What would you do if someone gave you 20 years worth of salary? Don’t read on yet – stop and think about it. Twenty years is half your work life if you start at twenty and retire at sixty. I have heard a lot of talk about being a good steward of our gifts and talents in church and Christian circles. As I have been meditating on the new season in which we find ourselves and my own willingness to move into my new season, my talents and gifts have been something I have been wondering about.
How could I use my talents? Will God use them? Will I make a difference?
Am I a Faithful Steward?
When you are a faithful steward of someone else’s resources, there is nothing more appropriate than to routinely examine how effectively you are carrying out the responsibilities you have been given. Nowhere is completing your responsibility more emphasised in scripture than in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30, where this line is most remembered:
“His Master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.’” (verse 21)
It is precisely because the 1 Talent man opted out of his responsibilities as a steward that the Master was displeased. ’The Master then took away what Mr 1 Talent was responsible for and gave it to Mr 5 Talent, who had faithfully completed his responsibility.
“But his Master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (verse 26-30)
What Mr 5 Talent and Mr 2 Talent did with their talents is not as relevant as they are completing their responsibilities and providing a return on the Master’s investment of talents.
The Master praised their faithfulness in completing their responsibilities.
Within myself, I wondered, “What did it feel like for Mr 5 Talent to be given this responsibility?”
Upon further investigation, I found out that a New Testament talent was the equivalent of 6000 denarii. One denarius a day was a hired labourer’s wage. (Matt. 20:2.)
Now, if you do the sums, the servant who received one talent received a sum equal to over nineteen years’ worth of work for a hired labourer (assuming a six-day workweek). It was more than enough to do some good business! In the culture of the New Testament times, large commercial investments, business loans and credit were standard business practices. Money could be invested, and scholars tell us that the rate of interest was as high as 12-20%. Therefore even a simple investment would have brought a return.
The Master was justifiably angry that his servant would waste so much potential. We can assume that the Master himself would have continued investing his money if he had not gone on the journey. Even at the lowest rate of return, he would have earned a substantial sum.
The Lord dislikes the wasted potential in the talent given.
Now, the servant receiving five talents received nearly 100 years’ worth of work, more than he could earn in a lifetime by himself. How would you feel if someone gave you a large sum of money, more than you could ever earn in a lifetime of working, and told you to look after it until He returns from a long trip?
I would have a panic attack.
I would be sorely tempted to bury it in the ground for safekeeping, which was common practice in New Testament days since there were no banks where money could be deposited for safekeeping. Instead, people would simply bury their treasure, hence the reference to finding buried treasure in a field (Matt 13:44), where perhaps someone had died and never told anyone where that treasure is hidden.
Either way, Mr 1 Talent and Mr 5 Talent received a lot of money. People in church often refer to themselves as “one-talent” people. However, we ought to realise that God the Father, who is generous to all his children, has given even the least—“the one-talent person”—a great abundance. I am blown away by the generosity of God.
But still, what did Mr 5 Talent do? I would be scared to invest; what if it goes wrong? What if I lose some of that money?
The fear of failing would be overwhelming.
But the Master went away for a very long time. It is possible that Mr 5 Talent even lost some of that money, failed and learnt from his mistakes. There is no way he doubled the money by making one investment. He probably had to make many investments. He may have lost some but then tried again and became good at investing the money. He probably won big on some investments and managed to keep his losses minimal. But after a long time, when the Master returned, he had managed to double the investment. He was now looking after more than two lifetimes’ worth of work – in money!
The Lord did not praise him for his return or his investments! Instead, the Lord praised him for being faithful to the task of stewardship – taking on the responsibility for someone else’s money and being faithful in it.
How would you feel if you were Mr 5 Talent or even Mr 2 Talent and had to look after all this money? The one thing they both did was
Get on with it.
They did not bury it and forget about it; they did something, anything, but they got on with it. Of course, there were no guarantees of return, but time was on their side, and they had time before the Master’s return.
They got on with it and gave it a try.
- You and I have generously received our own talents and resources.
- You and I have time, a lifetime, infact.
- You and I have no guarantees that there will be a return as we invest our talents.
But the Lord blessed the servants who completed their responsibilities, and He was delighted by their faithfulness: “Enter into the joy of your master.”
Get on with it.
I have delayed using my talents in the new season because:
- I want a clear word from the Master about where I must make the investments – a shout from h But my Master is away and expects me to have “got on with it when He returns.”
- I want other people to give me permission to make investments on the Master’s behalf, like my church leaders, friends and influencers. But the Master has appointed me as steward and expects me to get on with the task.
- I am scared I will make a mistake (some loss of something), and then it will prove that the Master made a mistake entrusting me with talents. But the Master does not make mistakes and gives me time to master and complete my responsibility.
- Moreover, my Master leaves a Helper, the Spirit, to guide and show me what to do.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” (John 14:16)
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
Get on with it.
Father, forgive me for finding all kinds of excuses not to make an investment. Forgive me for not realising the generosity of your talents given to me and your total confidence in my stewardship. Help me to make an effort, no matter how small the investment is, to make a start. Please help me not to give in to the fear of failure or error, but to realise that I have time to master my talents and resources and become good at making investments. Thank you, Lord, that You are not interested in the return as much as in my faithfulness of heart. Thank you, too, Lord, that any return will result from your power combined with my efforts and that I do not have to do it on my own. Thank you, Spirit, for being with me. Please help me be sensitive to your voice and guidance and get on with it.