I was feeling discouraged earlier this week. I had exchanged texts with a couple of college friends. And after reading their updates, I was left feeling a bit unaccomplished. One was lamenting the challenges of being in grad school, working full time, and homeschooling her preschooler. The other was telling me about completing grad school applications, while helping her four kids with distance learning, and starting several businesses.
As I read their achievements, the only thing I could think about was what wasn’t being accomplished in my own life. How many times have I talked about going back to school in the past two years? How many projects have I started with fervor, only to watch them languish in apathy?
It made me think of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Each servant was given “according to his ability” (v. 15). The first servant was given five talents and doubled them. The second servant, although he was given fewer talents, doubled them too. And then there was the third servant. I wonder if he compared what he was given with the other two. Did he look at his lowly talent and think, “I don’t have as much as they do. They’re going to accomplish so much more than me. So I don’t even know what the use of trying will be.”?
In Exodus 4:2, God asked Moses, “What’s in your hand?” Moses was trying to disqualify himself from the task God had given him. When we feel unqualified, we usually ask things like, “How am I going to get this done? Where can I go to get the needed training? How much money will it take?” But God simply asks, “What is in your hand?” It’s similar to the question Jesus asked his disciples when He fed the 4,000. The disciples asked, “How can we feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (Mark 8:4 ESV). But Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 8:5 ESV).
We are often distracted by what we don’t have or can’t do. We become like the third servant. We start looking around and seeing our shortcomings. So we choose to bury what we have, either out of fear or a sense of inadequacy. However, the difference between the first two servants and the third was not what they were given, but what they did with what they had.
My two friends have very different circumstances from me. They’ve been given things that I haven’t. It would be easy to sit around and do nothing, simply because I don’t have as much as they do and I may not be able to accomplish as much as they can. But God isn’t asking me to compare what I have with what others have. He’s asking me to use what’s in my hand.