Monday, December 2, 2013

On risk

I’ve been thinking lately about the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. You know the one, right? If you need a refresher, you can check it out here.

Anyways, for the longest time, I’ve thought that this parable was about duty, about our responsibility to manage our time and gifts well, about making more, doing more, being more for our Master. That fit pretty well into my relationship with God because I’m a dutiful kind of a person. The meaning of my name is “industrious one” in fact, and doing things well, working hard, being the best is what I do. I often pride myself in working longer, harder, and better than anyone else and achieving better results. And for a long time I thought that’s what made the Master happy and that’s what this story was all about.

Until recently.

Recently, I’ve realized that it’s not about that at all. It’s actually about joy ... and happiness … and risk.

You see, right at the end of the parable, there’s this one little phrase that has kind of got me hooked lately. At the very end, the Master says to two of the servants, “Enter into the joy of the Lord”.

The joy of the Lord. The JOY of the Lord. The Master wasn’t concerned with who made the most money or who worked the hardest. To both the servants who did something with the money, he said the same, “Well done! Enter into the joy of the Lord!”.  Either of them could have lost it all and somehow I think the Master would have still said, “Enter into the joy of the Lord.” You see, I don’t think he was concerned with what they did, but that they did something, that they took a risk.

Lately, I’ve been thinking and praying about the future and asking God what he wants me to do. And I often find the strongest voice in my head is that of duty. I’m the kind of person who will work tirelessly at the same job forever, eat at the same restaurant every week, go to bed at the same time every night, talk to the same friends everyday, just because I know I do it well and it is comfortable, and I don’t want to risk the possible failure that comes with change.

But strangely, the question I hear God asking me lately isn’t, “How can you do the most for me?” but “What do you want?" and "What will make you the happiest?”

I read a quote from John Piper once that said, “He is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” I love that. It seems so selfish at first, but lately I’ve realized that it’s actually true. God’s glory shines through us when we are most alive and joyful in Him. The aim of all his commandments in fact can be summed up in John 15:11 - that our joy may be full.

And most often, there is something standing between us and that joy and satisfaction we are looking for and that thing is risk - speaking to that stranger, raising our hand, asking that question, sending that email, sharing our true heart, buying that plane ticket, moving across the country, quitting that job.

Risk is scary, because there’s always the chance that we’ll be rejected, we’ll lose something…maybe everything... or we’ll fail. There’s that voice inside our head that says maybe when the door closes, God won’t open the proverbial window, or maybe that giant leap of faith will land us on our head, or that step in the dark will run us into a wall. And so, like the third servant, we cling dutifully to our one little talent, burying it safely under all our insecurities and fear, never daring for joy.

Joy takes risk. Duty is always easier, always more comfortable, always more reliable. But somehow I think God is after more than my work - He’s after my heart. He's not looking for duty, but delighting in Him (Psalm 37:4).

What risk is standing between you and your joy, dear reader? Which servant are you gonna be?

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