Have you ever thought about the parable of the 5, 2, and 1 talents? Found in Matthew 25:14-30, it’s a well-known passage from the Bible that most of us have probably read or studied in a Sunday School class or small group setting. Today, I want to take a closer look at the message Jesus is sending us: we are responsible to use well what God gives us.
This includes everything from our actual talents to our time, money, and possessions. Most likely, when Jesus used the word “talanton” He meant a large sum of money: around 75 pounds. In US currency, this is around $150,000 per talent.
When is the last time someone trusted you with a $150,000 chunk of change to invest?
The master in this story divided his $1.2 million among three of his servants according to their ability. He gave $750,000 to the first person, $300,000 to the second, and $150,000 to the last.
In light of this, do you think it’s a coincidence the person given the least is also the person who failed? It almost makes you think the master knew this servant was going to slack off. Maybe he already demonstrated an inability to complete tasks on time. Or, perhaps he’s the person most likely to spend extended time socializing while on the clock.
We all have bad days. There are times we hit a grand slam and other times we strike out. I’m not talking about either of these. Rather, I believe the third servant was someone who habitually was a poor worker in any number of ways.
Simply put, he was least likely to win an employee of the year award.
Give an Account
When the master returned from his trip, he called in his servants to give an account of how they used his money. Each of the first two servants doubled their master’s investment while the third simply gave it back.
I’m no financial wizard, but a quick search revealed to me that an 87.5% ROI is far, far above average. I believe this helps to frame the conversation between the master and third servant. From the efforts of the first two, the master now has $2.1 million dollars. However, here comes the third, already-on-his-way-out, lazy employee who buried the money. Consider:
The way we act is a reflection of our Master.
God gave us 24 hours a day. He’s enabled us to earn a living. If God called us in today to give an account of how we’ve used what God gives us, would we feel pride or shame? The third servant didn’t even try, clearly reflecting his disrespect towards his master.
Abundance implies wealth. Growing up, I struggled with why the master didn’t give the returned talent to the second servant. After all, the first servant already had 10 — why does he need 11?
I think it becomes clearer when we stop thinking in percentages and start thinking in quantities. The first servant produced more than the second: 2.5 times as much to be exact. If both had brought back just two additional talents, I think an argument could be made that they worked equally as hard. But that isn’t what happened. The first servant’s efforts justified his master’s faith in him.
To think of it another way, this was the Bible-era version of a sales incentive or Christmas bonus. The first servant earned it. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25:29:
Did you notice the words I bolded? Jesus is telling us that our #ActionsMatter, that hard work is important, and furthermore that a half-hearted effort has consequences.
What God Gives Us
What has He given you? How are you using it? Are you ready for an abundance? These are just a few the questions we can synthesize from this passage, and only you know the answer to each. Ask God to reveal them to you, and then to prepare you for service in His Kingdom!
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