Who's That Looking Back at Me?

A wise Rabbi (Harold S. Kushner) once remarked:

 “God is like a mirror. The mirror never changes, but everybody who looks at it sees something different.”

In the case of the mirror, what the people see reflects themselves, of course.  

In the case of God, far too many of us also see a reflection of our own attitudes, our own guilt, fear and insecurity, rather than who and what He really is. 

We also often have this problem in our relationships with other people; relating to them and interacting with them based on what is happening in our own heads, filtering our perceptions of them thru our prejudices and preferences, rather than seeing clearly what is actually happening, what they’re really doing and what they’re really like.   When two or more people make that same error in their dealing with each other – things can deteriorate quickly on a team, in a workplace or a relationship.

In “The Parable of the Three Servants”, AKA “The Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30), from which we draw our word for the “gifts” or abilities of people, three servants are given considerable amounts of silver with which to manage their Master's business and interests while he went on “a long trip”.  

The first was given about 375 pounds (five talents, in ancient Greek weight measure) of silver to steward in his “Bosses’” absence, the second two talents of silver (about 150 pounds) and the third, 75 pounds of precious metal (one talent).  The master knew their capabilities and personalities and divided his money among them accordingly (vs. 15).

Upon his return, the one he’d given the most talents had invested and doubled them – he presented his very pleased Boss with 750 lbs. of silver and was rewarded with praise, an invitation to celebrate with the boss, and a promotion (vs 16 & 20-21).  Likewise, the second also doubled his master’s money and was similarly rewarded (vs 22-23).

The third servant didn’t even try to do anything with what he’d been given, beyond burying it until his bosses’ return.  He then “justified” his inaction by accusing his master of being the kind of harsh and unfair person that would punish him excessively if he somehow “lost” the talent he’d received (vs 24-25); this, despite the bosses’ demonstrated generosity with the other, more diligent servants.  Of course, if the third servant really and truly believed his master was as cruel and unfair as he accused him of being, he would have done more to avoid his bosses’ wrath (like banked the talent – see vs. 27).  The fact that he made no effort beyond the minimum shows it was not truly fear, but laziness and wickedness (vs. 27, again) that kept him from working for his own and his master’s good.

So, he was reprimanded, fined, fired and thrown out, his lies, laziness and wickedness bearing their natural, self-fulfilling, fruit (see Matthew 12:33; Luke 6:44; John 15:4).

Look about in any workplace or business with a significant number of employees and you’ll probably find some wanting to please their bosses, help each other, and increase the “bottom line” and some just trying to “get thru their shift” while doing as little as they possibly can without getting “canned”.

If you take the time to actually talk and listen to those excellent and those “not so much” workers… you’ll find enthusiasm and positivity towards their work and each other in the former, and negativity, fear, resentment, sloth, self-serving and accusatory attitudes in the latter.

The God I see looks both perfectly just and perfectly Loving.  He’s carried me thru some really tight places and raised me up from being mostly or completely dead, more than once. 

By His grace, I have the resources and talent (I hope) to share this little homily with you in a way that might help you, and help you help others, see the way toward making more of what we each have been given, and earning the Lord’s praise.  

There’s nothing any of us can do to earn a position as His servants, other than to simply accept Him as Lord and Master when He calls us too, but there’s much that we can do to increase our effect on growing His kingdom and increasing the Love that is its hallmark, and reflecting His grace to the people around us, using whatever “talents” He gives us.

If you look at the mirror and see something else, consider what may be interfering with the clarity of your vision, and seek help if what you see seems scarily harsh and unfair.