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A Different Parable of the Talents

I only managed to watch 2 playoff games, though not the devastating finale – I was at my daughter Sarah’s school awards ceremony, which was lovely and had the added benefit that I spent the evening applauding winners.

But the two games I did watch – game 2 and game 5, both victories for the Canucks – gave me a little shock of insight: the difference between heart and talent.

The Canucks abound in talent. What I think they lack – or at least I had trouble seeing – is heart: that fighting spirit, that dignity and defiance in the face of adversity, that graciousness in defeat, that rising again, more determined than ever, after a crushing blow. They never looked hungry. They never looked desperate. They looked mad at times, but rarely focused in it.

They just looked talented. They often outshone and outflanked their opponents – indeed, except for the astonishing skills of Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas, they likely would have been the ones kissing the silver chalice on Wednesday night, or much earlier.

In the end, though, talent wasn’t enough.

The early church was the other way around: they had more heart than talent. The church was mostly made up of people on the low end of the social scale, including a sizable proportion of slaves. It was, to put it crassly, a bunch of losers. The Apostle Paul describes them thus: “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

The early church was Super-Starless. It was comprised largely of have-nots and misfits, wanna-bes and also-rans. It was no talent pool. It was a heart trust.

And with that, they turned the world upside down. They prevailed in the face of depravity, evil, poverty, hardship and persecution, and in the end toppled the most powerful empire that’s ever existed. They built the church at the gates of hell, and the gates fell.

It wasn’t done by talent, though certainly that wasn’t altogether absent. It was a conquest of the heart. I sometimes worry when I read various leadership books and attend various leadership seminars that we have forgotten this and are trying to win the day solely on the basis of talent. I think of one well-known Christian leader who advises other leaders only to hire “10s”. A team like that might dazzle. But when it counts, they might just fizzle.

The gates of hell rarely yield to the merely talented. But they tremble and collapse before those with heart.

Oh, and I have a modest prediction for next year’s hockey season: our team, humbled by defeat, will play with a lot more of it.

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