Waster of Gifts

A while ago, Angie Brennan posted a quote from a Touchstone article on God’s apparent wastefulness when it comes to our natural talents:

I am convinced, quite contrary to a great deal of pious wisdom on the subject, that the possession of certain gifts, even in abundance, is not necessarily a sign that one will have the opportunity to employ them in this life, or the blessing of God in their attempted use. This is because I, and many others I know, have certain powers whose use I firmly believe we have been forbidden—which must apparently remain latent indefinitely, at least in this life. There are other gifts I regard as far smaller and less important I have been forced to exercise, much to my irritation and chagrin, consistently. It would appear, if not from our lives, then those of the martyrs, that from a strictly pragmatic point of view God is a great waster of his best resources.

We don’t, however, have access to the Grand Scheme of Things, don’t know precisely what we’ve been made for, don’t know what God values most in us, or what we shall become in glory. We are like Jane Studdock, who wanted to be admired and valued for her intellect, but finally had to come to grips with the fact that those whose valuations she really cared about in the end valued her for other qualities. In evaluating our own gifts and callings we need to take this consideration into proper account. While lack of aptitude provides adequate reason to forego some ambitions (a pig gains no glory from the attempt to fly), its possession, alas, does not necessarily demand its exercise–although, of course, it might.

(S. M. Hutchens, Touchstone, Nov. 10, 2004)

In a Bible study many years ago, a friend brought our attention to the fact that it was Cain’s line that produced all the innovators: tentmaking, metalwork and music. Being young and ignorant, the best reason we could come up with was that God’s people often aren’t very talented.

Of course, I now know that God keeps the best until the end. Babel is always built in a hurry but Jerusalem takes time (James Jordan). Sunflowers don’t last but oak trees do.

There is also a liturgical reason why Cain’s line received all the gifts. Pentecost brings gifts. Gifts are kingly and prophetic. The priestly line was not made of innovators. By design, they were servants of God. Of course, when Israel matures, as servant kings, she receives gifts, but their use is still priestly in a sense — church architecture, great literature, church music, technology, etc. Before Christ, glory belonged to the pagans. Since Christ, His Church has been the only source of innovation. It is the “nursery of culture” (Jordan again).

Now, to my point. It also seems that in the Covenantal process of maturity, our “latent” gifts must go on the altar for purification. And I suppose some of them don’t come out of the fire. The gifts with which we are born are natural, raw. The natural man is incredibly gifted, but the natural is simply raw material. It requires cutting.

Just like the sons of Cain, those gifts are worthless to God until He gets His “gift” — a firstfruits. Then He can pour out lasting glory. In the big picture, Jesus is that great gift, and the centre of the glory poured out is His Church.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:4-6)

See also The Significance of Jabal and Jubal.

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