One of the more well-known parables that Jesus told is the parable of the talents. It’s a story that sheds striking light on the way we are to live. But before we dive into the lessons of this tale, let’s start with a little refresher on Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 25:
A man is going on a trip, but before he departs, he leaves some of his resources to 3 of his servants. To the first, he gives 5 talents; to the second, 2; and to the third, 1 talent.
Much attention is given to the servants who receive 5 and 2 talents. They each work and trade to double what they received, and their master praises and rewards then upon his return.
But the third servant, who received only 1 talent, is afraid and hides what he has been given in a hole in the ground. When the master returns, he is furious with this man and inflicts a surprising and harsh punishment: “‘Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” (Matthew 25:30)
What are we to make of all this?
God’s Timing, God’s Talents to Give
One interesting detail of this parable is that we are not told exactly how long the master is gone.
We want to know that, don’t we? We want to be able to determine a divine rate of return, don’t we? If he was gone for a year, that would be a 100% rate of return. Pretty good! Not many can get that on their investments today. But if he was gone for 10 years, that would be a 7% rate of return. Good, but not great.
I think Jesus left this detail out on purpose, because He wanted us to focus on the big picture, the main points of the parable. Certainly, one of the key messages is that we are responsible to be good stewards of God’s blessings, and we will be held accountable.
We are also all given different talents, and we are only responsible to be stewards of what we have been given. Look at how the master responds to the first 2 servants: “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.'” (Matthew 25: 21 and 23)
A Call to Those of Little or Much Talent
Now, let’s reflect on the servant who was given a single talent. He was called lazy and unfaithful (Matthew 25:26). That seems a little harsh to many who think that he didn’t do that badly. After all, he didn’t lose the money. He didn’t waste it on foolish endeavors. So why was he treated so harshly?
Would we be guilty in the same way as this servant? I think of this servant as “everyman.” I believe that most of us see ourselves as average – or even below average – when it comes to talent. We don’t think of ourselves as special or gifted in any way, so we don’t expect much of ourselves, and we don’t think God will either.
We rationalize that because we aren’t specially gifted, we can just skate through life. We can attend church faithfully, give a little in the offering, and help out once in a while at a ministry in our church or community. God can’t expect much from us, because – like the servant with only 1 talent – we don’t have much to offer.
That’s why I believe that Jesus made the servant with 1 talent the lazy one. After all, he could have chosen the servants with 5 or 2 talents to illustrate laziness. But he wanted all of us to relate to this parable. And, since most of us aren’t super talented or exceptionally gifted, we can fully relate to the man with just 1 talent. He is us!
A Lesson in Faithful Stewardship
We are all to be held accountable and responsible. No matter the size of our blessings or the quality of our gifts, we are expected to be faithful in the stewarding of all He has given us. There is no “minimum talent requirement” in order to be held accountable.
But there’s another important lesson here: we are all given something. We all have time, talent, treasure, or tribes (people) that God has given us to steward. Some have more money, others have more time, others have exceptional talents. Whatever you have been given, however much or little, it is up to you to steward it faithfully.
God bless you in your journey to be a faithful steward of all that He has blessed you with, until you hear the words, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your master.'”