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“For it as when a man, going into another country, called his servants and delivered unto them his goods.  And he that received five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: lo, I have gained five other talents.  His Lord said unto him:  Well done my good and faithful servant:  thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things, enter into thou the joy of thy lord.”  Matthew 25:  14-19

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”  Matthew 7:11

I probably watch too much television these days but I find a prevalence of several different types of commercials:  medicine adds, car adds, lawyer adds and one more type.  This last type deals with savings and breaks down into several types.  Some are for investment companies whose main pitch is a pitch concerning fear that at some time in the future, especially during retirement, if you don’t go with them, you’ll run out of money.  Another frequent saving commercial is from banks who discuss saving for college, cars, homes etc.  Either way, the idea is we have our hard earned money which we’ve earned based on our talents and how to keep as much as possible. On many occasions I have stressed that I am not a biblical scholar, so likewise, for this particular discussion, I am also not a professional or especially skilled financial planner and appropriate financial planning or giving, even monetary giving to the church is not the focus of this post.

This post is actually broader than the aspect of how we save or give money.  The focus of this post is Jesus Christ’s illustration of our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom and Its impact on our lives.  The focus of this post deals with our intentions as we use the things God has entrusted us with.  So let’s get started.

There are many different biblical translations and some translations are very definitive here saying that the lord or master gave the servants bags of silver or gold and/or specifically use the term “money”. I am drawn to the word “talent”.  Now it is factually accurate that a “talent” was a rather large sum of money during Jesus’ time and it is very probable, that in the understanding of the day, hearers of this parable believed Jesus using talent in the vernacular of the day to refer to money.  Yet we’ve seen Jesus use certain specific items to reflect broader concepts as when He used “seeds” to illustrate the Word of God in the parable of the sower (See Matthew 13 1-23).  So here I believe it is appropriate to see talents as greater than just money and to, indeed, see them as the talents that God so richly blesses us with; for example, speaking, writing, preaching, teaching, leading, stewardship, healing, etc., just to name a few.

Let us now have a clear understanding about these “talents”; they come for God Almighty.  Notice at the start of this parable, when the master calls his servants to him; they have no talents.  The talents are the master’s and he supplies them to the servants. One aspect of this concept is when the master supplies the talents they are not going to be talents for cheating, lying, stealing, being an adulterer or the like. Again in stressing that these are God’s talents is to understand that these are not things that we have either acquired or would have acquired on our own.  These are God’s talents which He has been gracious enough to share with us; with the following expectation.

Now let us focus on the relationship of the giver to the receiver. In the parable, the person who is the giver is the Lord, the master of the establishment and the property.  That means he is in charge and has authority.  The receivers are not peers, they’re not family members, they are servants.  They understand that their duty is in service of the master/lord.  With service being a verb, in this case, there is an expectation that something will be done with the given talents to serve the master/lord. This was not a: “I’ve got more important things to do or the heck with the master’s talents, I’m going to focus on what I think is important”, kind of relationship.  The master was to be served.

So next notice what happens upon the master’s return.  The servants come forward to give their accounting of what they’ve done with the talents.  Notice the first two servants; they’ve basically doubled the master’s talents, his money.  They’ve invested the money, worked in someways to increase it; then they give it all back to him.  They don’t tell the master I’ve made an additional 4.5 talents (keeping .5 talent for myself) for you or I made 5 talents and with a reasonable return I’m giving you 9 talents.  No, it was the master’s talents to begin with, so the only thing to do was to give the master all the talents, original and gain, back upon his return.  Even the punished servant who did nothing with the talent given to him by the master at least gave him the one talent back.

Okay, Doug, great for a parable but come on, what am I expected to do after hearing it? Is this some sort of guilt trip about coughing up more dough or joining a Sunday school class?  No, not really; I hope that this post would have an empowering, reflective and peace adding aspect to it.

