The Art of Being a Giver

For more than a year now I’ve been thinking and meditating on the Parable of the Talents to better appreciate its meaning and incorporate it into my daily life. Here in Africa, when I consider this parable, I find myself in a position of the master rather than the servants who received the talents. A question that has been before me for quite some time is, “What are the motivations of the servants before the master comes and gives them his fortune or talents?”

I sometimes wonder if the servants had expected this kind of behavior from the master or was this something new? Had they ever asked the master for part of his fortune to invest while he was still there among them? What motivated the first servant and how was that different from the motivation or lack thereof from the third servant? Would their motivations have changed if the master was still there among them?

I’m not really trying to ask any kind of theologically-motivated questions but just seeking to put myself in their place. I live in a land where I am perceived as rich (rightly so) and with that comes some expectations from the community. Obviously the master was somewhat shrewd when he gave out his allotments to the servants, but I’ve also come to realize that the servants didn’t ask for it either.

In a society that is filled with extremely rich and utterly poor, Jesus shows us a scene where the tables have been turned. The master has chosen to give the gifts of talents before the servants even asked for them. Because of this, I’ve been led to begin practicing (with much failure I might add) a discipline I call, “Give the gift before the gift is asked for”. Obviously this is pertinent to my situation in that I have lots of people coming to me asking for help, but what does it mean when I can give a gift to individuals or the community before they come knocking on my door?

When I considered the situation that I’m in, I remembered what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10:42 (NIV). “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” Jesus says, “if anyone gives…”. He didn’t say, “If someone comes and asks you for a cup of water and you give it to them…”. Therefore I am seeking to give the gift, whether water, food, clothing, education, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, or the message of Jesus Christ, before it is asked of me.


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