As we finish up the last part of Chapter 7, we'll be taking a look at Matthew 25, the parable of the talents. In the story, a man is leaving on a long journey and entrusts his possessions to his servants according to their abilities. He gives the first servant five talents. The second servant is given two talents and the third is given one talent. As for the first two servants, they take what is given to them and go to work, so to speak... doubling what was given to them. The third servant, however, takes his talent and buries it in the grown for "safe" keeping. Upon the master's return, he congratulates the first and second servants for what they have done. For you see, the master entrusted his servants with those talents as a test... to see if they could be entrusted with more. The master, as a reward to his "good and faithful" servants, puts them in charge of many things. The third servant, however, upon sharing with his master that he placed his talent in the ground, is told that he is "evil and lazy." The servant's excuse for his actions were based on what he considered to be his master's dishonesty and cruelty. Regardless, the master cast the third servant out into darkness, giving his one talent to the first servant. With that, the master replied, "for the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." Matthew 25:29.
So... how does this parable relate to our faith in Christ? Well, my interpretation is this: When we use the talents bestowed upon us, in faithful service, the result is increased responsibilities in His kingdom. On the flip side, wasting our talents... or better yet, not sharing our talents with others, leads to condemnation. Yet, what I find so incredibly striking is the suggestions that not using our talents can result in us being cast out of the kingdom of heaven, a loss of stewardship, eternal weeping by our Savior. Is it really that black and white?
The other night, my husband was reading chapter 5 for his small group... the "dreaded" chapter 5! He put the book down and looked at me, about to say something... and then he stopped. I couln't help but laugh, because I knew exactly what he was going to say. After a little prompting, his comment went something like this: If we are to take the Bible as a LITERAL instruction book for life, then we're in big trouble! (He's was at the part about selling everything you own, picking up the cross and following Jesus!) I told him it's important to remember that we aren't perfect (which is where the grace of God comes in!)... HOWEVER, we also can't get caught in the trap of using God's grace as an excuse for making bad decisions.
We live in a society that wants quick fixes. People are more interested in taking a diet pill with horrible side effects or undergoing elective surgery (which, consequently, give pretty fast results), instead for making lifestyle changes that are difficult and take time, in an effort to get the same result. I've talked to several people who've done exactly this, and every one of them admitted they were tired of struggling with their lack of will-power. They just wanted something to get them to the end result they wanted... no matter what road they had to take to get there! So, how does this relate to the parable of talents, you might be asking? Hang in there for a minute! Some of us have been conditioned to hold on to what we have... to cling to it even... for fear of losing it, or fear of it being taken away. The thought of letting it go, in hopes that it will become something more isn't something we're interested in... it's a gamble we aren't willing to take. I can think of three things right now in my life that fit into this exact analogy! What if... I let it go and it doesn't come back (figuratively speaking!)? The obvious answer is that whatever it is... it wasn't part of God's plan... but that doesn't make it any easier to let go of. I know the end result that I'm looking for. I want to live my life as Christ calls me to live it. There isn't a quick fix for that. There's only one way to get there. The process can be arduous, painful... the pruning process isn't exacly fun, trust me! But, what we learn on the journey is life changing... and that's what we must remember: This is a journey that is dependent on Christ's power to change our hearts. We can't do this alone. If He wants you, or me, to literally sell everything we own and follow Him, then He will change our hearts in a way that will align "our plan" with His. I don't believe for one minute that this is a prerequiste for being a follower of Christ. But, I do believe that we are to take what He has entrusted us with... our talents... and use them for the betterment of His kingdom. I have no doubt that if we serve Him in this way, we will be entusted with more... He will reveal to us more of His will for our lives. He will change our hearts, making them more like His!
We're heading into Chapter 8! Take a look at the video.