What’s Your Back Story?

Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul in the New Testament unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-two through forty of the fourteenth chapter—the final verses of the chapter. With these nine verses the apostle Paul concludes his dialogue concerning spiritual gifts, and more specifically concerning the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and of prophecy. It’s worth nothing that these two gifts initially appear in the list of nine spiritual gifts which are found in the twelfth chapter. These two gifts—along with faith—are found once more in the thirteenth chapter. In the thirteenth chapter the apostle Paul references speaking in the tongues of angels and of men, of the gift of faith to move and remove mountains, and of the gift of prophecy and the understanding of all mysteries and knowledge. Within the thirteenth chapter the apostle Paul speaks of these three gifts—faith, prophecy and speaking in tongues—as profiting nothing if not tempered with and from a place of charity. In all reality, the apostle Paul was emphatically declaring that not even the gifts of the Spirit—as necessary, as useful, as beneficial as they are for and unto the body—have any worth or value outside of and apart from the realm of charity and love. When reading the thirteenth chapter of this epistle one gets confronted with the sense that it is possible for the gifts of the Spirit to be in operation within the body of Christ among its members and yet the gifts are not met with the fruit of the Spirit.

When you read the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth you are brought face to face with nine unique and individual gifts or the Spirit which are given unto the body of Christ among its individual members according to the sovereign will and pleasure of the Spirit. What is absolutely worth taking note of is that it is the Spirit who gives the gifts severally unto and among the members as He will. When you transition just two books over in the New Testament you will come to the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Galatian congregation. In the fifth chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul speaking of the works of the flesh, but immediately after speaking of the works of the flesh, the apostle Paul transitions to listing the nine fruit of the Spirit. I have previously written concerning the gifts and fruit of the Spirit and how upon reading both the first epistle unto the Corinthians, as well as the epistle unto the Galatians, you will notice that there are both nine gifts of the Spirit, and there are nine fruit of the Spirit. Upon reading each of these epistles one gets the strong sense that not only is the Spirit united and not divided within Himself, or among the Godhead, but the Spirit is also balanced in that there aren’t more gifts than there are fruit of the Spirit.

What’s worth considering upon reading each of these epistles is whether or not it is possible for any individual to be given and to move and operate in more than one of the gifts of the Spirit. I am reminded of the parable which Jesus told unto His disciples during His discourse and dialogue surrounding the end times, and concerning the master who went away entrusting into the hands and into the care of his three servants Indi dual talents. To one servant the master gave five talents; to another servant the master gave two talents; and to the third and final servant the master gave one talent. When you read this particular parable you will find that the master gave unto each servant severally according to their ability to handle that which had been given unto and entrusted unto them. The fact that one servant received five talents, another servant received two talents, and another servant received only one talent has absolutely nothing to do with favoritism or partiality on the part of the master. The fact that different measures were given unto each of the servants could be attributed to the individual ability of each servant alone. That which each servant was capable of handling was the sole factor in determining how much each servant received. It would so easy to read this parable and immediately be angry with the master for giving one servant five talents and another servant only one, but such thoughts and emotions flow only from a sense of entitlement that looms within the heart of each and every man, woman and child upon the earth.

How many of us would read this particular parable and would immediately grow angry with the master for being impartial, unfair, and showing favoritism unto the servant who had been given five talents. While it is not mentioned within this parable, one can’t help but be confronted with the very real possibility the servant who had been given two talents, and the servant who had been given one talent could have grown jealous and envious of the servant who had been given five talents. Ultimately, the servant who had been given one talent could have been jealous and envious of the other two servants, for to the One was given two talents, and to the other was given five talents. It would have been very easy for this single servant to grow jealous and envious of the other two servants since had been given only one talent. He could have very easily asked himself what he could have possibly done with a single talent when another servant had been given two talents, and another servant had been given five talents. This third servant could have very easily resolved within himself that there was very little of anything he could have done with the single talent he had been given. This servant could have very well and very easily purpose within himself that there was very little he could have done with a single talent, and that there wasn’t any value or worth in that which he had been given. This servant could have very easily grown angry, enraged and bitter towards his master for only giving unto him a single talent, as well as at the same time grown jealous and envious of the other two talents. It would have been very easy for this single servant to find himself in a dark and deep place of comparison with the other two servants as he saw himself as having been given only one talent, while the other two servants were given at least twice as much as he had been.

