The talents and the next life

This life is a mere playground when compared with the real business in the next life. Having lived this long, so far, I am privileged with a glimpse of the significance of living in this world. This world grants the ability to glimpse experiences of success and failures in people’s lives, including one’s own successes and failures.

The furthest degree of success is remaining alive longer. But the furthest degree of failure is reaching the unavoidable destiny of death. Regardless of how long a person might have lived, death reverses everything achieved. The obituaries at some people’s funerals can be heartrending. But soon, when the reality settles, such people become forgotten, as if they never existed.

On reexamining the collection of my observations, questions begin to emerge about whether necessary to have lived long. Close to seventy years of my conscious living reveals an incredible reality of futility in this life. Was it worth it, living that long? The preacher sufficiently engraved the memento, where very little can be added to his colourful words of wisdom.

“I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this, my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labour, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:8-12 NIV).

The preacher penned the above words without having had the privilege of knowing Jesus, whose answers are informative. Indeed, life is meaningless without Jesus. The hope found in Jesus reverses despair but provides opportunities to do what is right. There is no other noble investment than recognizing one’s purpose for living.

The worst is dying without discovering one’s identity. God’s children have a special purpose in life. Jesus showed an example of delivering the utmost gift, offering His own life for humanity. What now remains is for humans to take up respective positions, doing what each was born to be. It doesn’t matter how long one lives on earth. Jesus lived only for thirty-three and a half years, yet His accomplishments remain unmatched.

“The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:20-30 NIV).

This life is a learning curve, granting the opportunity for one to exercise his limited abilities to confront problems. Life is meaningless, without problems. Nevertheless, the problems of life; affect other people, more than affecting one. Problem-solving is primarily not for one’s benefit.

The person, who managed to handle his talents profitably, got rewarded over and above what he had bargained for. Interestingly, the person who couldn’t utilize his one talent had it taken away from him and given to the one with more talents. This should not invite questions of how more talents ended in one person.

For instance, why did the Master not give the usurped talent to the one with two, rather than giving one with the abundance? The answer is that the Master wouldn’t be the Master if entertaining such questions. But what pleases the Master most is the person’s willingness to serve, even when holding many responsibilities.

Such a person would be capable of producing even more when given unlimited resources. There is a common saying, even in this world that says: “If you desire results, invest in those with more responsibilities.” The mistake one can make is to look around for idle people before entrusting them with what would be expected to be achieved.

Idle people are idle because they find comfort in idleness. Hard work is an inconvenience for them. This refers to those commonly good at giving excuses for not doing what is expected of them. Such people cannot be confronted for not achieving results. They are dodgy and very good at giving reasons for failure.

Through the services of Jesus, life has become more meaningful than it ever was. When the preacher emphasized the futility of life, the Messiah had not yet appeared. Being a genius in projecting scientific evidence on realities of life, the preacher could have used words to produce a fitting germane.

The most delicious thing is to receive prosperity. The only problem with prosperity is that it grants superiority over others. Superiority attracts being served, rather than serving, which is the whole purpose of living. Rather than invest in worldly things, one does well, when investing in God’s Kingdom.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV).

Good stewardship starts with one’s ability to provide for one’s immediate family members. This should not be mistaken for the instruction given to the disciples, expected to leave their families to follow Christ. The messages given to the followers of Jesus were commonly not given in figurative terms.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV).

The parable of the talents was directed at ordinary people, more than Jesus’ followers. The mystery of God’s Kingdom is threefold. Firstly, Jesus introduced God’s Kingdom, at His earthly appearance, before his death and resurrection. That Kingdom was to be experienced by His disciples and later, His followers.

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21 NIV).

The Pharisees could not see the obvious. Jesus represented God’s Kingdom, but they could not see because it was not given to them to see. However, His disciples, while also not able to see at that time, clearly saw it, after the dissension of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

The second manifestation of God’s Kingdom would be at Jesus’ Second coming. This would be during the one thousand years of Christ’s reign on Earth. The entire world will be subjected under Christ, using factors of God’s Kingdom, but still, God’s Kingdom will have not yet come. Humanity will experience the tranquillity of God’s Kingdom.

Its third and final manifestation will be yet to come. Hence, at the end of the millennium, after Satan’s release, some people will rebel. This reflects the final purging of those living, but being against God’s Kingdom. Their end follows Satan’s demise Revelation 20:7-10.

This would then be followed by the final Day of Judgment. This is where people become rewarded according to their work. This portrays the period projected by Jesus when separating one group on His right, against those on His left (Matthew 25:31-33). The rewards answer the question of what one would have done to others, more than what he did for himself.

Incidentally, Jesus gave a hint on the principle of good works. This is not how benevolence is known to be dispensed. There is a form of giving that is necessary for one to be rewarded handsomely, in this life. This is what is commonly used by most successful businesses, but inapplicable in God’s Kingdom.

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men, I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4 NIV).

The above instruction was not directed to the general public, but to the disciples, and those later deciding to believe in Jesus. The above instruction is certainly inapplicable to ordinary people. But it does give some clue on the significance of righteousness, even when not committed to Jesus.

While Jesus’ usage of parables was directed to outsiders, those parables also profoundly teach God’s Children. For instance, the parable of the talents relates to the gift of life. But it also relates to what one does with the Holy Spirit. This is also similarly portrayed in the parable of the Ten Virgins. The oil suggests the Holy Spirit, susceptible to be quenched by the foolish ones.

The bottom line stresses the value being what one does for other people, rather than what other people do to one. It is the principle of servitude that counts. Hence, it is more blessed to give than to receive. The things done for others are basically what count, in determining God’s Kingdom rewards.

The grand foolishness is sustained in desiring to be famous. This is what people call “success”, but being the foolishness of the highest degree. Regardless of how successful a person can become, that fame dries up at death. It becomes very difficult for such people to cope in the next life when used to easy life of being served.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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