Nature or nurture?
March 31, 2008
Nature or nurture: where do I locate my abilities, interests and talents?
This I've learned is not an "academic" (i.e., irrelevant) debate. Jesus' parable of the talents is too graphic to ignore.
In the parable, Jesus tells of a master who gives three of his servants various amounts of money—talents: five, three and one—for investment, with the expectation of a profit upon his return.
The amounts are significant. One talent equaled 20 years of labor. In today's currency, the five-talent servant's investment is equivalent to $4 million. Serious money!
The one who buries his single talent gets a tongue lashing from the master: "Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
"Hold on Jesus," we may say, "for goodness sakes, he didn't kill anyone!" Serious business!
That's why my question isn't "academic." Jesus took time to lay out His seriousness about gifts given, and if He does, I need to as well.
I suspect Bennis is operating out of a kind of Darwinian system. Even so, we start with inherent talent from genetic material as in-His-image (nature) and build with what infiltrates us from family, life experience and the Spirit's anointing (nurture). How can the two be separated? Scientists of all sorts of disciplines can't figure it out, so I won't try.
But I've learned—I wished it had been sooner—that knowing one's "raw material" can be helpful. While there is danger in being over-preoccupied with giftings, knowing what mine are is an awfully good place to start.
I'm regularly intimidated by those with the "five-ers." Their talents are so obvious. In those moments, it's easy to slip into the corner with my "one-er," and there let emotions of jealously, fear, intimidation—whatever—rankle my inner composure so that I bury it, at least for that time and place.
Jesus is so tough. He borders—in my thinking—on the edge. Serious service!
Avoiding a tendency to soften this seeming harsh reality, we remind ourselves that grace is why we are accepted by the Beloved. But let not this blunt call to accept responsibility for His gifts be ignored. He will expect us to hand in our ROI report.
Master, Investor, this picture seems too intemperate for how I would prefer to see You, yet Your parable shows no half measure of Your requirements. So this morning, as I examine the agenda of the day, may I see it is not to be a day like any other. With these gifts given from Your hand—enabled by discipline of mind and empowered by Your ever-indwelling Spirit—help me Lord to invest wisely. Amen.
"What is true for leaders is, for better or worse: we are our own raw material."