COMPARISON! JEALOUSY! ENVY! BITTERNESS! RAGE! ANGER! OUTRAGE! Each of these words could very well and very easily describe the flood and barrage of emotions and thoughts that could have gone through the heart and mind of this single servant. This servant could have very easily compared himself to the other two servants and not only saw himself as being inferior to the other two servants, but also as not having as much worth or value as the other two servants. This servant could have found himself in a place of comparison with the other two servants, and found himself in a dark and deep place of resentment toward these other two servants—something which the other two servants had absolutely no control over. As I sit here considering this particular parable which Jesus told I can’t help but hint of the back story this parable doesn’t speak of or reveal. I fully recognize and understand that when Scripture is silent we need and we should stay silent, but when I consider this parable I can’t help but think about the back story behind each of these servants. The parable clearly states that each of these servants was given a measure according to their ability as determined by the master alone. Since the talents which were given unto each of these servants were given based on their individual and unique ability, I can’t help but wonder what their service was like prior to the departure of the master on his trip, and the distributing of the talents. How did each of these servants live their lives in service leading up to this moment when the master departed for his trip and journey, and distributed talents among his servants? I am inclined to believe that there was something about the servant who had been given five talents that caused the master to feel this servant could be entrusted with five talents as opposed to two talents, or even a single talent. There had to have been something about the servant who had been given two talents that led the master to believe this servant could be entrusted with two talents. A similar statement could be made of the servant who had been given a single talent, for one must carefully consider how these servants lived prior to the departure of the master.

In order to help illustrate this particular reality even more it is necessary that we read and study the various references found within Scripture containing the instruction and admonition of the apostle Paul concerning and unto servants. The first such instance is found in the sixth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus, and is found beginning with the fifth verse. Consider if you will the following words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation—“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free” (Ephesians 6:5-8). What we read and what we find within this particular passage in the epistle written unto the Ephesian congregation is echoed in the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Colossian congregation. Beginning with the twenty-second verse of the third chapter of this particular epistle we find and read the following words—“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Colossians 3:22-25). IN the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto his spiritual son in the faith, Timothy, the apostle Paul writes these words—“Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1). When writing unto Titus you will find the following words written concerning servants and how they should thus live under the authority of their masters—“Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and world lusts, we should live soberly, righteousness, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise this” (Titus 2:9-15).

The reason I chose to highlight each of these passages and references is because with each of these references we find specific instruction given by the apostle Paul unto servants who find themselves under the authority of another. Within the twin epistles of Ephesians and Colossians we find The apostle Paul essentially writing and speaking the very same words concerning and unto servants. Within each of these epistles the apostle Paul instructs and exhorts servants to be obedient to them which were their masters according to the flesh. What’s more, is that within each of these epistles the apostle Paul doesn’t merely instruct servants to be obedient unto them which were their masters according to the flesh, but he goes on to describe what that obedience looks like. Upon reading each of these epistles it is necessary that we recognize and understand that there is an obedience that is external and only touches the surface of our hearts and lives, while there is another obedience that touches the inner parts of our being, and that which is internal within our hearts, within our souls, and within our minds. The apostle Paul instructed servants to be obedient unto them which were their masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, and in singleness of their heart as unto Christ. In other words, that which the apostle Paul was instructing them to recognize and understand that their service unto their masters was about more than themselves, and was even about more than their individual masters, but was about Christ who was ultimately the greatest and ultimate Master. The apostle Paul urged, exhorted and instructed obedience unto earthly masters as though men and women were walking in that obedience as though it were unto Christ. Permit me to ask you whether or not you can see Christ within your master, or within your boss at work, or within the authorities that be over you within society, or within those who have been placed in a position of authority over you. When you exercise and walk in obedience—regardless of who that obedience is to, and how that obedience is displayed—is your obedience performed as though it is unto Christ and not unto men.

What’s more, is that when you read this particular passage concerning servants within the twin epistles of Ephesians and Colossians you will find that the obedience which the apostle Paul was urging and exhorting was not to be with with eye service as men pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—please do not miss the tremendous significance of what is recorded within these particular passages of Scripture, for within them we find that when it comes to our obedience unto masters and to those who have been been placed in a position of authority over us, we are to do so not with eye service as though we are seeking to please men, but as though we are pleasing men. Consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in one of the opening verses of the first chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Galatians—“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Within this particular verse the apostle Paul clearly sets forth the contrast between pleasing men versus pleasing God, and that if we seek to please men we are not servants unto and servants of Christ. Oh how imperative and important it is for us to recognize and understand this particular reality, for our service before and our service unto men is not necessarily judged according to man’s perception of such service, but whether or not we are seeking to please men rather than seeking to please God. In addition to all of this the apostle Paul speaks of servants as doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service, as to the Lord and not to men. The words we find within this passage of Scripture are absolutely and incredibly powerful, for with these words we come face to face with the reality that our service and our submission unto and before men should never and must never be about those who are in the natural and earthly realm, but the One who is in the unseen realm—namely, our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

