I’ve been reading through the major and minor prophets and, honestly, it’s sometimes difficult to find ways to apply them to everyday life beyond the simple warnings that God will not put off punishment forever.
However, I came across Ezekiel 16:17-19 and it started me thinking about talents and how we spend the blessings God gives us.
Before I explain where I’m going with this, here are the verses: “You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them. And you took your embroidered clothes to put on them, and you offered my oil and incense before them. Also the food I provided for you -- the flour, olive oil and honey I gave you to eat -- you offered as fragrant incense before them. That is what happened, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
So, I know that in this context, God is reprimanding Israel for following other gods but I think it says something to us about how we spend our blessings and our gifts.
I’m going to make this personal by explaining how I think it applies to me. God gave me a talent for writing. Yet, how often do I use it for God’s work? The answer - More now than I previously did. This blog is me giving Him control over my talent. Certain of my stories are specifically written to point out His lessons. But, these things aren’t the only things I write.
I was watching a show the other night and the one supposedly christian character was a hypocrite and an idiot. (I know this seems like a tangent but bear with me). The character really annoyed me because she is just the most recent and most obviously insulting way christian characters are portrayed in books and on visual media. Don’t believe me? Think about the movies and books you’ve read lately. Odds are, the only ‘christians’ in them are people who aren’t actually practicing christianity, who are just good people like Cornelius or they are portrayed hypocrites or uneducated or just plain stupid.
It’s annoying...and (here’s where I’m circling back) what am I going to do about it?
God gave me a talent for writing...so what am I going to do about the lack of truly Christian characters in mainstream media? Am I going to give God my writing only in a small area, only for this blog, only for a few short stories? What will I do with my talent that God gave me the rest of the time - leave Christianity out of it? Leave God out of it?
If I leave God out of my other writing, who am I serving? Am I giving jewelry He made for me to the idols of public adulation and popularity, the idol of writing for the current trends?
Maybe it’s a stretch but I’m not so sure.
We were created and designed with a plan. Ephesians 2:10 states “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in him.”
So, how did God prepare us for good works? He gave us talents and tendencies and even weaknesses that can be used for His glory and to further His plan.
Yet, how often do we use our talents for God?
Please take a moment to think about it and before you think that your talent isn’t useful because you’re not a teacher or a writer or great at making money, understand, there is a need for every sort of talent in the body. My home congregation and my parents’ home congregation have both benefited from members who are gardeners. They have used their talent with gardening to make the landscape around the buildings look nice and cared for instead of neglected. By making the building look nice, it makes the building more welcoming. This may not seem as important as preaching before thousands or founding a Bible college but it is important. Our buildings are our first impression on those that need us. Who would want to go to a hospital surrounded by overgrown weeds? Would you have faith that they are caring, conscientious people?
Well, the buildings we worship in are hospitals for sick and dying souls. We want them to come to us.
Other examples: I had a Sunday school teacher that used her love of baking to encourage her class to learn. Learning the books of the Bible and a certain number of scriptures would earn a child in her class a cake specially decorated for them. My dad often shares a story from when he preached in Alaska. The congregation there wanted to set up a new program. A member of the congregation was very successful artist who had two paintings that he rented out for thousands of dollars. Please note: This man rented these paintings, didn’t sell them. Companies were willing to pay him a lot of money just to have these paintings in their building for a limited amount of time. Without hesitation, the artist sold one of those paintings and funded the entire program. He could have simply donated the proceeds from one or two rentals or a portion of his income but, instead, he devoted his talent and blessings to God first and sold the painting so the program could be fully funded without worry.
Please, understand, I’m not saying you should never derive personal benefit from your talent or use it for your own success and enjoyment. Many people use their talents to support themselves and their families which is as it should be. The artist that sold the painting supported his family with his painting. The people that care for the landscapes of their congregtion’s buildings have their own gardens at home that they enjoy.
Recharging one’s self and resting is not forbidden or selfish God rested after creating the world.
In addition, there is nothing wrong with using one’s talents for one’s own enjoyment. There are plenty of jokes that God created the platypus as a practical joke on humanity or for His own humanity and, honestly, it may be true. We were created in God’s image and humans have a sense of humor so, logically, God has a sense of humor. So, who is to say God didn’t create the platypus for fun? I’m not saying He did, I’m just pointing out that God gave us a need to rest and a need for amusement so, no, we don’t have to use our talents only for work.
However, I do think we need to think about how often we use our talents and blessings for God and how often we use it for ourselves. Or, maybe more importantly, do we think of using them for God first or for ourselves or to gain worldly success first?
When you get a really big tax refund, is your first thought to get a nicer car or upgrade your computer or something else that would be nice, but not necessary, or do you first give thanks to God for the blessing and check around you to see if there’s something or someone you know that God meant that money for?
Again, I’m not saying that that big tax refund can’t be used for buying a better computer or car. I’m not even saying that God didn’t give it to you specifically so you could improve your life in some matter. I’m talking about where do our thoughts go to first: What we want to do with it or what God might want to do with it?
It’s about attitude and priorities.
I’m not saying that you can’t paint a picture because you like it or write a short story just because. I’m not saying you can’t try to become a professional with your talent. I’m not even saying that all of my fiction from now on will be Christian fiction.
I’m saying...take a look at your thought processes and how you’re using your talents and blessings for. Ask yourself, who has the priority and is there a need that I’m overlooking, a good work that God equipped me to do that I haven’t been doing.
For me, I see a lack of truly strong and devout Christian characters in today’s stories and I am a writer so...it looks like I need to rework a few things.