By: Katie Runnels
Have you ever felt that life dealt you an unfair blow? Have you ever felt like your unhappiness is God’s fault or someone else’s fault? Have you ever felt stuck? Paralyzed by fear? Unable to move forward?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are in company. I have felt all of these things… For many years I felt trapped, confused, and alone.
However, a recent study of one of Jesus’ parables shed light on these feelings. In “The Parable of the Bags of Gold,” (found in Matthew 25), Christ tells a story that shows us what pleases God and what displeases God.
Simply put: when we care about what God cares about, we will be happy. Our actions will naturally be a result of this caring. However, when we are so detached from what matters to God that we do nothing–then blame him for it, we will be doomed to “weeping”(i.e. depression). So, if you are questioning what will make you happy, ask yourself first if you know what matters to God. In other words, figure out what makes God happy. Then get to work doing things that make him happy. Your happiness will be inevitable.
When the essence of our existence is about pleasing God–happiness is ours. When our ego dies, in other words, happiness comes alive.
For purposes of concise communication, let’s make the assumption that the “Master” in the story represents God. And let’s also assume that the “servants” represent/symbolize us–humans.
Read the following parable:
Matthew 25: 14-30
The Parable of the Bags of Gold
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 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.’
21 “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!’
22 “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.’
23 “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!’
24 “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. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “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? 27 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.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For 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. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The master was pleased with the first two servants, and he rewarded them with more to manage and consequently happiness (vv 21-23).
Note: their reward was not physical. They were given no material “thing.” Rather, their master gave them more responsibility (a higher rank–closer to him) and happiness. They were more authority, but they were not given independence. They were still completely dependent on their master.
The last servant, on the other hand, was punished for his wickedness and laziness. His consequence was “darkness,” depression (“weeping”), and anxiety “gnashing of teeth”). So, for acting out of fear and then blaming his master, the last servant received sadness and more fear. One might conclude here that fear begets fear. For, it is when we are afraid that we are lost and paralyzed; further, our reality becomes skewed. We do not see God for who he really is. We do not know his love. We do not aim to please him alone–we are self absorbed, isolated, and afraid of God…
Afraid of a happy God? This does not make logical sense.
Who is afraid of a happy authority? Usually happy bosses are the best bosses. We have all experienced bosses… Happy bosses inspire us. Angry bosses make us afraid…
Do you know your Boss? Do you know his nature, his love, what matters to him? Are your choices in life focused on growing his wealth? Or, are you focused on protecting yourself? Are you acting out of fear or faith? Are you seeking to please God or are you simply trying to avoid God’s wrath? Maybe neither!! The point is this:
When you know God, you will want to please him, and when your focus is on pleasing him alone, you will be happy. This takes faith and action.
However, when you don’t know God, you will act out of fear (not faith), and instead of trusting in God’s love and taking action, you will be paralyzed by fear. Then all you will have left is fear. Fear and Love do not go together. You cannot be close to God and still be afraid. It is not possible. Moreover, fear and happiness do not go together…
So why do people think money will make them happy? Clearly, the happy servants did not possess any wealth. They simply managed it for their master.
First of all, it gives them a false since of security–and they feel less afraid. Then, they are able to experience momentary happiness. Eventually, however, no matter how rich someone is, that “feeling” of happiness will fade if they are not close to God and taking action to please him. Ultimately, trust in money does not bring happiness–because trust in money means no trust in God. It means trust in self.
Sure, one can be wealthy, close to God, and happy…. In this case, the person who is “rich” is not “attached” to his or her wealth. It is icing on the cake, so to speak. I have known people like this. And ironically, the happier they are for the “right reasons” the wealthier they get (the more they will be given to manage)–like the first two servants. Remember, though, that ALL belongs to God. If were are given treasures to manage on earth for a brief while, just remember, it is still God’s.
Think of the treasures God is given you to manage. Is it your children? Is it a skill? Is it wealth? Is it your spouse? All of these treasures belong to God. How are you managing them? Are you growing them for God? Are you taking action? Are you taking risk? Are you focused on pleasing God with these treasures? Or are you taking the little you have and putting it in a hole for safekeeping because you are afraid?
Nurture what you were given, and you will be given more… But do not become too attached! It does not belong to you. EVERYTHING belongs to God. The knowledge of this should be liberating. And with this liberation comes happiness. For take action out of the knowledge that God is love and everything everything belongs to him, we will be acting out of faith and love, and this brings joy.
God is not concerned with us being self sufficient and cautious. He is concerned with us truly knowing him and working on his behalf. When we do this, happiness and joy will chase us down!
“Good and faithful” in this context mean “useful” and “loyal” (according to the Greek translation). Be useful with God’s treasures and loyal to God and you will then “share” in his happiness.
When we are intimately connected to God, our desires will be his desires. And we will trust in him so completely that we will take action–even though we don’t know the exact outcome! We will be determined to bear fruit, and act out of faith–not fear. The master in this parable reprimanded the third servant for being “wicked” and “lazy” ( v 26). “Wicked” is a very strong word. It implies evil and malice…..
So, what is wicked about being cautious? What is wicked about being careful? What is wicked about being afraid of punishment? (These are all behavioral descriptions of the last servant). The wickedness lies in his misconception of God (his master), and his unwillingness to take personal responsibility.
God essentially said to the last servant: “You do not know me; you did not make effort to know me; you did not make effort to be be useful with the treasures I gave you…Then you have the audacity to blame me?!?”
“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.”
In other words, this last servant was just making excuses for his inaction! Further, he blamed his fear on his master. He either did not really know his master, or he was just making up a story so that he did not have to work. This is “wicked and lazy.”
The beginning of of the end of fear, then is intimacy with God (our master).
Intimacy leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to trust, and trust leads action. When we take action, we change. We grow. We grow closer to God. We become more like God. When we trust him, he trusts us. He gives us more freedom, more sharing in his happiness. This is a mutual agreement. How do we get to this closeness with God? It starts with a prayer like this: God, please come closer to me….
Then it carries on–if you let it. It evolves, it grows, it explodes, it shines bright.
There is a saying that “nothing changes if nothing changes.” This seems redundant, but it is true.
Movement/flow is a part of God’s nature. If it does not flow, it does not have life. Lack of movement causes stagnancy. And stagnant people are fearful and isolated. They do not know God, and therefore, they do not trust Him. Happiness is there for those who take the time to know their maker and act on his behalf. His reward is a “sharing” in his happiness–due to a “sharing” of his authority.
When we are close to God, we cannot help but want what he wants. We become extensions of him. We naturally move with him.
Therefore, our actions will be a reflection of His loving nature. We will trust him. We will be one with him.
The last servant was motivated by fear and laziness. He either did not know is boss, or he simply did not care about him. When we know the true nature of our “Boss,” we will act out of faith, and we will work hard to please him. Our faith and our actions, then, will reflect God’s nature to the world.
And this pleases God.
Do you want to be happy? Stop blaming God and start getting closer to him. Start trusting him. Take action with the treasures he has placed in your lap. What happens next is no secret.
Prayer: Lord, come closer to us today. May we know your true nature, and may we work hard to please you alone.