A very rich person, about to set off on a journey, entrusted very large sums of money (talents) to three of his servants, each according to his personal ability: five, two, and one. A talent was worth between five and six thousand denarii — or about 15 years’ wages for a simple day labourer. The rich man freely bestowed responsibility and a chance for unsupervised action upon all three servants. These amounts were enormous to these servants who had nothing and earned nothing. Through skilful trading and investing, the servant with the five talents managed to make five more — doubling his master’s money. The servant with the two talents did the same. The third servant buried his talent in the ground. He was afraid to take the risk, afraid of the consequences of losing all the money, and afraid of the master’s reaction if he did. On the day of accounting, the master rewarded the two clever servants (“Come, share your master’s joy”), but punished the third servant whom he called “wicked and slothful” (v. 26). He took the third servant’s talent and gave it to the first servant. Clearly, the master did not want security — but initiative. He exposed the third servant’s explanation as a mere excuse for irresponsibility and laziness. Even the timidest person could at least have invested the one talent with bankers and gained the interest from it
The four lessons taught by Jesus through the parable.
1) God gives each person different gifts for his or her intended uses. We are only asked to make full use of what we have been uniquely given and to use our talents for the benefit of the community.
2) The better we use them, the greater is the responsibility. God gives more responsibilities to those who make the best use of their God-given talents.
3) The lazy and the unproductive will be punished. Even the person with only one talent has something to offer to others. If he fails to do some positive good work, he will lose what he has.
4) God blesses generous sharers and punishes the selfish hoarders. Those who share generously the gifts they have been given are likely to find themselves constantly and immeasurably enriched, while those who jealously and selfishly preserve, out of fear, what they have been given, will lose it.
There is something very sad about seeing a talent go to waste, for when a talent goes to waste a person goes to waste. A brilliant footballer turns to drink, an exciting singer turns to drugs, a bright young politician disappears into the corrupt system, a beautiful nurse loses her hope… and their talents are lost, perhaps forever.
Have you heard people excuse themselves by appealing to what they do not have? “I’m too old.” “I’m too young.” “I’m not educated.” “I’m too busy.” “I’m not good enough.” “I feel shy.” “I feel nervous.” “I could never do that.”
What did Jesus mean by the talent? According to me, it is everything you have and everything you are. This includes your abilities, your material and financial resources; your relationships with loved ones and friends; the gifts of God’s salvation and redemption in Jesus Christ – in short, your very life!
According to William James, human beings use only 10-12% of their potential. The saddest part of most people’s lives is that they die with the music still in them. They haven’t lived while alive. To reach the end of your life without ever having lived at all. Some people drift through life, living aimlessly, selfishly, and foolishly, and die without having realized even a fraction of their potential.
A plain bar of iron is worth five American dollars. The same bar made into a pair of horseshoes would be worth about fifty dollars. Made into medical needles, it might be worth as much as five thousand dollars. And if it were made into balance springs for fine Swiss watches, that iron bar might bring in as much as five hundred thousand dollars. The point is this: Raw material must be developed.
God has blessed each of us with gifts and talents. It all depends on how we develop our raw material. A young boy once offered Jesus his Tiffin box of lunch. He certainly didn’t think his few pieces of bread and two fish could make much of a difference. But he offered his gift anyway, and Jesus used it to feed a multitude. God can do a lot with a little.
There is a psychologist at Harvard named Howard Gardner who is trying to revolutionize the study of intelligence. He says we have been studying I.Q. all wrong. On our intelligence tests we only measure one or two forms of intelligence. Gardner says that there are actually nine forms of intelligence. Some people are gifted with linguistic intelligence, he says. These are our writers and poets. Others have what he calls logical/mathematical intelligence. They make good accountants and scientists. Some people are gifted spatially. These are our artists and architects. Some are gifted kinaesthetically. Their bodies are unusually graceful and coordinated. These are our athletes and dancers. Others are gifted interpersonally. They know instinctively how to get along well with the people around them. These are our sales persons, counsellors, teachers. Some are gifted in their ability to look within. These are our philosophers “our wise people.” Some are gifted musically.
Here is the important point. Gardner claims that everyone he has ever tested has scored high on at least one of these nine forms of intelligence. All of us are gifted in our own way. Many of us are smarter than we think we are. Don’t you wish that someone had told you that a long time ago? Do tell your children, please. Many of them will go through life thinking they are dumb because their form of intelligence is not valued in school. All of us are gifted. All of us have what we need to succeed. God has created us differently so that different tasks will get done in this world. But all of us have a place where we fit in. All of us have what we need to succeed. God has given us all we need! The sad thing is that we do not appreciate the gifts we have and look for what we do not have.
Conclusion: The challenge is to ask yourself how you can use your talents for God and for one another. What is that special thing which you can do that nobody else in the world can do in quite the same way? Is it to laugh, to smile? Is it an ability to encourage and inspire? Is it an ability to pray? Is it a loving tone people hear in your voice? Is it skill in music or art or teaching or managing or…? The possibilities are almost limitless. What are those things the Owner of all things has entrusted to you? How have you responded to that trust?