Unless you use your gifts and talents in service to others, you may lose them.
A great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, gave his violin, an incredible instrument, to the city of his birth—Genoa, Italy. He established one condition: that it never be played again. This turned out to be an unfortunate condition for everyone concerned. It is a characteristic of wood that as long as it is used and maintained, it shows little wear. But as soon as it is set aside, it begins to decay. That wonderful, mellow-toned violin has become worm-eaten in its case, useless except as a relic. His instrument is a reminder to us that a life removed from service to others loses its capacity for usefulness and beauty.
It’s when the instrument is used that it learns to submit to the skill and the touch of the Musician. And the result is beautiful music that brings joy to others. It has purpose. In doing this, it retains its life.
There’s another story about a great Roman aqueduct built in Segovia, Spain, in the year 109 A.D. For eighteen hundred years, it carried cool water from the mountains to the hot and thirsty city. Nearly sixty generations of people drank from its waters. Then came a generation that said, “This aqueduct is so great a marvel that it ought to be preserved for our children as a museum piece. We shall relieve it of its centuries-long labor.” They did; they laid modern iron pipes to carry the water. They gave the ancient bricks and mortar a reverent rest. And the aqueduct began to fall apart. The sun beat down on the dry mortar, causing it to crumble. The bricks and stone sagged and began to fall. What centuries of service could not destroy – idleness caused to disintegrate. It was its service, its usefulness, that kept it alive.
The rub with human beings is that you are both the musician (after all, God is within you) and the instrument. You must make the decision and exert the effort to use your special talents in the service of others in order to be of value. If your abilities are only placed in service for yourself or if they are not used at all, who can appreciate you and consider you of value to them?
The apostle Paul said you were created for good works. I don’t think using your abilities only for your own good is classified as good works. I’m guessing good works is about what you do for others. We were not created to live for ourselves alone. We were created to be a blessing to those around us.
The violin that stays to itself, unused for its true purpose – good works, deteriorates and no truly beautiful music comes from it. The aqueduct that is not allowed to do that for which is was created, falls apart. And so it is with us. When our talents are removed from service to others, we lose the ability to make the impact that could be made.
Serving others, we are useful instruments, individually and also united together as the body of Christ. We provide hope and light and encouragement to others in situations that may seem hopeless, dark, and discouraging.
Use your talents and gifts to bring peace and joy to others. You will feel appreciated and of value. Your life will have purpose and meaning. Use it or lose it.
 Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.
 Resource, Sept./Oct., 1992, p. 4.