Jesus once told a parable, a story that teaches us about the purpose of life. It went something like this:
There was an employer who was going on a long journey, who wanted his wealth managed while he was gone. He gave to one of his employees $500,000, to another $200,00, and to another $100,000 — each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
The person who received the $500,000 immediately used it to earn $500,000 more. In the same way the person who received the $200,000 had earned $200,000 more. But the person who received the $100,000 put it in a safe instead of investing it.
The time came when the employer returned from his journey and wanted to see what was done with the money while he was gone. The person who received the $500,000 and earned $500,000 more greatly pleased the employer. He invited this employee into a partnership with him and made him a vice-president of the company. The person who was given the $200,000 and had earned $200,000 more also greatly delighted the employer. This person was invited also into partnership in the company and was made a vice president.
But when it came to the employee who had received the $100,000, nothing was earned because the money had been kept in a safe. He said to the employer that he was afraid of him, and of losing the money, so the cash was returned. Greatly displeased, the employer fired that employee, noting that if he cared at all, he would have at least put the money in the bank so it would earn interest.
What does this parable teach us about the purpose of life? We know from the way Jesus told parables that in this story the employer was Jesus himself and we are the employees. Jesus is saying that we all have been given something of great value that we need to invest. What God has given to us we need to give to others. In Jesus, God has given forgiveness, reconciliation, love, help, encouragement, wisdom, guidance, friendship, and a host of other blessings. This is the investment God has made in the world through Jesus. Those who receive this investment in Christ have now an obligation to invest these same spiritual blessings in others.
You cannot give what you have not received. Believing Jesus and receiving Jesus is the same. Once you have received, you will need to give. This, then, is the purpose of life: To receive God’s love through Jesus, and invest that same love in other people.
The Rev. Steven Ganz is pastor of Clover Pass Community Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.