“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.”
Matthew 25:14 KJV
I was known in one of my previous occupations as the “what if?” girl – the one who always had a question. I earned that title during a CSR training session because I asked the instructors endless questions, trying to understand what my proper response should be during any given situation. My instructors were ok with my countless questions because they understood that was how I learned.
One day I was sitting at work, reflecting on the 25th chapter of Matthew and the Parable of the Talents. Something about it disturbed me; it was gnawing at me, bothering me. The story goes like this:
A man went to a far away country and entrusted three of his servants with talents of money. The first, he gave five talents; the second, two talents and the last he gave one talent. The first two men immediately took the money and invested it, eventually doubling their master’s money. The last man took his talent and buried it. Some time passed and eventually the master returned and required an accounting of the funds he had entrusted to his servants. The first two gave their reports with this result:
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV)
Good news for them! The master was understandably pleased with their efforts. Then, the time came for the third servant’s reckoning. He had no profit to show because he had buried the money. The master was not pleased:
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”
(Matthew 25:26 NIV)
Whoa! Wait a minute! I was lost – what had this man done to be considered “wicked and lazy”? As far as I could tell, he hadn’t done anything wrong. He just didn’t do anything. So I asked God the question. And the answer came back as a question, “Why would he bury the money?” Well, yeah – that was strange compared to the others. It is their actions that make him look bad. If they knew enough to invest the money for a return, why didn’t he? To bury the money was to blow off the responsibility and potential for growth that he had been given. What would make a person do that?
I thought back to my days of handling small children and their squabbles. When you give a child something (a toy, a drink, a cookie), they are fine with it until they look and see what you have given another child. They see what they don’t have. “He has more juice than me! Her toy is bigger than mine! They cry, they fight and they sulk. It occurred to me that burying the talent was the third servant’s version of sulking. After all, he got the least. Surely, there had to be some resentment about his portion. It equaled his master’s assessment of his abilities. That must have bothered him. So he showed the master just how he felt about the responsibility assigned to him. He did nothing with it.
But the day of reckoning came for him – as it must for all of us. And God, the master, will require an accounting of the talents (or gifts and responsibilities) that he has entrusted to us. He will say, “What have you done with what I have given you?” The greatest respect we can show for his gift is to be able to respond, “I have increased it.” Whatever our gifts may be, wherever our talent lies, it is our responsibility to give it back to God, multiplied. It is expected. This is how we honor his gifts. And this is how we grow.
This lesson translates to my daily life like this: every year I give an accounting for my life (as I must one day to Him!) and I expect to see growth in some area. I look back and see what goals I have set, whether I’ve reached them and measure my progress. It may be in the area of finances or my career, in my personal life, in my health, in my relationship with my children, in my ministries – every year it differs. I set goals and I expect to see growth. I expect to have bettered my situation. I expect to see change. Increase is work! I pursue it because I know one day he will hold me accountable. When we are responsible with what he has given shows him he can trust us with more.