Use it or Lose it!

This past week, I visited a client institution and spoke to their board of directors. They asked me, as part of their board meetings, to bring a devotional to them. This is that devotional:

In the gospels we read the story of the Talents given to servants by the Master. Matthew 25:14-30

Parable of the Three Servants

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver[a] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together![b]’

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The Greek word for Talents is: τάλαντον The transliteration to English is (in case you were wondering): tä’-län-ton

According to Vines Expository Dictionary, here is the meaning of the word:

Originally “a balance,” then, “a talent in weight,” was hence “a sum of money” in gold or silver equivalent to a “talent.” The Jewish “talent” contained 3,000 shekels of the sanctuary, e.g., Exd 30:13 (about 114 lbs.). In NT times the “talent” was not a weight of silver, but the Roman-Attic “talent,” comprising 6,000 denarii or drachmas, and equal to about £240.

Note: That the “talent” denoted “something weighed” has provided the meaning of the Eng. word as “a gift or ability,” especially under the influence of the parable of the talents (Mat 25:14-30).

As I look at this parable, several things stand out to me. In order for their to be gain or increase, there is a Required Investment. However, the Master provides that investment (seed capital, if you will). He doesn’t expect you to come up with it all on your own. (Not to be confusing here but He doesn’t want you to sit on your hands and not do your part to get said seed capital.) He also provides the investment according to abilities and gifts He gave us as individuals. A person that cannot handle managing ten bucks will not be given a million to handle. He also requires that you have faith in Him that He will do what He says and care for you in the process.

Another thing that is required is Effort. We have to expend effort to accomplish the Master’s plan. (That goes back to the not sitting on your hands part.) It is our job to be about the Master’s business. We have to be diligent. We often confuse a perfect world with lack of having to work. However, we see in the garden before the fall that Adam was busy caring for the garden. In our efforts, God expects us to use the gifts that we have. While we might be stretched beyond our comfort zone, He isn’t asking us to do things that He hasn’t prepared us to do. For example, I really don’t think that God is asking me to be the next slam dunk champion in the NBA. . .or the next hairstyle model (with natural hair anyway!) ;-D In using our gifts, we need to rely on the Master to effectively put them into practice, realize that they are just that: gifts (don’t get prideful about something you’ve been given).

The outcome of this investment and effort is reward for the good effort and good attitude. When you place your faith in the Master and His response to you, and do your part according to His plan, you are rewarded. For each of his first two servants, the Master rewarded their efforts, hustle and attitude. (I have to say, the servant who does nothing with his talents and then tells his Master how rotten he is has to be one of the most clueless of individuals. He has certainly not learned how to win friends and influence people.) When we use the gifts, talents, and resources that the Master has given us effectively, He gives us more to use and develop.

Another thing that I find it interesting that this story is found in Matthew in a section that talks about the last days. We are in the last days. As servants of the Master, it is our job to use the resources that He has provided us to accomplish His purpose for our lives and for the organizations with which we serve.

As I was finalizing the devotion, a devotion from Rick Warren came in that seemed to cap off this devotion quite well. He quoted Philippians 2:13: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (NLT). The word for power is the root for our word energy. We have the God-given energy to accomplish what He has set before us to do.

Also, in Romans 8:31 it says, “If God is for us, no one can defeat us” (NCV). When God has set us on a path for Him, He is for us and will bring us through the fight.

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