I choose to include and reference each of these passages because these passages help shine a tremendous light on to what we read concerning these three servants which are found within Jesus’ parable which He spoke unto His disciples. I can’t help but think about and consider the back story behind each of these servants, and how these servants conducted themselves in service before and unto their master. There is not a doubt in my mind that the master saw something in the servant with whom he entrusted five talents that he did not see in the servant whom he entrusted with the two talents, or even the servant whom he entrusted with one talent. Conversely, there was something the master saw in the servant whom he entrusted with two talents that he did not see in the servant with whom he entrusted only a single talent. Moreover, there was something the master saw within the servant whom he gave only one talent to that he did not see in the other two servants. This could actually go both ways, for the master saw something in this servant that enabled him to be trusted with one talent. We could look at this single servant and think that he was only given a single talent as compared to the other two servants, but we can also look at this servant and think that he was given something at all. It would have been very easy for this master to give unto this servant absolutely nothing, yet rather than choosing to give this servant nothing, he chose to give and entrust unto him a single talent. Oh the question that I can’t help but find myself asking when reading this particular passage is what have you been entrusted with, and what has been placed within your hands? The eternal Master—the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—has indeed departed and gone on a long journey as He returned unto His Father, and He has given unto His disciples specific and individual measures, talents and gifts. As much as I am curious about the back story behind each of these three servants I am more concerned with your back story and my back story? What is the back story concerning my life that has played and continues to play a crucial role in that which I have been entrusted with? What is the back story concerning your life that has played and continues to play a crucial role in that which you have been entrusted with? It is necessary that we recognize and understand that each and every disciple, believer, and follower of Jesus Christ has a back story, and it is that back story which plays a critical and crucial role in what our Master chooses to entrust us with.

Please note and understand that what I mean by back story is how you have chosen to conduct and live your life before the eyes of your Master who is in heaven. Please note and understand that this isn’t necessarily even limited to how we live as it pertains to Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. What I am referencing and referring to is how we conduct ourselves among men, and how we conduct ourselves under those who have been placed in authority over us. I am utterly and completely convinced that absolutely everything we say and everything we do has intrinsic value and worth, and is carefully weighed by the One who holds all the scales and balances in His hands. It is absolutely imperative that we never underestimate the tremendous worth and value of how we live our lives and how we conduct ourselves before a holy and just God, for everything we say and everything we do has worth and everything we say has value. Have we forgotten that Jesus said that we shall be judged for every idle word that proceeds forth from our lips, and that the secret, hidden and invisible deeds done within our lives can and will be manifested and brought into the light? Your back story is centered upon how you interact with the principles that are presented within the divinely inspired word of God, and how you put such principles into practice. Your back story is centered upon your obedience to the commands, the instructions, the statutes, the precepts that are found and contained within the holy Scripture. Your back story includes how you conduct yourself while working on the job that you have chosen to accept when you were given an offer of employment. Your back story includes how you serve at home with your spouse, or at home with your kids, or even with your friends and family. Your back story includes your relationship with your parents if they have been around within and throughout the course of your life. Your back story even includes that which is done in secret and that which is done in private and is unseen to the natural eye. Your back story is how you choose to live and how you choose to conduct your life when you think that no one is watching, observing or paying attention. Oh that we would recognize and understand that even when we think that no one around us seems to be paying attention or noticing us, the eyes of the Lord are always upon us and are attentive to how we conduct our lives.

