Do you ever feel like you can’t make a difference in the lives of the people around you? In my last post, I suggested that “Leadership is using the time, gifts and abilities you have, joining God in what He’s already doing in the people around you.” This time, I want to offer a short reflection on that first phrase (using what you have) from the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) in an effort to dig deeper.
As you go through the passage, it’s evident that the “talents” signify anything God has given us, that we all have them to some extent, and that we should use them faithfully for Him. What may not be so obvious, however, is the essential connection between our view of “the master” (who signifies God) and using what He’s given us.
The first two servants took what the master had entrusted to them and doubled that initial investment. The third servant, though, took the talent he had received, buried it in the ground, and simply gave it back to the master upon his return.
For our purposes here, the fascinating part is the reason he offers for his no-risk investment policy: “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” (24-25). Thinking that the master was a harsh and unfair man, this servant apparently feared taking a chance with his money and played it safe, essentially squandering what he had been given.
The master’s response to the other two, faithful, servants suggests that this third servant’s perceptions about him were off-base. Although he had given one servant five talents and the other two, they both receive the exact same, praise-filled response and are rewarded with further, greater opportunities for service. Contrary to the unfaithful servant’s response, the master actually seems to be fair and even generous.
So, what’s the point? The point is that, if we want to use what God has given us well, we need to believe that He is fair, generous, and will reward us for faithfully ‘investing’ what He’s entrusted to us. Hebrews 11:6 puts it like this: “anyone who comes to [God] must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Contrary to much of what we’ve been taught, it’s not ‘unspiritual’ to be motivated by the promise of a reward.
On paper, we can believe all the right things about God and say we are serving Him, but in reality be far from actually trusting Him. I spoke with a second-year resident recently who admitted that, “Over time, I’ve seen a lot of patients. I’ve prayed that God would heal some of my tougher cases, but it never really happens. I know God heals, but I’m having a hard time really believing that He can or will. That doubt has spilled over into other areas of my life, like believing God has a godly husband in mind for me.” When our prayers seem to go unanswered (for example), it can seem like serving God is pointless, and that can lead to a lack of faith and failure to serve Him with enthusiasm and hope. We end up doing the minimum when we’re able to do much more.
Where are you with all this these days? Despite what’s going on around you, are you confident that God will reward you, even if it’s a long time in coming (see v.19)? Or, have you slowly lost faith that what you are (or were) doing for Him is worth it?
We all struggle with seasons where God’s promises of reward seem hollow, but this passage is here to remind us that we should “always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because [we] know that [our] labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Leaders take what they’ve been given (small or great) and invest it faithfully, but one key to this faithful service appears to be trusting that a fair, generous God will reward them in due time.