The opportunities we are given today are the appraisals for how much we will manage tomorrow.
We are producers. From the beginning of human history, man was at the same time blessed and commanded by God to produce—be fruitful (Gen. 1:28). Everything that God entrusts into our hands is something that He expects for us to manage and multiply. Whether it is our jobs, ministries, organizations, gifts and abilities, or finances; if we possess it, we must produce with it.
This understanding of life eliminates any room for excuse making or stagnancy, because we are told from the start that God expects a return on His investment. God’s investment in us is spiritual, psychological, and physical. He has equipped us to hear from Him with our hearts, think creatively with our heads, and build with our hands. So, quite frankly, we have what it takes to win in life!
Giftedness Comes with Responsibility
The challenge comes when there is a divergence between His mandate and our mindset. Bishop Noel Jones often states, “Giftedness comes with responsibility.” What Bishop Jones means by this is that although giftedness is an unearned blessing from God, we still have a moral, ethical, and vocational responsibility to utilize our giftedness with the utmost care.
We are not gifted for giftedness’ sake. We are gifted to grow God’s influence in the spaces and places He locates us. Every environment is a domain. And we are expected to extend God’s dominion into every domain we inhabit for Him and inherit from Him. To say it differently, everywhere we find ourselves is where He has positioned us in and gifted us for. Our responsibility is to produce in the places we have been gifted by utilizing the gifts God has endowed us with.
In chapter 25 of Matthew’s gospel, we find the Parable of the Talents. The word talent does not refer to human ability but to money. So, we can call it the Parable of the Money. There are three lessons about the responsibility of giftedness that we can learn from this parable.
1. Everyone is given some level of responsibility.
In verses 14 and 15, we read: “For [the kingdom of heaven] is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.”
There are three slaves to whom this master entrusts his possessions. To entrust is “to grant someone the opportunity or occasion to do something” (Louw and Nida, 163). The master gave them his possessions as an opportunity to demonstrate how responsible they were at managing and multiplying his money.
Notice, however, that everyone was not given the same amount of money. Starting backwards, the last slave was given a certain amount of money. The second slave was given twice as much as the last slave. And the first slave was given five times as much as the last slave. This might seem unfair on the part of the master if Matthew did not inform us that this distribution of money was based upon each person’s ability.
Irrespective of how much money each slave received, they were all given something. They were each responsible for their portion of their master’s money. God has given us varying degrees of spiritual and natural gifts. Instead of looking at what other people have, He expects us to be thankful for what we do have and manage that well. Because whatever level we are on today is based upon our capability today. It bears no reflection on what we may be capable of tomorrow and doesn’t mean that we are less than anyone else. In fact, there could be any number of reasons why someone else has more to manage than us right now. For example, they may have more experience, better skills, or greater capacity.
What is most important is that we recognize we have something from God that we are responsible for.
2. What we are given is a test of our faithfulness and fruitfulness.
As the parable continues, we come to learn that “the [slave] who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents” (v. 16); and “the [slave] who had received the two talents gained two more” (v. 17).
When the master returned, each of the three slaves had to update the master as to what he did with the master’s money. The first two—who increased their master’s money—were commended by him: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” (vv. 21, 23).
They had proven themselves to be trustworthy and skillful with their master’s money by increasing what they received. In return for their faithfulness and fruitfulness in multiplying what they were responsible for, the master promised to increase what they would have entrusted to their care. Because they had proven they were producers, they were rewarded by being given responsibility to manage more.
This is what happens when we are faithful with a little, God rewards us with a lot!
3. God expects a return on His investment.
The last slave offers us a stern warning of the dangers of sitting on the gifts God gives us. For he states to the master, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours” (vv. 24-25).
Unlike the first two slaves, this last slave allowed fear of not producing for his master to stagnate him from using the money he was given to produce more. This slave gave his master back what he received, but that was not the expectation. He was entrusted with the master’s money as an opportunity to do something with it—the opportunity was for the slave to grow it, not stow it.
Because of his willful refusal to stow and not grow what he had, the master ordered the one talent he was given to be taken away and for that slave to be punished (vv. 28-30). When we sit on our gifts and not use them to produce for the Master, we are operating in defiance of His expectation. Our giftedness comes with an investment clause, which means we are responsible for managing and multiplying what we have received for the benefit of the Master, Jesus Christ. If we fail to yield a return, we risk losing what we have and facing retribution for our refusal to capitalize on the opportunities He has provided us.
An Opportunity for More
Which servant are you? Are you hiding what God has gifted you? Is fear inhibiting you from being creative with the opportunities you have been given? You have what it takes to be productive in every scenario you find yourself because God has created this occasion as a test for you to demonstrate your faithfulness and skillfulness. Let’s make the most of this moment to grow from managing a few things to managing many things!