When considering this particular parable, one can’t help but get the sense that the servant who had been given two talents could have become jealous and envious of the servant who had been given five talents, while the servant who had been given a single talent could have grown and become jealous and envious of the servant who had been given two talents, and of the servant who had been given five talents. With that being said it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this is an incredibly dangerous snare and trap, and one that this servant could have very well fallen in to. We know and understand that this servant chose to bury the talent he had been given by his master rather than putting it to use and putting it to good work. It is possible that this servant allowed his jealousy and envy to lay hold of him within his heart and soul, and as a result, he chose to be unfaithful with that which his master had entrusted him with. It is possible that this servant grew bitter, grew angry, grew resentful of his master for only giving him a single talent that rather than put that which his master had given him to good use, he chose instead to bury it. Furthermore, this servant could have very easily found himself in the dangerous snare and trap of comparison, as he compared himself to the other servants, and as a result, he chose to bury the talent his master had given him instead of immediately taking it and putting it to work. Lest we think we are qualified to point the finger at this servant we must recognize and realize that we ourselves can be found in this very same position within our lives—especially within the house of the Lord. Think of how many times you have looked at other members of the body and have compared yourself to those members. Consider how many times you may have even grown envious and jealous of other members of the body, and as a result of your jealousy and envy, you have allowed your own gift to lie dormant, and perhaps even buried. Consider how many times you have allowed your own bitterness, anger and rage toward the Master so seized and gripped your heart that you have allowed your talent to be buried rather than put to good use and work within and for the kingdom of God.

I spoke earlier concerning both the gifts of the Spirit, as well as the fruit of the Spirit, and when writing concerning both of these realities within our lives I couldn’t help but consider whether or not it was possible that an individual member of the body could be given and entrusted with one or more of the gifts of the Spirit. I know there are individual members within the body of Christ who move and operate in more than one gift, for there have been individuals who have walked in the working of miracles, as well as to the working of the word of wisdom, and the word of knowledge. With this being said, I am convinced that there are individuals among us who walk in only one gift of the Spirit, while there are other members among us who walk in more than one gift of the Spirit. There are individual members among us who have been entrusted with moving and operating within the realm of multiple gifts of the Spirit, and who continually move and operate in such gifts. As surely as I can’t help but consider the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit within and among the members of the body, I can’t help but also think about the fruit of the Spirit. It might very well be true that there are members who move and operate in as few as one gift of the Spirit, yet when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, I do not believe that men and women within and among the body have been called to manifest only one fruit of the Spirit. While it is true we might not all be called to walk in each and every gift of the Spirit, I am convinced that we have each been called to walk in and manifest each of the fruit of the Spirit. There would be men and women who would choose to place much emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit while choosing to completely neglect and ignore the reality of the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit within their lives. I am convinced that we must not only concern ourselves with whether or not we can be faithful stewards of one or more gifts of the Spirit, but whether or not we can be faithful stewards of the fruit of the Spirit as well. In fact, I would strongly suggest that there needs to be a greater emphasis on the fruit of the Spirit than there is on the gifts of the Spirit—despite how necessary and beneficial the gifts of the Spirit are within the body of Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of this first epistle unto the Corinthians concerning the nine spiritual gifts of the Spirit, and then transitioned to a place where he spoke of the individual placement of the members of the body within the Church, according to the sovereign will of the One who is the Head of the church. The apostle Paul writes in the thirteenth chapter concerning the use of the gifts of the Spirit absent, without and apart from love and charity, and declares and professes that such exercising is worth nothing and profits nothing without charity and love. IN the fourteenth chapter of this epistle we encounter the tremendous and powerful reality that the gifts are given unto the individual members of the body for the edification of the body. Oh how many times have we gone completely awry with the gifts of the Spirit and have made the gifts about us rather than the edification of others. We have treated the gifts of the Spirit as notches on our belt and that which may give us bragging and boasting rights, and as a result of our actions have done more harm and damage than good. The Spirit of the sovereign Lord has given unto each member of the body of Christ severally and sovereignty as He will, and we dare not seek to manipulate or control anything we have been given by the Spirit of Almighty God. Within the fourteenth chapter the apostle Paul instructs us to follow after charity, and to desire spiritual gifts, but that we might prophecy, for he which prophesies edifies the church. The question I am finding myself asking is whether or not any gift(s) you might very well be moving and operating in actually edifies the church, or whether it is used simply to gratify yourself rather than build up the body. I would dare ask the same question regarding the fruit you have been called to cultivate and bear within your heart and life, for is the fruit that present within your life edifying the church and showing and revealing Christ unto others, or is it that which is hidden and buried deep within yourself. Our God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, and the question we must ask ourselves is whether or not our lives demonstrate that peace before and in the eyes of others, or whether or lives sow seeds of confusion, doubt and questions to those around us. Oh that we would carefully examine our hearts and lives and examine the gift(s) and fruit that is present within our lives and how our lives are working to bring about the edification and building up of the body of Christ and those around us. Oh that we would carefully examine our back story and understand that absolutely everything we say and do has worth and value in the eyes of the Lord, and that His eyes are always upon us as He carefully watches and observes everything we say and do.

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