“For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”
Another memorable icebreaker concerning the Parable of the Talents was the year we gave each camper a small rock at 7:30 a.m. and told them they had to carry it in their hand until lunchtime. At any point in those hours, a priest or member of the staff could ask to see their rock, and it had to be in their hand. This means that they had to figure out how to do all their tasks while carrying around their rock, again in their hand. Not in their pocket, not on the table next to them, not taking turns with a friend where one could hold two rocks while the other had his hands free. This means they had to eat while holding a rock, carry their tray to the counter, tie their shoes, pick up their backpacks, and whatever else was being done for those five hours they were carrying their rock.
When it came time for the exercise to end, we asked the campers for their rocks. And we found that some had lost their rocks. Some had the rocks in their pockets, some had the rock on the table next to them. Very few actually had the rock in their hand as we instructed.
In this case, we said that the rock represented not only our talent, but our souls. At any moment, our souls have to be ready to meet God. We can’t forget our faith, or leave it home while we are out, we can’t ask someone to be faithful in our place. We have to be faithful on our own. We have to be ready at all times to “show the rock” to God. It was a powerful lesson.
We asked the campers, what if, instead of handing out rocks, we handed out denominations of money? What if we gave some campers fifty dollars, some twenty dollars, and some ten dollars? We asked how would they feel if they received fifty dollars or ten dollars. Some of the fifty dollar recipients said they would feel privileged and powerful. Some of the ten dollar recipients said they would feel cheated and jealous.
Turning to the Parable of the Talents, we then changed the question to, “what if we gave some of you five rocks, some two rocks, and some one rock to carry around for several hours?” We asked how many people would want to carry around the five rocks. Each camper said “I’d rather just carry one rock, that is hard enough.”
Many times we are looking with jealousy and anger at those who have more than we do. We don’t often realize that just because a person has more doesn’t mean he has better. Perhaps the person with more struggles more. You might counter with, how does a super-rich person with so much money struggle? Perhaps they struggle to find meaning. Perhaps they will struggle at the awesome judgment seat of Christ as they try to explain how they hoarded and frivolously spent money and weren’t more generous with what they had been given.
One story that always encourages me is the story about a man who consistently complained to God about the crosses he had to carry in life. One night the man had a dream. In his dream he was holding a cross. God told him that He was going to take him to a warehouse, so that he could pick another cross that he might like better. The man entered the warehouse and saw hundreds of crosses. God told him he could pick out any cross he wanted. So the man sat down his cross and began exploring the warehouse. He found a beautiful cross that was all gold, but as he picked it up, he found that it was very heavy. Next he found a cross that was covered in jewels. It was more beautiful than all the other crosses, so he picked it up and realized that the jewels cut into his shoulders, so he put it down. He went all around the warehouse trying out hundreds of crosses, and none of them seemed to fit. He finally found a plain wooden cross that fit on his shoulder just right, it was the right weight and it felt comfortable to carry around. He said to God, “I’ll take this one.” God answered “Are you sure about that? You can choose any cross you like.” The man answered “I’m positive, this is the right cross for me.” Then God said, “That’s the cross you walked in here with.”
Sometimes we are so busy looking around at what we don’t have that we don’t appreciate what we do have. Sometimes we are so busy dreaming of a life we don’t have or a talent that we didn’t get that we don’t realize God has provided exactly what we need. And sometimes, we look around at those who have five rocks and wonder “how come I didn’t get the privilege of getting five,” rather than being grateful that we only got one rock to be responsible for. Because carrying around five rocks would probably require two hands, making it impossible to do much else.
My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of You. You and You alone knows my needs. You love me more than I am able to love You. O Father, grant unto me, Your servant, all which I cannot ask. For across I dare not ask, nor for consolation; I dare only stand in Your presence. My heart is open to You. You see my needs of which I myself am unaware. Behold and lift me up! I Your presence I stand, awed and silenced by Your will and Your judgments, into which my mind cannot penetrate. To You I offer myself as a sacrifice. No other desire is mine by to fulfill Your will. Teach me how to pray. Do Yourself pray within me. Amen. (Adapted from Prayer of Philaret of Moscow)
Be careful what you wish for. Be more grateful for what you have!