Matthew, in his gospel, captures Jesus’ final teaching on the future before His crucifixion. In Matthew 24, Jesus provides answers to questions from His apostles on His return, when the world will end, and signs that the world is about to end. And in the next chapter, Matthew captures what Jesus expects His followers to be doing while they wait for His return. If you haven’t read these two chapters recently, I recommend doing so because Jesus always wants His followers to be informed and prepared. These teachings were written down for our instruction [Romans 15:4].
I have seen people obsessed about Jesus’ return and the end of the world as we know it. Some have even set dates for His return even though Jesus had repeatedly said that no one except His Father knows the date. Instead of wasting our time speculating the date of His return, we are to stay ready for it, because if we stay ready, we won’t need to get ready [Matthew 25:1-13]. Furthermore, two of the ways we stay ready are by using our God-given talents to grow His kingdom [Matthew 24:14-30] and treating each other, especially those in need, the same way we would treat Jesus [Matthew 25:31-46].
I have been thinking about the first of those 2 ways we are meant to stay ready for Jesus’ return. I shared a quote last week about spending our lives trying and even succeeding at things that don’t really matter. I think the parable of the talents [Matthew 25:14-30] brings this into stark focus because quite frankly, if we aren’t using our talents to fulfil God’s purposes, then whatever else we achieve really doesn’t matter. In any case, the first thing about this parable is that the Master summoned His servants and entrusted His property to them. I believe this is because the Master did not want His servants to be idle while He was gone. As the old adage goes: “the devil makes work for idle hands”. If they had nothing to do and no abilities whatsoever, then they could have a case for remaining idle. However, none of the servants was talentless and therefore that option of remaining idle is taken off the table.
The other interesting thing is that the servants were assigned talents according to their abilities. It implies that the Master knew the servants and their capabilities. Furthermore, once He has assigned the talents, He left them to it. There is no micromanagement involved, each servant is at liberty to decide how to use the talents. I find it interesting that the servants didn’t ask for the talents and none of them rejected it either. I see it as a benevolent gesture from the Master to assign the talents not a malevolent act, compelling the servants to take the talents.
Each of us has been given talent or talents according to our abilities. They are usually things we excel at naturally. It could be empathy, creativity, organisation, leadership, teaching, encouraging others, fundraising, marketing, public speaking, music, sports, academic excellence, trading, and so on. Many are also are blessed with more than one talent. Have you identified your talents yet? Are you using them in a way that would please God? The first two servants used their talents to grow the Master’s estate or kingdom. Are you doing the same with your talents or have you buried it like the third servant?
I do wonder what the third servant did with his time after he buried his talent? Maybe he spent it pursuing other things? Or maybe he sat idle while the others worked? Either way, a servant who isn’t using their God-given talents to grow His kingdom is good-for-nothing [Matthew 25:30]. That is a damning indictment. So, I find myself wondering how well I have utilized my talents. Have I tried to maximise my talents or have I left them dormant or worse, have I used them to achieve things that are at cross-purposes with God’s kingdom? Or put differently, how much is God’s kingdom benefitting from my talents?
Another message in this parable is that though the Master was gone for a while, He did return. When He did, He again summoned the servants to give an account of what they did with the talents in His absence. This wasn’t optional. As I mentioned last week, we will all stand before God one day. His appraisal of what we did with our talent in the time we were given will be all that matters because a servant is ultimately judged on how well he does his Master’s bidding. Will we be like the two servants who grew their Master’s estate in His absence or will we be like the third servant?
The final message I draw from this parable is a sense of urgency. The first two servants went about putting their talents to use immediately. I infer that they prioritised growing the Master’s estate in His absence above every other pursuit. They didn’t know when the Master would return, nevertheless, they wanted to have something to show on His return. This is a lesson we should heed because we do not know when we will be called to give account, only that we will one day give an account of what we did with our talents.
So, where do you see yourself in this parable? What are you doing with your talents while the Master is away? Are you busy using them to work to grow His kingdom or have you buried them somewhere while you chase other things or sit idle?