Title: Responsible Use of Gifts and Abilities
Author: David K. SHumate
“Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’” Matthew 25:24-25 (NRSV)
The "Parable of the Talents" (Matthew 25:14-30) is one of a series of "accountability" parables. Jesus taught that all of us are accountable to God for what we are and what we have. From this particular parable the word "talent" became descriptive of human gifts and abilities. In Jesus' day, however, a "talent" was a certain weight of gold worth fifteen years of ordinary labor.
Today, figured at minimum-wage and a forty-hour week, five talents would be worth approximately $1,131,000. Even one talent would approximate $226,000. His use of such exaggerated figures must have astounded his hearers. Such amounts indicate the great trust placed in these servants by their master.
In the absence of their master, two of his servants immediately went forth and by trading gained a sum equal to that which they had been given. Not only has their master entrusted them with great assets, they have trusted his ability to sustain possible failure. That mutual trust frees the "five talent" and "two talent" individuals to risk loss and failure. Their initiative and willingness to risk was richly rewarded. By responsible use of their freedom they gained even more responsibility.
Another servant received only one talent. This servant related to the master from a position of insecurity. Perhaps this one felt insignificant. Fear of failure dominates the action that follows. The talent is buried and hidden lest risk proves to be unsuccessful. The calamity of failure is that much greater because of a lack of trust in the grace and mercy of the master. By irresponsible use and ignorance of freedom, the "one talent" servant lost even the trust which had been given.
God has entrusted each of us with life. The value of life, as well as the gifts and graces we are given, is beyond calculation. We are accountable for our use of life, even if the accounting is long delayed. Our insecurities and fears can block us from using the gifts and graces we are given to engage fully with the challenges of life and discipleship.
Life is meant for living. We can risk living if we trust the grace and mercy of God. We are freed to live in the full assurance that our worst failures can be forgiven. No matter how insignificant any of us may feel, all of us are gifted by God. The world of literature values authors most highly. Without writers there would be no books. Nevertheless, their creativity and skill is magnified and spread abroad by the work of the lumberman whose pulpwood is made into paper, by the tool and die worker whose labor crafts the parts of the printing press, by the printer whose skill brings the author’s words into salable form, by the dockman and truck driver whose efforts transport the work to the retail seller, by the clerk in the bookstore who aids the reader in her purchase and by many more. Even those of us whose gifts may be more modest are vital to the overall process of life and to the life of the church. What you are and what you contribute is important!
We are responsible for our use of both the tangible and intangible blessings of life. Let us use our talents in the full assurance and trust of God’s ability to forgive and support us when we fail. Of course, God trusts us! But the question is, "Do we trust God?"
"For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail."
Proverb dating to the 13th Century
“He who risks and fails can be forgiven.
He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being.”