Luis is a dear friend of mine; he has been married for years to his beautiful wife. He is also a very dedicated laborer who, like most men out here is always hunting for meaningful work. When it is harvest time, labor is easier to find, but outside of the harvest it can be tough. I met Luis at Church, where he plays guitar at mass faithfully every Saturday evening. The first time we ever built a house out here, I needed to locate a trusted and handy type man who could do just about any type of work.
“You need to speak with Luis!” was everyone’s response.
So, we hired Luis to build a home and he completely knocked it out of the park. Great craftsmanship, attention to detail, and very timely. We have hired him again and again to build homes for families out here, and each time, he always over delivers. In fact, because we are missionaries and we give these homes away for free to families in need, Luis demands I pay him a lower rate. He could normally make the going rate $1800-$2000 Costa Ricans Colones per hour (roughly $3.50-$4/hour), but he only allows me to pay him $1500 Colones per hour (roughly $2.80/hour) which is on the lower end of the spectrum for a man’s hourly wage out here. But, he insists and smiles and says that it is simply him giving his part and partaking in our mission. It’s truly inspiring.
But, during the last home we were building, I noticed that he started to bring along a friend with him to help. These homes are very easy to build; only about 300-400 SF and made of wood, tin roof, and sometimes a concrete floor. I thought to myself that it was no big deal, I would just plan to pay both the same rate. But, when I went to pay them, Luis stopped me and said “Oh no, I will pay him out of the money you give me, Felipe! It’s my way to partake in the mission, and plus my friend has no other way to make money for his family.” Again, I was blown away by his desire to serve and partake in the kingdom of God, even when he wasn’t expected to.
His willingness reminds of the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25: 14-30. You remember the passage I’m sure, it’s the one where Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like “a man who goes on a journey, calls in his servants and entrusts his possessions to them.” Notice those words, “entrusts his possessions to them” He gives the three men five, two and one talent each according to their own ability, then he goes away. The parable goes on to state that the man given five talents goes off and makes another five; the man with two talents goes off and makes another two, but the man given one talent goes and buries it in a hole out of fear. To the first two men Jesus responds, “Well done good and faithful servant. Come, share your masters joy.” However, Jesus deals with the final man in a far different manner. Jesus says, “You wicked and useless servant!” and orders that this useless servant is thrown into the darkness outside where there will be wailing and grinding of teethe. Yikes.
These are harsh and demanding words from the mouth of Jesus. I know Jesus has given me much of his belongings (money, time, actual gifts and talents, faith and formation) and I know that one day, like this master, my master will return and he will be asking me to make an account of what I have done with the things of himself that he has so freely given me. Sometimes, I like to imagine Jesus not being so demanding. I like to think of him as the teacher who never grades assignments, or the boss who always looks the other way when I am not performing at my best. Sometimes I live my life like Jesus will be grading on an enormous curve. Sometimes I live my life like all I must do is passively believe in him and then when Jesus returns he will simply say “Well done good and faithful servant!” But, why and how could Jesus tell me well done if I haven’t done anything? And how could he call me faithful if my faith hasn’t produced any fruit?
In the case of my friend Luis, I gave him a task to complete for a given price. Upon my return, his task is always far better than my expectation and he has given away his personal profits to help someone else in need. Essentially everything he did in the time given to him is always diligent, productive, and absolutely selfless.
Can we say this about our lives? I know I struggle to. Is essentially everything we are doing today diligent, productive, and selfless in terms of the kingdom of God? None of us can be perfect in our pursuits, but I believe my buddy Luis paints a great picture of this passage. Can you imagine, giving away a third of what you earned today to assist someone else who couldn’t find work? Can you imagine giving a third of your time away today to advance the spread of the gospel and the name of Jesus somehow? Again, these are challenging questions, but I believe they reside at the heart of our master, Jesus.
Remember, the heart of the parable is that the master gave these men his possessions in hopes that they would multiply them and give them back to the master upon his return. Jesus has given us his life within us. My money, home, success, time, and even energy is all his. For me to turn these things inwardly would be tragic. It would be as tragic as these men in the parable simply running off with the master’s talents and spending them on themselves. Jesus addresses this sin in other parables, but essentially when we receive anything from God, perhaps the goal should be should only allow it to briefly pass through our hands so it can reach the hands of those who need it most.
We live in a world which tells us to make something great of ourselves and accumulate things so that our lives can be comfortable and easy. Jesus calls us to take what he has given to us and multiply it making something great of HIM. Do you see the difference? The world screams at us to make something great of ourselves, while all along Jesus demands us to make his name great. “Your name and renown and the desire of our hearts.” (Isaiah 26:8).
Every time we finish a home out here I smile and tell Luis what a great job he has done and thank him tremendously. To which, of course, my buddy humbly responds, “All thanks to Jesus, Felipe, it’s his work!”