The nail in the photo is almost 2000 years old. It comes from the fortress of Inchtuthil which was built around AD 83 and located in Caledonia (now known a Scotland). A Roman legion was stationed there until some problems arose. The Romans began to pull back and eventually had to leave Inchtuthil.
They decided to leave nothing behind that could help their enemies. They burned down every building, filled the drains with gravel and smashed every pot they couldn’t carry with them. But then they ran into a problem: what would they do with all the nails?
Each hand crafted iron nail was worth its weight in gold to the Caledonians who would surely melt them down and forge them into weapons. But there were over 750,000 nails at Inchtuthil, almost seven tons! Since the Romans couldn’t carry them with them they decided to bury them instead.
They dug a huge pit under one of the buildings, filled it with nails, covered it with six feet of dirt and then burned the building down to cover their work. Their plan worked and the nails lay untouched until archaeologists uncovered them in 1961.
This story fits perfectly with the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) in which we are exhorted to share our talents rather than hide them away. But I also think the story of Inchtuthil illustrates one of the reasons we are afraid to share our talents – we are worried our enemies will use them against us. Just as the Romsns were afraid the Caledonians would forge the nails into weapons we ware often worried our that sharing our talents will end up bringing us pain and suffering, whether physical or emotional.
How many of us have been afraid to let others read a story or poem we’ve written for fear that they’ll mock it? Perhaps you have a love of singing or acting, but you’re worried that you aren’t as good as others? Or maybe we’re afraid to make a comment in class or even share a gospel thought with a friend? In many instances it’s something small, but over time we find that we’ve buried our own personal hoard of talents.