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Hiding your talent...

What is the Kingdom of God like? Here’s the second parable Jesus offered in explanation:

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 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.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 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.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 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.”

Matthew 25:14-30, NIV

DANGER! God holds us responsible, and don’t ever believe otherwise. God expects something from us, in response, if we want to receive His gift of eternal life. That’s the point of this parable. He provides all the “money”, or “talent”, that we need and then asks one thing of us one thing: Use it wisely.

So ask yourself today: When He blesses you, does He expect you to do something with that blessing? Are you created merely to go about life collecting all the toys you can for yourself? Is the purpose of live to get all God’s provision you can get and avoid all the work, conflict and pain you can? Is that the goal of life? Some folks thought so, and that’s what this parable addressed.

He’s given gifts to each of us—-some have many, most have few. The majority of us are not gifted with five or ten gifts—-but one or two. So the focus is upon the common man—-the one that only had one talent. He was the one that looked at others and thought, “Well, I am not as blessed as they are, so my little contribution does not matter.” He represents the same man or woman that says, “Well, with millions of votes, my vote does not matter, so I’ll just stay home.” If the millions that thought this way would change their mind and do something, instead waiting for others to do it, our nation would all be a lot better off.

In the book of Genesis God placed Adam in the garden to work it and take care of it. We were made to work. As Christians we have a mission that our Lord expects us to accomplish in the here and now. The Parable of the talents teaches that God always gives us everything we need to do what he has called us to do.

Have you ever wondered what a talent is worth ? It represented twenty years of labor…a million dollars in today’s currency. You might be tempted to feel sorry for the servant who received only one talent, but in reality he received a million dollars from the master and buried it in his back yard. He was given more than enough to meet the master’s expectations. We are similarly blessed and have no excuse.

But what are you and I hiding? The Parable of the talents teaches that we are not created equal. The most overlooked part of this parable is the second half of verse fifteen: the master gives to each servant talents, “…each according to his ability.” The master understood that the one-talent servant was not capable of producing as much as the five-talent servant.

But beyond your own limitations, is there a reason you are not doing more? Is there something you have buried that needs to be dug up and brought to His altar today? Are there thoughts, habits, hidden sins, blasphemous or embarrassing errors you’ve made long ago that were never made right? Things you simply buried and hoped no one would ever discover?

My sons are ever asking me, “Do you think I can do it?” That is, do you think I can make it in life..or do you think I can impress my friends? And of course I do! But not by hiding, deceiving or denying their shortcomings . Neither can any man. It’s one thing to point out how mistreated, maligned and misunderstood you’ve been your whole life. But what about the mistreatment, abuse and misrepresentation you’ve dished out to others in your life—things you want to hide and keep out of God’s light—but things that you know have been a hindrance in your walk and the furthering of God’s work? Dig them up and give them to Him! Let Him obliterate those evil things by His divine power and remove that handicap and hindrance to your kingdom work! Satan loves to whisper to you and me the nagging knowledge of the unholy things we’ve done—and have since long abandoned. But perhaps we keep them hidden, in our own minds, even from Him. How silly! He knows about it! Admit it to Him….give it Him….be healed by Him…and let Him annihilate even the memory of that indiscretion—-but by no means deny that it never happened. Let Him cleanse you from that secret sin—-today.

This parable has a very unhappy ending. Jesus did not talk in fairy tales but in ultimate reality. If I preach the word of God and it offends…praise God. If the church diminishes and God is glorified, that’s fine—so be it! In churches it’s common to hear some folks complain that they feel it’s just a few that are making all the decisions—-but if that’s true, it’s all the more true that fewer are doing most of the work. And don’t doubt for a moment that work in a church is not work. It’s more commonly washes dishes, sweeping floors, practicing and preparing than it is being in the spotlight or being in charge.

The danger is to be one that is limited gifts and thereby assume that little is expected. This is a parable not preached enough. To bury your talent is to not use it. It’s about a latent, unproductive life. The comedy of it is that the same ones of us that don’t use their talents and gifts, complain about those that are using more talents and getting greater results. From Cain till today, we complain about some folks getting recognized or blessed for the good work they do, and our inferior work being overlooked. God speaks to us as He did Cain: (Paraphrased: Genesis 4:6-7 God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.”

My sons are always asking me, “Are you proud of me for doing this or that?” Their work is not always excellent or to my total satisfaction, but they do ask the right question: “Am I proud of them for the good things they accomplish.” They want me to be proud, and they’re making sure that I notice, and that it’s worthy of adulation. I am reminded of two things:

  1. I need to compliment their efforts as well as the end result, and

  2. My Father in heaven is also proud of them for trying to do things well—-and He’s pleased with you and me when we try to honor Him in our work! We need to similarly build up and compliment those that use their talent and gifts.

Our Father is delighted to give us even more, pressed down and overflowing if we are faithful with what He has given us. There’s a recurring theme in the Bible about getting back as you invest and the foolishness of being lazy or not putting our hand to the plow, so to speak.

We are born, sadly, not with a proclivity to work; good work habits are something our parents instill in us, demand from us and teach us by example. When we come to know the Creator of all that exists, He expects no less! We are requires us be productive, sons and daughters—even in heaven.

The enemy, on the other hand, tempts us to avoid sweat and toil, and to tolerate laziness within our own children. It’s not Godly… it’s not reflective of the way things will be in eternity. So take an inventory of all your gifts and talents—or ask someone that loves you to list them for you. And then ask yourself this question: Am I using these to the glory of God? If you aren’t, how can you use them for God’s glory?

What does it mean to ‘invest’ as the ones with five and two talents did? They each doubled the investment the master trusted them with. At other places He used the example of spreading seeds. All for what purpose? To bring people into the Kingdom of God. That’s the return on your investment! You might not lead a person to Christ, but you’re doing you part of spreading the seeds and using your talent.

We were told to spread the good news of God’s love and Christ’s death for our eternal salvation. Do you? You’re not told to succeed—-but to faithfully share. Let God, through His other servants, perhaps, bring about conversion and baptism—-but do what you’ve been redeemed to do with all the talents He’s given you. Share the good news! That’s the goal.

Let me close by reminding you of a very simple point: We work for the Master, not our own selfish enterprises.  The money that was given to the servants was not their own. The money they earned with the capital was not theirs to keep. The servants are only stewards of the master’s investment, and it is the quality of their stewardship that the master measured. Whatever you have is on loan—-even your spouse and children. Are we being wise with what He has given us?

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