For the past couple of years, I've been thinking a lot about Jesus' famous parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). It's been one of those passages I can't get out of my mind.
Here's the parable: a man goes on a journey. Before leaving, he entrusts his property to three servants. Each one gets a lot: one gets five talents, possibly worth some three million dollars. A second gets two talents, probably worth just over a million dollars. A third servant gets a paltry (!) half a million dollars or so. When the master returns, he holds them accountable for how they've invested what he left with them. Two servants doubled the money and are rewarded; the one who received the least amount of money only preserved the capital and receives a strongly worded rebuke.
It's not hard to see what the story means. Jesus has left and has entrusted his followers with resources. He will return and hold us accountable for what we've done with what he's left us. Six lessons:
- God has given all of us something. He's given the least of us a lot. I love what J.C. Ryle says: "Anything whereby we may glorify God is ‘a talent.’ Our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ’s Church, our advantages as possessors of the Bible—all, all are talents." We all have them.
- Nothing we have is ours. The servants didn't own their resources; they only managed them on behalf of the master. We don't own anything we have. It's all God's, and we'll give account for all of it one day. I should mentally write on everything I have, "God's." It's all his. Nothing is mine.
- The amount is irrelevant. I sometimes think that God has given others more, so they're more accountable. Not so. We will not be judged based on how many talents God has given us, but based on what we’ve done with them. I love how Spurgeon puts it: "If there be degrees in glory, they will not be distributed according to our talent but according to our faithfulness in using them."
- We're supposed to do something what what we have. It's not enough to play it safe. I love what D.A. Carson writes: "It is not enough for Jesus’ followers to ‘hang in there’ and wait for the end. They must see themselves for what they are—servants who owe it to their Master to improve what he entrusts to them. Failure to do so proves they cannot really be valued disciples at all."
- It's really about our view of God. The one servant played it safe because he had a distorted view of his master (Matthew 25:24-25). How I live, and what I do with what God has given me, is really an indication of what I believe to be true about God.
- We're supposed to live for that day when we'll give account. When I read this parable, I often think of four words: "Not me. Not now." All of this is not about me; it's about God. All of this is not about now; it's about that day when I'll give account to my returning Master. Live for that day. As Randy Alcorn says, "Financial planners tell us, 'When it comes to your money, don’t think just three months or three years ahead. Think thirty years ahead.' Christ, the ultimate investment counsellor, takes it further. He says, 'Don’t ask how your investment will be paying off in just thirty years. Ask how it will be paying off in thirty million years.'" Live for that day. Evaluate everything for how it will pay off in eternity, for that day when you'll give account to your Lord.
This parable continues to significantly shape me. There's enough to feast on here for a very long time. Refuse to play it safe with your life. Instead, invest everything you have for Jesus and for eternity.