- Explore what the Bible teaches us about gifts and talents and how we should use them.
- Feel sure that God has given each of us gifts and talents and that he wants us to use them.
- Identify one gift or talent that we could use for God.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells what has come to be called the Parable of the Talents. However, the NIV translates "talents" as "bags of gold." While this may lead us to think that Jesus is referring only to financial management, be assured that he has a larger application in view. He is actually teaching us about the use of any gift that God has entrusted into our hands---abilities, gifts, property, money, and even creation itself.
The wealthy man in this story (think of him as an entrepreneur) is going away on a trip and he entrusts three of his servants with "bags of gold." He expects them to put the gold to work, to invest the money so that it won't lie dormant while he is away. Note that the servants don't receive the same amount of start-up cash. They receive the money "each according to his ability." This story is not about equality of gifts, but about equality of calling. Each person may have different amounts to invest, but each is called to invest.
After a "long time" the master returns and wants to settle accounts. The first two savvy servants have made investments that doubled their master's money. Not bad in any market! The master offers them a hearty "well done." Their reward is that he will now put them "in charge of many things." Jesus is saying that the more we "make" on God's investment of time, talents, and money on us, the more he will give to us to invest.
But notice the third servant. What does he do? He hides the money. He buries it in the ground. And when the master, astonished at the servant's insolence, asks why, the servant says that he was afraid. He didn't want to lose the money, but he didn't gain anything either. This does not sit well with the master. Perhaps if the servant had invested his bag of gold in some pyramid scheme and lost it all, the master would have been less angry.
The parable offers us a picture of God as an entrepreneur, a businessman. And like any entrepreneur, he wants people around who can help him increase his wealth. To be fearful, to be overly cautious is absolutely antithetical to God's purpose. God asks us to take the risks, to invest what we've been given. We are not to sit on it, fearful of doing the wrong thing.
God has invested in each one of us. Who you are (your personality, abilities, upbringing, energy) and what you have (your time, money, home, family, relationships, church) are longtime investments of God who wants to build up the capital of his kingdom. And God will not tolerate our just hoarding our gifts or hiding them out of laziness or fear. God expects a return on the investment he has made in you and me.
Paul shows how this works in the church. While the members "do not have the same function" (we all don't have the same gifts), each one is called to invest his or her gifts, whatever they may be, in service of each other and of God's kingdom. This is "true and proper worship" (Rom. 12:1).
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