For the final scheduled post this year, I will conclude this brief series on the gifts of our time, treasure, and talents. I have previously posted on time and treasure, so this post will be on our talents.
For those who have a biblical background, a mention of talents will likely lead to thoughts of the parable Jesus taught on the talents (see Matthew 25). From this parable, we read what I call, the Great Commendation – “Well done good and faithful servant.” It is a phrase that every believer should long to hear, but let me point out two thoughts related to what I quoted.
First, the phrase is based upon a definitive understanding. For something to be well done implies that doing was involved. That is nothing can be done until the work begins and is executed. A builder cannot sit back and enjoy his work until a concept has been designed, plans have been made, materials have been secured, and the work has been accomplished. If plans are made and materials secured but no work is done, then the builder may have good intentions. But Jesus did not say, “Well intentioned my servant.” He said, “Well done….” and because of the work being done, He also called the servant faithful.
Of course, this idea fits perfectly well with what James wrote in his letter. In fact, his words may sound rather harsh for some. Basically, he says that listening (and/or reading) the Word of God without acting upon it is to deceive oneself (cf. James 1.22). If we carry the thought into the next chapter, what James is making clear is that thinking one has faith, but not doing anything because of it, should lead one to question whether that faith is real. After all, faith without works is dead (James 2.17). This is why James says that hearing without doing is deceptive which fits perfectly with Jesus statement that a good and faithful servant will have done something.
The second idea in Jesus quote is what is missing from it. In fact, much is missing from the quote types above. First, Jesus says that the servant has done well with a little and therefore will each will be “set over much.” He says this to both of the servants who have “done” something (Matthew 25.21 and 25.23). Both receive an equal commendation despite have received and returned different portions. This fact should be comforting because of the various passages on the spiritual gifts (such as 1 Corinthians 12). In fact, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 all refer to the Spirit apportioning gifts to people for the purpose of serving the God. But the gifts AND amount of gifts given are different! Some might not think this is fair, but God is not worried about being fair; He gives to us out of His grace (Romans 12.6) and asks us to serve accordingly. Ultimately, our reward for properly using (investing) what is given to us will result in a larger responsibility (a larger reward!) in eternity. And this idea leads to the rest of what is missing from the earlier quote.
Besides the promise of being set over much, Jesus promises something greater – entry into the presence of the Master and experiencing joy. This idea could drive us back to the prior post on treasure, but let us remain here because it has to do with our properly using our talents. Again, we all have different gifts and talents, but we must remember they all come from God. And thus, they should be used for His glory. And when we do use them for His glory, He experiences joy. And then, He invites us to enter into that joy. Of course, the fullness of God’s joy is beyond our imagination, but this joy seems personal. Let me share the idea again and complete the circle, so to speak. We serve. the Master experiences joy. The Master welcomes us into that joy – which is experienced because we served.
I wish I could stop there on such a high note, but the reality is that none of us serve as well (as faithfully) as we should. Sometimes, I feel like “Well done” is a stretch. “Good” would be a bigger stretch. And “faithful” would be missing altogether. If you know me, or have read this blog over the years, you know that I want to serve faithfully. And you know that any goodness I have, I recognize as being from God (i.e. His righteousness). But I do long to hear the words Jesus said in this parable. I long for Him to call me good and faithful. I long to know that I served Him well. But I know that He demands a great deal to those whom He has given much (Luke 12.48). Unlike that five-talent servant in the parable, sometimes I feel the best I can return is three-talents. Am I a 5-talent guy only able to return 3 talents? Very possibly. But here is the best part.
He loves me anyway!
That does not excuse me from giving my all. After all, the Master did not say. “Ok, servant you are done.” He said, “Well done” and called the servant “good” and “faithful.” I may not always be able to return fully what He has given, but if I do what I can while trusting Him to do His part (see John 15.5 – apart from Me you can do nothing), then I can hear the commendation I long to hear, He will have joy in my service to Him, and I will get to experience the joy of my Master with Him.
What a wonderful thought as we close out this season of gift-giving. And it is all made possible by the one who gave us Himself – as the perfect gift! – so that we might have the opportunity for that eternal joy.
As I prepare to turn the page to 2019, I am seeking how to better serve Him so that my mental concepts and plans don’t become unfinished business. That is, I do not want to deceive myself, I truly want my faith to be active. And not just active, but good, faithful, and pleasing to Him. I hope you will consider the new year an opportunity to consider these possibilities in your life as well. May we each take steps towards hearing “Well done good and faithful servant” knowing that if we hear that we will be “set over much” and have the privilege to “enter into the joy of our Master” whenever He may call us home.