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  • Writer's picturetimothy martiny

Wasting My Life

"Don't you feel bad about wasting your skills?" I was asked this question at a Bible study group last week after I shared about our ministry of teaching, training, and disciplining orphaned and impoverished children in Guatemala and explained how I came to be a missionary there.

I imagine everyone asks themselves this question at one point or another. I have contemplated it many times in my 12 years of mission work. I suppose the answer lies in how we define wasting our abilities vs. adequately using them.

Christ himself addressed the issue in Matthew 27. We call it the parable of the talents. A Master entrusts his servants with talents. Upon returning from a long journey, he finds that the two of them have used their talents wisely and reaped a good return, while the other has buried his talent. The "good and faithful" servants are rewarded and invited to share in their master's joy. In contrast, the unfaithful servant is rebuked for failure, and his talent is taken away and given to a faithful servant.

James 1:17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights." So not only does the Bible tell us that our gifts and talents come to us from our heavenly father, but Jesus makes it clear that he wants us to use our abilities in a befitting manner. If we look at 1 Corinthians 10:31, we are reminded, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." This clearly tells us that even our work can become a form of worship if done to honor God. Yet it is how we live that out that is the challenge. I know it has been was for me.

As a child, I was fascinated by technology. As a young teenager, when computers were starting to proliferate, I wanted nothing more than to work in the tech world. I have always been gifted along those lines, and I enjoyed it. I remember being oh so happy when I got a job as a sys-admin and thinking I could do that for the rest of my life.

Yet, at some point, God called me to a life of full-time service in Guatemala, a life that, for many years, didn't seem to use my "talent" at all. Personal reasons in my life played into this; in some ways, I had let my love of technology take a higher place in my life than my love for God. Living in a less developed country that was, at the time, many years behind the US made it difficult for me to use the gift that God had given me.

Yet I applied myself to the job I had in front of me, teaching, training, and caring for children in the orphanages where I worked. With time, things have come full circle, and I have had the opportunity to use my gifts in ways that have a much more lasting effect.

One way that is come about is through setting up and running computer training centers in orphanages and schools all over the country. The same tech skills that I would have used to be a network-admin, have instead been used to give hundreds of children the chance to learn computer skills and discover the benefits that technology can offer them.

I might have been a good computer tech, but I never would have been Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, my abilities would have made me a good living and my boss a lot of money. Yet instead my skills have been used to improve people's lives and open them to a future that they might never have seen. And, most importantly, share with them the knowledge of a God who loves and cares for them in a truly amazing way.

Last week, I attended the graduation ceremony at the Precious Moments School & Orphanage that we partner with. It was terrific to see the students graduating because of the incredible work done by the teachers we sponsor. But it was when I congratulated Sandra Tax, the 1st-grade teacher, who was one of my first students in an orphanage 10 years ago, the point was truly driven home for me.

Seeing how, because I had been faithful to pour into her life, she was now able to pour into the lives of these children in a much more excellent way than I ever could is a true validation of how I have chosen to invest not just my talents but my life.

I have also been blessed lately to use my tech skills to create apps for churches, missionaries, pastors, and orphanages. These tools enable them to be more effective and fruitful in their work. Once again, my talents are multiplied by investing them in serving others.

Ultimately, it all comes down to what criteria we use to judge the best use of our abilities. In Matthew 16, we hear Christ saying, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." As I see the people I have served, I go on and serve others in ways and places that I never could; it validates the life choices I have made. It enables me to confidently say, "I'm not wasting my life or my skills; I'm investing myself in others because I believe it provides the best return on investment."

I have found that the best use of my gifts, talents and abilities is to make use of them in a giving manner which demonstrates that living a sacrificial life, grounded in the assurance that serving others magnifies Christ's bounteousness, is far more satisfying then a life lived in service to myself.

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