Sunday, July 22, 2018

77-8B Does God Need Me?

Inspired by the song "Control (Somehow You Want Me)" by Tenth Avenue North from their album Followers. Available at YouTube, iTunes & Amazon.

We all want to be needed. We feel valuable if someone needs our presence for some reason. Sometimes it's because we have a specific skill that will help them accomplish something. Or sometimes it's just because they need a friend with them at that moment.

Jesus gave a parable called the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. It tells about three slaves who were loaned "talents" by their master. When the master returned from a long journey, he was pleased with the first two slaves who invested the talents and reaped a harvest. But he was disappointed with the slave who feared the master enough to just bury it in the ground and give it back to him with nothing additional earned.

Often, this passage is taught as an example of how God has given us various talents or skills, and we are called to use them for the glory of God and to not waste the opportunity. This is a great application of this scripture, and pretty much sums up the point Jesus was trying to make.

But the word "talent" doesn't actually mean "talent" in the standard English definition. A talent was actually a sum of money, equivalent to about fifteen years wages for the common laborer. It is only so convenient that the English translation comes out to be the same word used for some skill we have.

Regardless of how the word is to be specifically interpreted, it still makes the same point, that God has given us certain qualities that He wants us to use and to grow to reap a harvest. If we don't take the risk and step out to use the gifts God has given us, whether money or skills, we have failed in the whole point of having those gifts. As Jesus says in Luke 12:48, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded."

But teachers tend to emphasize this story to specifically apply to the word "talent" in the English meaning solely, because it appeals to peoples' desire to be needed. People don't want to be just a face in the crowd; they want to stand out and be noticed for something, which usually ends up being a talent or skill.

If you can ride a unicycle, that is what you can be known for. Or if you play the banjo really well, there's a spot for you in some praise band somewhere. In my case, I like to memorize ridiculous things like the names of every stop in the TriMet bus system or the ages of every plane in the Alaska Airlines fleet. Because, you see, few people have done these before and it makes me unique to do these things.

And while uniqueness in an non-prideful sense is valuable, too often it becomes part of our spiritual identity. As enjoyable as it is to be known by people, it's only so valuable until you're not needed anymore or that skill goes out of style. Like, imagine if I moved away from Portland: would knowing all the TriMet bus stops matter anymore? Of course not. So I need to remember that my spiritual identity can use these skills for good works, but it is not defined by these skills. My spiritual identity can only be defined by God Himself, the One who created me and has a plan for my life.

But does God really need me?

Simple answer, no.

Wait, what? Doesn't that devalue myself by saying that? No, not at all. Because, you see, God doesn't value me because of what I can do or how well I can do it.

My mom has always said that God doesn't need my talents or skills. He doesn't need my money, He doesn't need my time. He's God! He has everything. If I don't do it, He can find someone who will.

That's not to say we should pass up the callings on our lives or forego the opportunities that have been placed before us. But we have to remember that we need God, not the other way around. He desires to use our talents for His glory, but He doesn't really need them.

And, as the song states, this is incredibly freeing. Why? Because that means there is no pressure to measure up. Christianity is not a religion in which we succeed or fail depending on how well we hit the requirements of being a Christian, how many people we lead to Christ, or whether we make it to church at least three-quarters of the Sundays each year.

God doesn't need us. We should never think so highly of ourselves that we think God couldn't accomplish something without our help. This life isn't about us, and God doesn't owe us anything because of our works.

Yet in spite of our relative unimportance, God wants us.

In fact, He wants us so much that he overcame the greatest obstacle possible to have us. He paid the penalty we deserved with His own life.

And therefore, our value is now worth the life of God's Son. What a pendulum shift. We went from worthless to infinitely valuable.

But it's not a value that is at all defined by our abilities. It is defined by the great love of our Father. He wants us because He loves us, not because of our talents.

What this means is that we are valuable whether we succeed or fail. If we do well, we are loved. If we absolutely blow it, we are still loved. And if we absolutely keep blowing it, we are STILL loved. God's love is such that He isn't critiquing us on success or failure; He overcame our failures so that we could have the rewards of success forever.

So should we view the Parable of the Talents any differently? No, because He has given us talents and skills and even money that He wants us to use for His glory. It is by our service, generosity and love that we demonstrate our relationship with God, and if we aren't doing these things, as the book of James teaches, we need to question whether we are really living in that relationship.

But know that the source of your salvation is entirely Jesus. He wanted you before you were born, and nothing you can ever do will change that. Win or lose, your value to Him is beyond anything you can imagine. Rest in the peace that comes from knowing that you don't have to live up to some standard to be wanted; you already are!

Lord, thank you for wanting me. Even though I have failed the course so often, You still desire me and want to be in relationship with me. Thank you for overcoming the barriers that kept me from You so that I can spend eternity with You. Use me for Your glory and help me to reap a great harvest for Your kingdom, but let me find rest in the fact that You don't need me, but somehow You want me.

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