Dr Goh Wei Leong is a friend and a co-conspirator in the Christian Medical Dental Fellowship, Singapore. He serves as chairman and I serve as honorary chaplain. Wei Leong is also my doctor. He has been trying for a few years now, to get me to do a battery of tests to determine the state of my health. I finally did, a few weeks ago. ECG, ok. Blood pressure, “borderline” for my age. The lab results came in a few days later. Wei Leong said the cholesterol and the sugar were a “wee bit” high but otherwise I was ok. I felt great joy, thankful to God, and grateful for my friend’s care. It has been a stressful year. I was prepared for worse. But I was ok. I felt like I had been given a fresh lease of life. And I committed my life to God again. After all I am but a steward of my life.
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30 brings out this principle. The bags of gold are usually interpreted as representing the various resources that God entrusts to us, spiritual gifts, opportunities for service, money itself, etc., but our very lives are also gifts entrusted to us, gifts to be invested in the Master’s agenda. Each of our lives is unique, each with its own combination of joy and pain. There will be times when we will be tempted to compare our lives with others. (Hands up all those who sometimes wished they lived somebody else’s life.) The parable teaches us to expect that our lives will be different and that the Lord knows exactly what kind of life we can handle.
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability.” (Matthew 25: 14-15 NIV)
Commenting on this principle of individuality, R T France comments:
The kingdom of heaven is not a “one-size-fits-all economy . . . God’s people are different and he treats them differently . . . here the principle of individuality is built into the initial distribution (of the gold). It will be the slaves’ responsibility not to look with envy at the different hand which has been dealt to their colleagues, but to make the most of what they have . . . ( R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007, 953-954.)
This then is our brief: Make the best of our lives by investing it in the Master’s agenda. We may or may not quite like the life we have but that is irrelevant. The question is: what will we do with the life that has been entrusted to us?
Bad times happen, good times happen, life itself happens and happens to all of us in different ways and with different mixtures of good and bad, pain and pleasure, luck and unluck. As I read it, this is what the parable is essentially about, and the question the parable poses is, what do we do with these mixed lives we are given, these hands we are so unequally dealt by God . . .? To use the mercenary terms of the parable itself, how do we get the most out of what we are so variously and richly and hair-raisingly given? (Frederick Buechner, The Clown in the Belfry, San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, 96.)
The question comes to me again, and much more acutely at my stage of life. I may have many years left — God only knows — but it gets clearer every day that I don’t have all the time in the world. According to Daniel Levinson, I am at the end of Middle Adulthood. Late Adulthood starts at age 60, three birthdays away (Cited by Fred Wilson, “Adult Development,” Nurture That Is Christian, edited by James C. Wilhoit & John M. Dettoni, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995, 172). So while I am grateful for a clean bill of health, I ask myself again what I am to do with this life I have? This life I have been given? Recently a few ministry opportunities came up but didn’t work out. I wonder – am I to continue to do what I am doing or is there something else? Something more?
Whatever. I am to be faithful at the station I have been assigned till I receive fresh orders. At 57 or at whatever age, all I need to know is that I belong to the Lord and that I must be attentive to His voice. If I had the chance to write the script of my life, would it have unfolded the way it did? Probably not. But this is my life, 57 years of it, cholesterol and sugar a wee bit high, borderline blood pressure and all – and it is yours O Lord.
All that I am all that I have
I lay them down before you oh Lord
All my regrets all my acclaims
The joy and the pain I’m making them yours
Lord I offer my life to you
Everything I’ve been through
Use it for your glory
Lord I offer my days to you
Lifting my praise to you
As a pleasing sacrifice
Lord I offer you my life
(Don Moen, “I Offer My Life to You,” Emmanuel Has Come, 1996.)