January 22, 2007
Meditation Commentary on Luke 16:5-8
So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
Watching a master in any field is a sight to remember. To see a concert pianist at his art, fingers flying over the keys too fast to be seen, is amazing and memorable. But accomplishing such things is never easy. It can be overwhelming to think of all the time and energy poured into practicing, learning, and studying, discouraging to realize how long it must take to achieve.
It is reassuring to remember, though, that we do not, and cannot, start out impressive and inspiring. All things begin small. Working towards any goal requires that first, tentative step, uncertain and humbling, whether the object in mind is becoming a musician or a surgeon, whether learning carpentry or cooking, astronomy or bridge building. No one begins as a master architect; he begins with classes, books and assignments. It is years before he can finally be set loose to create works of art. But that “finally” is not now, and the dream must not take the place of the reality that is gritty under our fingers. Life is composed of individual moments, and each can only be lived on its own. The goal must be kept in mind; but that goal will only become a reality when we focus on the time we have in our hands at this moment, rather than the time we may have in the future. “Take care of the minutes,” as Lord Chesterfield said, “And the hours will take care of themselves.”
Although it is encouraging to think that all we must do is focus on the next small step, striving to stay faithful with what is rather than what could be, it is also sobering. The promise works both ways. “He that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much,” Jesus told us. Every little step taken in the wrong direction, every little bit of time frittered away, every lingering moment, is a single snowflake that, given time, will accumulate into an immovable snowdrift. This is why we are bidden to be stewards of what we are given, to redeem the time down to every little moment, because if we do not—moments are notorious for slipping by unnoticed, as silently as snow. And then a snowdrift has been laid down, the time buried, and the chance to redeem it past and gone.
What a waste of the priceless gifts that God grants! He created time; he created every human being in his own image as the crowning touch of his universe, and gave each person carefully fashioned talents and abilities. To squander the time and talents we have been given is tantamount to spitting in his face, to saying that what he invented is not worth our time or attention. He knows the hairs on our heads; how much more does he know the capacities he has hidden inside us! And the accomplishment of those hidden treasures does not lie simply in dreams and hopes; it lies here, and now, in the moment before us in all its dry and dustiness. Redeem the time now; there will come a day when it will be too late.