Words for the Timid Soul


Parable of the Talents

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J. B. Phillips, the Anglican rector who gave us such a special translation of the New Testament, disagreed sharply with the line from a familiar hymn: “O to be nothing, nothing…” Dr. Phillips said he searched the New Testament in vain to find an endorsement for that point of view. If ever a book taught people to be “something, something,” he said, and to stand and do battle– “to be far more full of joy and daring and life than they ever were without God– that book is the New Testament.”

How can we claim to believe in heaven if we have so little regard for the potential of life in the here and now? Perhaps there is no better way to prove that we cherish the prospect of eternity than to take hold of life on this earth with a passion and a gladness. Those who wrap their gold in a napkin and bury it, while they think of the world to come, show that they don’t have much regard for eternity, because they have so little regard for time.

So the timid soul for whom I feel so sorry is, in truth, a villain. And the villain I see in him too often shows himself in me. On dark days of self-doubt (which are likely to be those days when I doubt the goodness of God), in times when weariness shuts out the sunlight of vigor and hope, or at times when I’ve simply lost heart, I bury the gold. Usually it’s only for a brief time. But if life is such a precious thing, then why do I bury it for even a brief time? Sadly, some people bury the gold for all of their days– not because they’re bad or because they hate God, but simply because they, like the timid soul in Jesus’ story, are afraid.

I want to do something for that timid soul, partly because I have a picture in my memory of good but inadequate people who are somewhat beaten by life, who can’t imagine themselves as winners. They’ve lost so often for so many years that they can’t conceive of winning. I want to help those persons who are so timid about life and so doubtful of God and of themselves. I want to see them break free from their sense fo worthlessness or helplessness, so they might fulfill the confidence shown in them by the One who entrusted them with their gold. 

God’s vision for us as workers ought to deliver every timid soul, for now and for eternity.   <Parables from the Back Side: Bible Stories with a Twist, by J. Ellsworth Kalas. p. 31>

I really enjoy this book  It looks at some parables in the Bible but focuses on a different aspect of the story than is commonly dealt with. It has been argued (such as by Julicher) that parables are a story built about one basic meaning or point. Clearly, the structure of some parables point to more than one understanding. For example, in the Prodigal Son, if the single point was about the relationship between the younger son and the father, the older son element would be unnecessary, even confusing. If the single point was only about the relationship between the older son and the father, the younger son would still be necessary, but should have been dealt with much more briefly. The elements to the story guide the range of perspectives.

Kalas’ book attempts to look at some parables from a perspective that is Biblically sound, yet is different than the most common perspective. The above quote is a part of the discussion on the Parable of the Talents. Kalas looked at this parable from the perspective of the relationship between the rich man and the 1 talent servant. Clearly, being humble (a virtue in the Bible) is far from being self-deprecating, or being timid.

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