Are we kidding ourselves?

I hear this question often in discussions amongst artists. Underlying this question seems to be many more. “Do I have the right to expect to make a living as an artist?” “Is my decision to pursue this career irresponsible?” “Is my belief in my ability to accomplish this a mere symptom of vanity?”

Let me first state that I believe there is a biblical parable one can utilize to quickly provide an answer to the overarching question. That parable is that of the Talents. Found in Matthew 25, the story goes in the King James Version of the Bible:

14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.

19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping

and gnashing of teeth.

In the passage above, Jesus asks us to understand our relationship to God by visualizing God as the master in the parable. Once we do, we understand that God expects a return-- a profit, if you will-- for every talent he entrusts to us. As Bishop TD Jakes points out in one of his popular sermons, the master is so incensed by the servant’s choice to allow fear to prevent him from producing increase that he basically tells the servant to go to hell! Thus, to answer the questions posed in the opening statements, ie. “Are we kidding ourselves? Are we irresponsible? Are we vain” -- ummm, no. Hell no. God expect a return from each and every talent he entrusted you with. Our God is a God of increase. He expects you to grow in your art-- to be fruitful. He expects twice what he gave you. And what he gave you was good. As “good” was the adjective used to describe the creation of man-- a people destined to journey from agricultural revolutions, to technological revolutions allowing it to propel itself off earth into the heavens-- that is saying something, eh?

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