As a missionary kid in Bangkok, I took violin lessons for several years. Unfortunately, none of those sweaty Friday afternoons with Briquette Barrois took hold. I am not now, and I never have been, a very good violinist. In fact, I kind of stink.
Many years after I had accepted this reality and put my violin in an attic, someone from a nearby church called me one day and asked me to play special music. I said, rather diplomatically, “Are you nuts?” No, they said, they really wanted a violin solo. I must have spent twenty minutes trying to dissuade this person. "You don’t know what you’re asking," I said. "You will jeopardize the salvation of all your new members. People are going to quit; they’ll write to the conference office. They’ll leave the church and join offshoot movements and cults. Your offerings may plunge and never recover."
But the guy on the phone said, “Oh, you’re just being modest. Please come.” Finally I agreed, after making them sign an affidavit that I could not be sued for the results, and promising to not have me play until they’d already picked up the offering and cashed all the checks.
I Remember the Looks on Their Faces
So I got out my violin and practiced – and it sounded terrible – and I went to the church to wait for Armageddon. They announced my name and I went up. Now, there’s a reality in violin-playing. If you’re bad and nervous, it’s going to sound even worse because your jitters will make the bow bounce and skitter along the strings. So I began to play, and the skips made it sound like I was playing into a fan. I can still remember the looks on the faces of some of the people as this reedy performance slowly screeched toward the finish line. Simon Cowell would have had a field day.
I was out in the parking lot afterwards, not expecting any congratulations and not receiving any, when a friend came up to me. He took my hand and said very kindly: “David, there are some talents that ought to be buried in the ground!” True story.
Still in use today, the phrase "burying your talent in the ground" is borrowed from Jesus’ parable of Matthew 25. Pastor Dave violins notwithstanding, Christ tells this sobering story to remind us of the tragedy of waste within the Kingdom of God. All buried-treasure stories, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, have this stigma of waste. Here is a stupendous fortune, and it’s buried in a cave. It’s fifty feet underneath the surface of the earth, not earning interest, not saving lives, not healing pain, not making a difference. When has a treasure chest buried in the dirt ever blessed someone’s life? When has there ever been the spiritual miracle of compound interest when the original investment is still sitting in your sock drawer?
John Milton has a line where he writes: "And that one talent which is death to hide, lodged with me useless."
I’m actually decent on a trombone. Give me a call.
By David Smith. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.