Once upon a time, there was a man entrusted with a great treasure. “This is the most precious thing I own,” his master told him. “I’m trusting it to you until I return. Don’t waste it.”
Then the master left on a long journey (as masters in parables are wont to do.)
The man gazed at it in awe. It was tiny — small enough to fit into the palm of his hand. Although it didn’t LOOK like much, he surmised it must be a gem of some kind. A diamond, a priceless jewel.
Accordingly, he built a case for the treasure with translucent but impenetrable walls. He got some polish and shined it up — after all, it looked a little rough, and he wanted to show it off to its best advantage.
He hired security, put in lights to show the treasure off, and charged admission for people to come and see it. The master had told him not to waste it.
His number-one priority was protecting that gem.
After a long time, the master came back. The servant proudly showed him all that he had done.
But the master looked strangely disappointed.
“Why did you waste it?” he asked.
You see, the master hadn’t left the servant with a diamond. He had left him with a seed.
Now some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the festival. So they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested of him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus replied to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
(John 12:20-25, HCSB)
A whole lot hinges on our understanding of who and what we are. If we think that our lives are diamonds, meant to be hoarded, protected, polished, and displayed, we will waste them.
We are valuable, yes. We are of inestimable worth to the God who made us. But we are not diamonds.
We are seeds.
Fundamentally, our lives are meant to be given away in such a way that more life is produced. The goal is not an impressive display. It’s a harvest.
Planting a seed always involves elements of risk. To use Jesus’s words, it has to fall into the ground and die. It has to be trusted to the elements, allowed to break open, allowed to change — to transform.
Only when our lives are given in this way will we discover what we are meant to be. Only when we “hate” our lives — not loving them, protecting them, or seeking them for their own sake but instead risking, trusting, and growing — in the rain, the mud, and the countless challenges of life — will we find out what we are truly meant to be.
(Elisabeth Elliot, who passed away yesterday morning at the age of 88, stands out as a modern example of a life given — not through martyrdom, though her first husband lost his life that way, but through simply living for God. I honor her legacy.)
Like all principles of the kingdom, this is ALWAYS true, even for those who are not followers of the King. If you think about it, every human life that has ever made a mark has done so by risking, trusting, falling into the ground, changing — by living like a seed. Lives that exist only for themselves, that spend their energies self-protecting, are wasted.
For followers of the King the principle becomes all the more remarkable because the harvest continues into eternal life. We will find our lives indeed.
“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. Now My soul is troubled. What should I say—Father, save Me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again!”
The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder. Others said that an angel had spoken to Him.
Jesus responded, “This voice came, not for Me, but for you. Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself.”
(John 12:26-31, HCSB)