Current Events Monday: Proteus and The Kingdom of God
One of the world’s most interesting con-artists is out of jail and under house arrest while she fights extradition. You may have recently heard of Anna Sorokin, who is only 31 years old. She was the subject of a popular Netflix series called “Inventing Anna.” Sorokin went by the name Anna Delvey for a few years after arriving in the USA from Germany. In fact, she posed as a rich heiress in New York City and somehow managed to swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) from business associates, hotels, and banks before being brought to justice. We could say that Sorokin is quite a Protean figure.
You can read more about Sorokin’s story by clicking on the link here:
In Homer’s Odyssey, a particularly striking figure emerged by the name of Proteus. Homer referred to Proteus as “the old man of the sea” and a son of Poseidon. Proteus had quite a knack for disguising himself. In fact, he had a gift for prophesying the future with acute accuracy, but for whatever reason, Proteus failed to use his truth-telling gifts to their fullest. When pressed for truthful answers and prophecies, Proteus would change shapes, even taking the form of water. The character Menelaus successfully trapped and got answers out of Proteus, however, by sneaking up on Proteus as he slept and then holding on to him for dear life.
Over the years, the idea of something (or someone) being like Proteus has changed into more of a positive viewpoint. One who is said to be “Protean” today is known for their adaptability and perseverance under duress. Indeed, the ability to adapt well to the shifting sands of daily life can be quite a positive strength. But what happens when we use our gifts for negative ends?
In Matthew 25, Jesus compared the way things operate in the Kingdom of God to a king who gave his servants “talents” of money. One servant doubled the amount of his talents through industrious behavior. Another doubled his share of talents, even though he started out with less than the first. The third servant simply buried his sole talent, opting to stand pat. His reasoning for burying his talent seemed to stem from fear. He viewed the king as a difficult personality, and the servant thus blamed the supposedly poor leadership of the king for his failure to use his talents in wise ways.
In reality, the servant who buried his talents tried extensively to shift responsibility from himself. What we have been given as a gift by the King is expected to be utilized and invested for the wider importance of the Kingdom. When we knowingly bury our gifts and shape-shift like Proteus, the truth rarely gets heard or promoted.
Anna Sorokin is obviously a young woman of tremendous ingenuity. She literally came from next to nothing and convinced some of the world’s wealthiest people to invest in her. Fear and ultimately a lack of responsibility led to her Protean behavior, or it was (to use another Greek saying) her Achilles heel. I personally however am hopeful that her time in behavioral rehabilitation will benefit her in extraordinary ways.
In other words, let’s not cast stones at Ms. Sorokin. We, too, have been given gifts and talents for the glory of God. How shall we go about using such gifts? Do we bury them in the ground and turn ourselves into another shape to avoid responsibility? If so, now may be a good time to reassess that which the Lord has entrusted to us.