First, our Heavenly Father, Creator of all that is, including you and I, omnipotent and omniscient, has seen fit to share some of His divine essence with you and I in the form of talents.  These talents are meant to bring glory to Him, to spread His Kingdom far and wide and to be a true blessing to those who receive the talents as well as those who are recipients of the outcome of those who practice their God given talents. And please understand this, God knows you and I so well that He knows just what talent will fit with you and I and will give us all we need to succeed beyond what we can imagine in practicing that talent.  Jesus Christ declares that when we are in alignment and abiding in Him, we will use our talents to do even greater things than Jesus did because of God’s power in us.

Thus let us reflect on the daily activities we engage in.  First, do we feel that we are moved in our spirit to do a particular thing; do we seem to be given multiple opportunities in a certain way to bring glory to God, to help people around us and bring increase to our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom? Do we ignore that movement? Do we avoid those opportunities?  Are we hesitant to use those talents out of a fear of failure or they will lead us somewhere we do not feel comfortable with? Are we burying those talents in the ground, purposefully focusing on what we deem as important or necessary?

Another reflection on our daily activities centers around our returns to God on the basis of the talents He has so richly blessed us with.  As we utilize our talents, do we do so with the intent of returning 100% to our Heavenly Father? To illustrate what I mean by that question; let’s take me as an writer.  Now some might have a strong argument that my writing “skills” such as they are,  might not be a talent from God but for the sake of argument let’s say that they are.  I could use those skills to write blogs, stories and in any other way I can to further His Kingdom and bring glory to His name.  Now I could do that every time I write, with that focus in mind.  However, I could say that I want to win more recognition for myself and get financial rewards so I’m going to write things which might even be Kingdom denying but worldly successful but I’ll only do some of the time.  Let’s say I’ll use my God given talents 90% of the time for God’s purposes and 10% for my own purposes; that’s fair isn’t it? Perhaps from a worldly perspective.  Yet when we realize that Jesus Christ took all of our sins, not 50%, 75% or 99.9% but all of our sins upon Himself for our salvation and then sacrificed Himself for us; we realize that God is and has always been all in 100% of the time for us.  As His servants should we be anythings less?

There are two primary reasons, that we might not want to give 100% to God.  One is we see the talents we’re using as “our” talents and as such we are entitled to receiving a portion of the glory for utilizing them.  The second reason we might want to hold back some is out of fear.  Will God really take care of me if my sole and soul focus is on Him?  Doesn’t it make sense for me to focus part of my talents and my gain purely on myself so that I can be sure about my Return on Investment? I certainly don’t want to be left with looking like a fool with nothing to show for utilizing these talents with God as my focus.

Jesus Christ, through His teachings, His healing actions and His sacrifice tries to tell and show us of the wonderful, all need fulfilling, all powerful, based only on love blessings our Heavenly Father longs to shower upon us.  Even in this parable, we see the rewards as immediate and overwhelming.  First the Lord praises the servant, then the Lord rewards the servant with immediate increase being set over many things and finally the servant is beckoned in to receive the joy of the Lord.  Is there any greater return on our investment of His talents than that?

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise You and thank You that, through Your Grace, You have seen fit to share Your talents with us.  Through the Holy Spirit, guide and focus us that these talents would be revealed to us as well as Your plan for how we are to utilize these talents.  Forgive us when we either; utilize these talents not in accordance with Your plan or neglect to utilize our God given talents at all.  In the utilizing of our God given talents in accordance with Your plan, we ask that You would bless not only us but those whom we serve in Your name.  That in the receiving and using of our God given talents we would bring glory, honor and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“..Named Demetrius a silversmith….he called them together and said: ‘ Men you know we have our prosperity by this trade…..Paul has persuaded and turned away many people….So not only is this trade of ours in danger…but also the temple of the great goddess, Diana..”  Acts 18:24-26

“Paul stood in the midst….Him I proclaim to you; God who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands…”  Acts 17:22,24

Demetrius was a silversmith.  It appears in Acts that he was a silversmith of some repute in the city of Ephesus where the temple of Diana (or Artemis in Greek)was located,  which was one of the wonders of the ancient world.  Diana was the goddess of everything from wild animals and the hunt to childbirth and fertility.  So there was much to do, not only with the upkeep of the great temple but in making images to sell to those who would made a pilgrimage to see and worship her.

