Burying his talent.
What is a talent? As we use the word in everyday speech it means a natural or acquired ability – something you do well. You might be a talented musician, a talented sports person, a talented writer or actor. You might be a talented craftsperson or a talented artist. You might have a talent for maths or science. And if you’re good looking you might be described as “a bit of talent”. (That’s a rather dated expression that used to be used in my youth! ) Yes, this is the way we use the word in everyday English, and I’m not saying it’s wrong. What I am saying is that in the original context of the Parable of the Talents it stands for so much more than just gifts and abilities. The talents referred to n the Parable of the Talents were large sums of money. They represent the opportunities we have in this life to serve God and do good. Not just the abilities we have but the opportunities we have as well. What use do we make of these opportunities?
When Jesus told this parable he wanted his disciples to think about the best way they could witness to him and spread his Kingdom before he returned at the Second Coming.
In the story a very rich man entrusts a large sum of money to his three servants and then goes off on a long journey – presumably some kind of business trip. The servants (who are really stewards) are meant to put this money to good use in the meantime, so as to make a profit for their master.
In this story we might feel sorry for the man who only had the one talent. Poor servant, he’s only got one talent! But when we realise how much a talent was worth we don’t feel quite so sorry. Even one talent was a substantial sum of money.
Originally a talent was a weight. Later it referred to a particular weight of silver or gold, and so it was a monetary unit. In Palestine at the time of Jesus it was a weight of silver of 59 kg. (or 130 lb.). That amount of silver would represent something like (at least) 15 years wages for a labouring man. So even one talent was a lot of money. It was enough to buy a substantial house. It represents a considerable investment on the part of the master. He obviously really trusted his three stewards.
· One man was given five talents, and when the master returned he had gained another five talents to return to his master.
· Another man received two talents, and he also managed to gain another two talents to give to the master.
· The third man didn’t want to take the risk of trading with his talent, nor was he prepared to put in the effort, so he dug a hole in the ground and buried his treasure. He could have given it to the bankers and got a bit of interest on it, but he didn’t even do that.
When the master returned he praised the first two servants but condemned the third, who hadn’t even invested the money, but just buried it in the ground.
Here are five lessons that we can learn from the parable of the Talents. These points have been suggested by Hugh Whelchel a Christian writer. ( Director of the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics.)
This Parable teaches that:
1) Success is a product of our work
Now it is true that success is sometimes a matter of just being in the right place at the right time. Everything in life is to some extent a product of chance. But the question we have to ask is, “What use do we make of our chances, our talents?” Are we prepared to take risks for the sake of God’s Kingdom or do we just bury it in the ground, as it were? Do we take up the opportunities that God gives us?
God has given us all work to do in our lives. Just because we are waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus it doesn’t mean we just got to sit around doing nothing. Many Christians see their salvation as a kind of “bus ticket to Heaven”. They are just sitting and waiting for the bus, enjoying themselves perhaps, in the meantime. But this parable tells us what we should be doing while we’re waiting for the bus.
We must get on with doing God’s work. We seek to make this world a better place – even though we know it could come to an end any minute. Our reward will be in heaven.
God wants to use all our talents. He wants us to use all our gifts all our energies, all our time, all our money, all our opportunities for him. We are to serve the common good, to further God’s kingdom and thus to glorify God. We are put on this earth for a purpose – to serve and glorify God.
When God calls us to do some work for him he will always give us what we require to do it. Our talents have been given so that we can use them for God – for some work that he wants us to do. In the parable, the three servants were given talents to use in the service of their master. (Even the man with one talent had a large sum of money to work with.) And so God is telling us to use all our gifts, abilities, energies and opportunities for his Kingdom. He will provide what we need to do it.
The Apostle Paul writes:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
God prepared it all in advance! That takes a lot of the stress out of Christian service, doesn’t it? We can stop worrying about how we can serve God and just get on with doing the things that he calls us to do. And he will give us the grace and the strength to do those good works. For they are his works through us.
