3-7-21 | Treasure in the Field | Jeremy Hudson
Sometimes, what seems like the most common sense thing to do is really burying talents and rendering them useless for the Kingdom.
I learned this lesson the hard way!
It was early in my career as a pastor, when I was asked to help lead a team from our church on a mission trip to serve with our partners in Cebu, Philippines. On this particular day, the big event we were planning for was assisting the local ministry in a massive medical clinic that would provide free access to doctors, treatment, and medication in a desperately underserved area of this densely populated city of 3 million people.
Our role was one of support, helping make the process easier for both patients as they moved through various stations and the health care workers that had volunteered their time. Specifically, my team was called on to provide activities for the children who could find themselves waiting for hours until they and/or their family members were able to be seen.
Of the many activity stations, the temporary tattoo station quickly garnered a lot of attention. For most of the day, the mass of bodies huddled around Mitch, the lone team member assigned to apply the novelties, never dipped below 40 or 50 children. Each of these little people, barely able to contain their excitement, each desiring to be the next person to get ‘inked’, were all pushing forward trying to get their out-stretched arm closer to Mitch’s face.
While all this was going on, my role was to make sure that all the activity stations had what they needed and that the wait lines were minimal. My focus that day was solely making sure things were running smoothly, and the bottle neck at tattoo station was really messing things up.
I walked over to better observe the chaos at Mitch’s station, and watched as he would proceed one kid at a time. He would take their selected tattoo, place it in the desired place of their arm or cheek, and then apply the wet sponge that would cause the design to transfer. I was surprised to see with each kid, Mitch would hold the sponge in place, close his eyes, and begin to move his lips in what I assumed was a slow, deliberate, silent counting of the 30 seconds needed to complete the task. I watched him do this several times before I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Moving in close through the throng, I got Mitch’s attention in between ‘sessions.’
“Mitch, you know you don’t have to wait exactly 30 seconds for each tattoo. You can go a little faster… you have a lot of kids waiting for their turn.”
I’ll never forget Mitch’s compassionate response.
“Jeremy, I’m not counting to 30 with each tattoo, I am silently praying for each kid while they wait.”
WOW!!! Mitch’s words delivered a gut punch of Kingdom reality to my soul. Mitch was focused on what we were really supposed to be doing that day… and I was not.
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a story of three servants, entrusted by their master with varying levels of his treasure. The expectation was that they would use what he had apportioned to them, to produce a return on his investment.
If you remember the story, the first two servants went out and doubled the original investment. Upon the master’s return, the delivery of their report, and the total deposit from their efforts, their master exclaimed “Well done, good and faithful servant(s)!”
But the third servant didn’t make the same choice. Instead of any kind of investment with his master’s resources, he buried it in a field.
We read that story today and that seems like a totally foolish thing to do. Who, besides pirates, would ever think that burying a treasure is a good idea?
However, when you read in the context of that time and culture, burying treasure was a routine practice. When threats of theft, corruption or conquering armies loomed, a totally normal—almost logical way of protecting what was valuable was to bury it somewhere it would not likely be discovered.
Here’s my point; we need to consider that some actions which seem to be common sense, logical and even routine, might in reality be a clever way of burying the gifts and talents which were meant to be used in building God’s Kingdom. And, since we know that buried treasures are useless to the Kingdom, it’s worth asking ourselves, “Am I doing that today?”
Looking back at that day in Cebu, I think that is exactly what I was doing. I had the opportunity to use some of my gifts and talents to build the Kingdom, and instead I buried them in building a successful event (albeit a good event). My friend Mitch, on the other hand, took a singular gift… the gift of an opportunity, and turned it into a prayerful investment in the life of each one of those children.
I have no doubt that later that evening, as Mitch reviewed the events of the day with the Lord, he heard our Master say, “Good job Mitch, well done!”