to mutual submission, but they still get people all wound up and convinced that traditional Christianity wants to keep women illiterate, barefoot, and pregnant.
In reality, submission isn’t something that our current culture thinks very highly of in any setting. When we look at some of the ugly encounters between the police and civilians in recent years–and I’d emphasize some here–we have to admit that the police could have backed off a little and the civilian could have brought a little less attitude, and maybe tragedy could have been averted.
Too often we think that if we give in, if we submit, then we’re losing something. Instead, we determine, “like a tree planted by the water, we will not be moved”! But does that produce what we want and value?
When I think of the submission of Jesus, giving up for years his position in heaven, allowing sinful people to murder him, and providing himself as a dumping ground for every sin in human history, any submission that I make to my wife or anyone else seems rather trivial.
Let’s try to outdo each other in submission. In doing that, we’ll find that rather than losing ground, we have gained it.
- In what situations do you find it hardest to submit?
- How easily do you fit into the biblical ideals of marriage roles?
- Pray that God will show you the places and situations where you need to submit your will to someone else’s.
Husband, cherish your wife like you do your own body.
There it is: the last piece of pizza. It doesn’t have to be pizza, of course. Maybe it’s the last doughnut, the last slice of coconut cream pie, the last serving of Arthur Bryant’s burnt ends. You see it. You want it, and then somebody else gets to it before you can.
You’ve been there, haven’t you? And the pain you felt was genuine as well as genuinely ridiculous. It’s not as if you were starving or truly in need of that food, but you really wanted to give it to your belly.
Paul says that nobody ever hated their own body. Some people would disagree. “I hate my body,” some would argue, but really they hate the way their body looks. Often those supposedly hated bodies have been coddled a bit too much with too much ice cream and too little exercise. When I roll over in bed and ignore my alarm, it’s not that I hate my body but that I love my body. I love the way it feels to keep on sleeping.
Whatever is the hardest thing for you to do to deprive your body, whether it be food or drink, warmth or sleep, comfort or freedom from pain, should help husbands to know how to love their wives. I can say that I love my wife, but will I happily give her the last piece of pie? That’s serious stuff.
- Think of the ways that you demonstrate your love for your body?
- Compare your love for your beloved with your love for your body? Are you as willing to indulge another like you do your own flesh and bones?
- Pray that God will help you to love as thoroughly as Jesus loved, despising the comforts of your body in favor of love for another.
1 Corinthians 7:28
Face troubles with company.
It was easy for Paul, the unmarried former Pharisee, to say that “those who marry will face many troubles in this life.” All you have to do today is look around and you’ll see that the only married couples who do not face worldly troubles are the ones who are lying next to each other in the cemetery. For the rest of us, marriage produces problems.
Of course, life itself produces troubles, Don’t take my word for it. Jesus said it in John 16:33. Even the Buddhists know this. The first of their “Four Noble Truths” is that life is full of suffering. So if that’s true, why does Paul point to married life as a location of problems?
In my married life, I not only face my own troubles, my own suffering, but that of my wife as well. In fact, there are troubles that arise just from marriage itself, that neither would have faced had we stayed single.
Why then, would sensible people marry, knowing that the troubles will be increased? I think that as far back as the Garden–even before there were troubles–God knew that people were better together. Sure, marriage increases trouble. Sure, Eve seems to have instigated the whole fruit-eating thing, but Adam would have eaten it by himself eventually.
If you have to live in a trouble-soaked, suffering-filled, fallen world, don’t you want to have somebody you love at your side? The answer was true for Adam and it’s true for us.
- What sort of troubles do you find that marriage introduces into life?
- What sort of solutions to trouble do you see marriage providing?
- If you’re married, pray that God will help you be part of the solution rather than a source of problems. If you’re not married, pray that God will guide you into whatever relationship He has planned for you.
Love never fails.
It was about four years ago that I got control of my food intake and started running. I lost about a fourth of my body weight and started feeling really great. Then the wheels came off. First, they just started wobbling on the axles and then they rolled off into the ditch. Today, I’m aggravated with myself for losing so much ground. I’m so aggravated that I think I’ll go to the kitchen and see what sort of pie or cake or lasagna might be lurking in the fridge.
In my head, I know that the love of God will satisfy me far more than Lamar’s doughnuts or Bunny Tracks ice cream ever will. In my head I know that, but for some reason I allow my stomach to overrule my head. I think on the sufficiency of God’s presence and then I cram a Chipotle burrito into my mouth.
Love, Paul tells us, never fails. He goes on to say that prophecy and tongues will pass away, but he might have added that pizzas and brownies will also pass away. Lexuses and Cadillacs will pass away. All of the things that I hold dear will pass away, but I still find myself chasing after them.
- When my taste buds are shot and my doctor tells me to eat nothing but celery, God’s unfailing love will still be there to fuel my existence. If I only I could keep that at the forefront of my mind.
- What “richest food” do you allow to come before the unfailing love of God in your weakness?
- How can you transfer the truly unfailing love expressed by God into nearly unfailing human love that you express?
- Pray that God will open your mind and heart to the true richness of His love so that you can put it before all other desires.