3) Not all are equal in abilities
All humans are equal in the sense that they are of equal value to God, but they do not all have equal abilities or equal opportunities This is just a fact of life. The street kid growing up in the slums of Calcutta does not have the same opportunities as the multi-millionaire, millionaire’s son, President of the United States! That much is obvious. It is just a fact that there is both a diversity of ability and a diversity of opportunities in life. But all the Master requires of us is that we do the best we can, with what we have. If life has dealt us a pretty poor hand then he’s not going to expect us to do amazing things. It would be amazing enough just to be able to survive for some people.
If on the other hand we’ve been given abilities and opportunities, then we expected to use them. And more will be expected of those who have been given more. The five-talent man managed to produce five more talents. I’m sure it took a lot of work: trading, dealing, buying and selling. The two-talent man managed to produce two more talents. And for him that probably required just as much work as the five-talent man had done. So the Master rewards of them both the same way.
(But the one-talent man didn’t want to take the risk. And he didn’t want to put in the hard work of buying and selling. If he had taken the risk I’m sure the master would have commanded him, even if he had not made a great deal of profit.)
We see that both the five-talent and the two-talent man were rewarded equally. This shows us that God is looking for our willingness and commitment to serve him, but he is not all that interested in our outward success.
This parable is a great encouragemnt to all engaged in full-time Christian work. Ministers, preachers, evangelists and missionaries sometimes labour in stony fields. Sometimes they seem to have very little impact on the people they are ministering to. Other ministers may seem to be phenomenally successful, and this is because they landed in a place where people are responsive to the message. This parable is comforting to the one who might be working under such difficult circumstances. It tells such people, “At the end of the day, the Lord won’t judge you on the basis of the number of converts you’ve gained. No he will judge you on your faithfulness to serve him in a hard, place and your willingness to do his work.”
So the reward is the same, no matter the amount of profit that is brought in. The talents very, but the reward is the same.
4) We should work for the Master and not for ourselves
The servants were giving large sums of money, but it was not theirs to do what they liked with.They were not supposed to just fritter it all away on their own pleasures. It was held in stewardship, and when the Master returned they would have to give the money back to him, along with any profit they had made.
And so we realise that, whatever our place in life, whatever our talents, we should use them for God’s work and not our own selfish pleasures. Of course there are times for enjoyment, relaxation and leisure, but there is also work. And we must do that work diligently – whatever it is that the Lord has called us to do. I’m not just referring to a career or paid employment here. Retired people and unemployed people are also called by God to do his work. The work God is calling you to do might be to do with helping others, or being a good neighbour, or being considerate and caring to the needs of others. It should be our aim to please God in everything we do – whether it be work, rest or play.
5) We shall be held accountable
One day we will have to give account for our lives. How well did we use the opportunities and the gifts we were given in life?
Well, you highly educated person, how did you use your education? Did you use it to help other people or just to make money for yourself.
Well you, gifted musician or artist or writer – did you use your art to give pleasure to others and to praise God, or was it just a selfish thing to inflate your own ego?
Well you, practical man or woman – did you use your hands and eyes to help others and to serve God’s Kingdom, or did you just build up your own house and garden?
You, who are good at listening to others – did you give your time to listen to what others were saying to help them or counsel them, or did you not bother?
You, who are able to encourage others and to build them up – did you use that opportunity, or did you not see other’s need for encouragement?
Did you have a opportunity to tell others about Jesus? How well did you take up that opportunity?
Did you have a chance to offer forgiveness to someone who had hurt vou? Well then, did you indeed forgive them, or did you harbour resentment in your heart?
Yes, we shall all have to give account before the Lord for the way we lived our lives on earth. This can be a devastating thought – but don’t let it make you feel guilty or depressed. For our lives are a joyful opportunity to serve the Lord.
Remember what Paul wrote:
We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.