Paul has been traveling and preaching throughout the Greco-Roman world.  He is starting churches and preaching that there is only One God who resides in no image made from man and no temple made by human hands.  Paul has been preaching that salvation does not come from observing certain festivals or rites, but from believing in and belonging to Jesus Christ who is the only true way to the Heavenly Father.  And Paul’s preaching is working.   Thousands of converts are accepting the Word of Jesus Christ.  They are leaving the worship of false gods and worse yet, for craftsmen like Demetrius, they are no longer purchasing the idols and trinkets that he is making.  Demetrius can not take this lying down.  So he makes a spirited defense to stop Paul.  Yet notice carefully how his defense is crafted.  It is not a defense based solely on the merits of Diana worship and faith in the goddess.  No, Demetrius starts with a defense of the people’s livelihoods.  It’s not about following Paul and His God will lead to spiritual destruction.  No, it is following the One True God will lead to personal financial ruin as well as the degradation of the power of their temple and city.  If you want to get their attention, hit em their pocket books, is an old saying.  When the people of Ephesus hear this, many are fearful and they start a riot.  However, that does not deter Paul in the least from continuing his faithful preaching, converting and church building.

So, what does that have to do with us today?  Much, I think.  You see today we are filled with messages about the building and accumulating of wealth.  One can hardly look at any form of media without being bombarded by questions and suggestions about retirement, saving for college, making money from this action or that trade.  Alas, if only it were a secular concern, we might be able to ignore it.  Yet even within institutions of faith, there are messages about giving so that you can receive and claims that if you will give this amount or do this particular thing, then God will multiply your return on that investment untoldfold amounts for your personal prosperity; as if God was some aspect of a really good investment plan.  I’ll stick with God as long as the return is good.

Yet one has to wonder, what if in Ephesus of Demetruis’s time, Paul had asked Demetrius to start making statues of God.  What if those statues had really started to sell to the converts to Christianity.  Would Demetrius had been so quick to come to defense of Diana?  Or, would he have started to proclaim the truth of God and His Son as he hawked the silver wares he was creating because it was good for business; a good return for his investment.

Please don’t misunderstand me sisters and brothers; for Scripture tells us in Timothy that a worker deserves his wages.  I know that many who follow this blog have a vocation in the ministry of the Lord.  And you can tell by their words and deeds that they are first and foremost about serving faithfully the Lord God Almighty and Jesus Christ and not about the financial gain that might come from it.  Many have made significant worldly sacrifices to follow their calling.  Humbly, in writing these notes, there is no copyright, no place or desire for remuneration, those who want to use them in any way are free to do so with only the prayer and hope that it is for the Praise of God Almighty.  Yet this I also know; I am truly, immeasurably blessed by the connection to the Spirit which I feel in this writing which is so much more valuable than any financial return.  No this is about faith, belief and action in God for who He is and not based on some sense of measurably, positive return we will receive because of it.

Finally I would ask you; look at the faith of Abraham, Joshua, Moses, Ruth, Queen Esther, David, Mary, Peter, Paul and countless others in the bible who stepped out in faith, not knowing or caring about worldly return.  Look at Jesus Christ.  He who was with God from the very beginning, by Whom all things were made.  There was no gain in Him coming to earth; no increase in finances to feel earthly pain; no higher value because He died on the cross.  No by faith in His Heavenly Father, He did what He did.  Now Jesus Christ resides at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty.  So let it be for us; that our worship, our acts, our thoughts be because of faith in God the Father Almighty.  That we don’t try to see some eternal financial ticker that measures our return or gain based on our love for Him.  That in confidence, we understand that the Nature of Our Heavenly Father is to Love Us, to Keep us, to Bless us, in every way that we need, regardless of how the world would measure that return.  That we understand the greatest investment ever made was the investment of Christ’s death and resurrection for our salvation.  And that our aim be to return that investment with our love and steadfast devotion.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that the world teaches that we look for and do those things that will be the greatest personal gain back to us.  Please forgive us for those times that we are tempted to act that way.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit who testifies to us of Your Faithful Love and Blessings poured out for us because You are Our Father.  Help us to go forward in steadfast faith in You with no concern for what we will receive in return.  We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, Your Son and Our Lord and Savior.  Amen

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