Have you been faithful to use the opportunities God has given you to further His kingdom?
In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches on the Parable of the Talents, one of His best known stories. A man was setting out on a long journey and met with three of his servants before he left. He entrusted a certain amount of money to each them to manage while he was absent. (A “talent” in the New Testament is a large amount of currency). To one servant he gave five talents, to another he gave two talents and to another one talent. The servants that received the five and two talents immediately invested their monies in a way that brought a significant return. But the servant who had received the one talent hid his money, burying it in the ground. After a long period of time, the master returned and wanted an account of how his money was used. The servants who had invested their talents and had a return were praised by the master and called “good and faithful servants”. But the one talent servant said to his master, “I was afraid and hid your talent in the ground”. At this, the master rebuked him, indicating his displeasure and that this excuse was not acceptable. His only responsibility with the one talent was to increase it, not to hide and keep it safe. The master ordered that the one talent should be taken from him and given to the servant who had produced the greatest return.
This well known parable is usually seen in a universal sense - that God expects His people to be responsible in using their resources, their natural abilities and their spiritual gifts to benefit His work. The number of talents given to each servant does not imply the value of the servant, each servant had a place in the master’s household. The text clearly states that both the five talent and the two talent servants were given the same praise and same reward by the master (vv. 21,23). There is no reason to believe that the one talent servant would not have received the same.
How else could we understand this parable as it applies to us today? Let’s look at this story using a different lens. The talents could be compared to the opportunities that God gives us. I suggest that the five talent people are those who are very gifted. They know their gifts and manage them all well. But looking at the parable this way, the point is not their resources or gifts. God gives them multiple ways, or platforms to exercise their gifts. Their abilities enable them take full advantage of the many opportunities that come their way. Two talent and one talent Christians are be those who also have God given abilities and spiritual gifts, yet perhaps with fewer occasions to use them.
The world runs on two talent people! Most of us do not have extraordinary giftedness or exceptional opportunities. Thousands of pastors, staff members and lay people serve God faithfully in small churches, small towns or rural communities across our nation. These are “two-talent” people in the sense that their opportunities are limited to some degree. Most of them will never pastor a megachurch, publish a book, have thousands of social media followers or have a national platform. Yet they faithfully and joyfully serve in the field where God has placed them, investing their time and energy in His kingdom (see 2 Corinthians10:13). Churches and ministries depend on the day in and day out work of quiet, ordinary people who, like the two talent servant, take the opportunities that God gives them, and use their gifts in His work. Maybe that means serving as a church administrator, a children’s worker, a church treasurer or serving in some capacity that largely goes unnoticed and perhaps unappreciated, as well. My spiritual growth began in earnest when I sat under a gifted woman Bible teacher at our small church in Oklahoma. I was taken with her passion, her knowledge of scripture and her genuine love for the women in our church. I desperately wanted what she had and I am still on that quest. She never spoke at a large conference, wrote a book or became famous. Her opportunities were limited but she used every last one of them to teach and encourage young women to follow Christ. She is a classic example of the two-talent Christian.
The master praised the five and two talent servants, calling them “good and faithful”. What a contrast when we notice that he described the one-talent servant as “wicked and lazy”. That seems harsh, at first reading. But if we understand “wicked” to mean working against God’s purposes, then it becomes clear. If we are poor stewards of the gifts AND opportunities He has invested in us, then we have no part in His kingdom work.
Looking at The Parable of the Talents from this perspective shows us that it is not only how many gifts we have been given, but our willingness to take every opportunity to use them faithfully and develop them for the glory of our Master. After mulling over this passage for several weeks, I’ve asked myself, “Have I been faithful to use the opportunities God has given me to further His kingdom?” Like the five and two talent servants, may we all be diligent and faithful in our service.