Alas the curse of the modern world… ever-increasing specialization! With our myriad of degree programs and doctorates in an ever increasing array of minutiae, we appear to know more and more. But in truth, often we actually know less and less - at least of the world at large and of our cultural heritage as whole here in the western world.
The common term for polymath is, of course, “Renaissance Man”. And it is best embodied in the person of Leonardo da Vinci. Tomorrow, April 15, 2016, had he lived, he would be turning 564 years old. Leonardo has been much maligned at various times in history. In recent years, his persona has also been high-jacked by more than a few individuals with agendas to push. For my part, I simply choose to let the man’s work speak for itself. After all, what he left behind as a result of his own efforts is by far his best testimony.
Born April 15, 1452, to unwed parents, Leonardo would grow up a social outcast in relative obscurity. As he progressed through life, he was forced to overcome any number of barriers along the way. But he would not allow these things to define him. He would go on to use his God-given talents to change the world. For his heart was afire with a passion for both learning and living.
According to Wikipedia...
“Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the ‘Universal Genius’ or ‘Renaissance Man’, an individual of ‘unquenchable curiosity’ and ‘feverishly inventive imagination’.”
Moreover, Leonardo’s areas of interest included: “invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of paleontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time…
Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, his genius epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.”
Wow!.. Talk about making the most of one’s interests!
For my part, I can relate to Leonardo’s multifaceted curiosities. I have always been an inquisitive person in that a great many things intrigue me. Thus, like Leonardo, I have always tried to learn as much as I can about a wide variety of things. Moreover, as a communicator, I have discovered that it behooves me much more to know a little about a lot of things than to know a lot about only one or two things. I pray I will be a lifelong learner.
And yet, learning things was not the sole measure of Leonardo da Vinci. In his notebooks, he once scribbled the following notation: “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” Obviously, among his great many thoughts was the realization that he should be using his many God-given gifts for the glory of his creator!
Like Leonardo, I like to think that my God has gifted me with a wide range of talents as well - all of which can and should be used for His glory. After all, that is the admonition of Holy Scripture (Colossians 3:23, BSB): “Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord…”
It is also the pattern laid down by God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Not unlike Leonardo, Jesus was born in questionable circumstances and grew up in relative obscurity. Yet, neither did He allow these humble origins to define Him. Rather, He made the most of His circumstances by making the most of His divine endowments. Indeed, one of my favorite Bible verses is found in the second chapter of the New Testament Gospel of Luke (2:52): “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
And there you have it. Jesus used His mind, His body, His spirit, and His relationships with other people to bring glory to God! In so doing, he fulfilled the intent of God as taught in Scripture. Consider this conversation as recorded in the New Testament Gospel of Mark (12:28-34:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
I believe with all my heart that this is the simple key to making a difference in this world. It all comes down to this: “Whatcha do with whatcha got”! Do you love your Creator enough to glorify Him with the things he has given you? With your God-given mind? With your God-given body? With your God-given spirit? With your God-given relationships (i.e., your situation in time and place and the others you encounter there)?
So, then, what have you been given? What is your context? And what are your unique skills, talents, and above all, spiritual gifts? For these all add up together to create the formula required for you to make a difference in this world!
There is little disagreement that Leonardo took what he had been given and made the most of it! Five hundred plus years of history testify to his singular impact upon the world. Even more, than this, Jesus Christ took what He had been given and changed, not only the world, but also eternity!
So… my friend, ask yourself this question: “Whatcha got?” Then, more importantly, ask yourself this question: “Whatcha gonna do with whatcha got?”
Having answered that, then go out and make a difference. Go out and change the world! And perhaps even eternity in the process!
NUMEROUS LEONARDO QUOTES CAN BE FOUND ONLINE AT: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/leonardo_da_vinci.html.
Among some of the more convicting ones are: “Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.” And… “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES AT: http://biblehub.com/colossians/3-23.htm, http://biblehub.com/luke/2-52.htm, and http://biblehub.com/niv/mark/12.htm.
LEONARDO’S “RESUME” , IN THE FORM A OF A PERSONAL LETTER TO THE DUKE OF MILAN ADVERTSING HIS SERVICES, CAN BE FOUND HERE: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/03/skills-of-da-vinci.html. (Note: Pay particular attention to the third paragraph from the bottom. as the saying goes, "It ain't braggin' if you can do it!" He got the job. He was later commissioned by this very Duke to paint the famed “Last Supper”.)
POST TITLE: Adapted from the famous book of daily devotions, My Utmost for His Highest, compiled from his writings by the wife of Rev. Oswald Chambers after his passing. Cf. http://utmost.org.