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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.

“Who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them……And to one he gave five talents…and traded with them and made another five talents……but the one who had received one went and dug in the ground and hid his lord’s money.”  Matthew 25: 14-18 (exerts)

“And Stephen, full of faith and power did great wonders and signs among the people.”  Acts 6:8

It is one thing to give illustrations, it is another thing to have a living example; thanks to Jesus Christ, we have both.  For Jesus taught the people using parables; stories.  He told several in an attempt to illustrate, to get across with common language and circumstances, that which was and is virtually incomprehensible; what the kingdom of heaven is like.  One of the stories that is referenced above concerns a rich man leaving his talents (money) with his servants while he is away.  Two of the servants are wise and take what has been given to them and invest it to get more.  One fearful servant does nothing to try to gain anything but buries the talent in the ground.  The two servants that used the talents to get more are called wise.  The one servant who does not use the money but buries it is called lazy and foolish.

It’s a good story but when would we ever see it happen in reality?  Enter Stephen.  Scripture tells us that Stephen was a follower of Jesus Christ.  We know that Stephen is not one of the original twelve but at some point, either hearing Jesus himself, or hearing the disciples preach, he became a believer.  We are told that Stephen was known for having wisdom and being full of the Holy Spirit.  Yet Stephen could have decided to keep those talents and their use to himself, hiding them, burying them you might say instead of sharing them.  Instead Stephen is chosen and accepts serving in the new church concerning the meeting of daily needs.  In discharging his duties, Stephen is so talented that many after hearing him, are repenting and becoming members of the church.  Stephen is multiplying His Master’s possessions.  When Stephen’s enemies can not find any weakness in his faith or his preaching about Jesus Christ, they revert to telling lies about him to get him in trouble.  Stephen is brought before the council to be tried.  Again, Stephen does renege on his faith or shirk his responsibility to speak the truth; far from it.  Instead through the divine inspiration of Holy Spirit; starting with Abraham, Stephen gives one of the most thorough, impassioned explanations and defenses of Jesus Christ as the One True Messiah.

“Now wait a second!”, a skeptical person might say.  “You know what Stephen got in return for his good deeds and his impassioned defense of Jesus Christ!?  He didn’t get a thank you wise and trusted servant.  No, he got smashed in the head with rocks as the crowd stoned him to death!”, the skeptic would finish.  And from the world’s point of view, Stephen was foolish to be so bold because it meant his death.  Yet here’s the thing, Stephen didn’t have a world view.  Stephen had a view of the kingdom.  As they were picking up stones preparing to kill Stephen, he looked up into heaven and saw Jesus Christ at the Right Hand of the Father.  He forgave the crowd and Jesus excepted Stephen’s spirit into heaven.  One can imagine Jesus receiving Stephen with those words:  Well done good and faithful servant.

So what are we to make of this?  What does this story have to do with us?  Much!  For we have the benefit of both the parable that Jesus tells and real life example in action of Stephen.  You and I call ourselves servants of Our Heavenly Father.  As servants, we have been given “talents” by Our Heavenly Father.  Now these “talents” might be actual financial resources but they may also be talents in leadership, fellowship, musical, preaching, teaching and on and on.  Our Heavenly Father does not want us to bury those talents, that is not use them either out of fear or fatigue or neglect.  He wants us to invest our talents doing wonderful acts for His Creation.  Through people seeing what we do in love, we can shine His light in their hearts melting the coldness of this world and replacing it with the Love of His World.  If you and I aren’t careful where we train our vision, we may end up seeing the world, seeing the envy, spite and hate some, perhaps many will have for us.  In the world’s view we may become tempted to withdraw and bury our talents for another day.  But, like Stephen, we can focus our view on Jesus Christ and have a heavenly view; Our Heavenly Father will not forsake us but will show us His beauty, power, mercy, grace and most of all, love, which will sustain us through all trials whatever they might be.

Should we find our talents deeply buried; we can call upon the shovel which is the Holy Spirit to dig into our hearts and retrieve those God Given talents so that we may use them for His Kingdom.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You that You have provided learning and real life examples of how we can carry out that learning.  Help us to be like Stephen, using the talents You have so richly bestowed upon us, to help our fellow person and further Your Kingdom.  Forgive us when we become fearful allowing the world view to tempt us to bury our God Given talents away.  Pour out Your Holy spirit that we might be bold in using our talents we pray.  That our lives would be lived in glory and praise to You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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