Fall is a special time of year for sports fans. Baseball is heading toward the world series. Football fans of high school, college, and NFL teams are waking from their eight month slumber. Hockey players are starting to hit the ice. The NBA is warming up for its season too. So with every weekend, and practically every day, we see amazing feats of athletic talent. But when you take a closer look around you, you’ll find that people with amazing God-given talents are everywhere. Chefs, songwriters, singers, actors & actresses, mathematicians, physicists, authors, doctors, social workers, car mechanics, clergy… Everyone has talents that are given to them by God. And it is obvious when someone is using those talents to their fullest potential.
So many times we see amazing things and wonder how it’s possible that these astonishingly gifted people are part of the same species as us. If you travel to Rome and visit the Vatican, staring at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it’s quite easy to say that Michelangelo had God-given talent, one that may never be seen again in the entire history of man. But the street vendor a few blocks away who is selling his hand-made artwork has a similar God-given talent, even if it’s not at Michelangelo’s level. So we buy the street vendor’s art, because maybe the best we can draw is a stick figure. And that’s okay. God only ever gave Michelangelo that level of talent. Similarly, only a few people were given enough talent to earn a living as a vendor selling their artwork on the street. What matters is not the talent one has, but how it’s being used.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the talents: “For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability.” Among the Hebrews, a talent was a weight and also a denomination of money. It weighed about 75 pounds, so in today’s dollars, a single talent of gold would be worth about $1.6 million dollars, and a talent of silver, around $23,000. Either way, a considerable sum of money to entrust to your servants. As we know from the parable, when the master returned, the servant given five talents returned those five plus five more, the servant given two returned two plus two more, but it was the servant given one talent, who buried it in a field and only returned the one back. It was he whom the master called “wicked,” “slothful,” and “worthless,” and cast out into the darkness.
The definition of “talent” has evolved over the centuries to mean “skill”, so it is a good place to start when doing a personal inventory of what God has given you that He wants you to invest on His behalf. But skills are not all that God invests us with. Every blessing we have is God’s investment in us. Look at every blessing you have as a talent God has trusted you with. Every blessing you have is something valuable that God wants you to invest for Him. Your wife is a talent. You children are talents. Your subordinates or employees are talents. Everyone who relies upon you is a talent. And God has entrusted you with those talents because He trusts you to give Him a good return on His investment.
If you are entrusted with $1.6 million dollars of someone else’s money, or even $23,000, it’s easy to understand the fear of losing that money. But we must remember that when God entrusts us with something, he trusts us. He gave it to us because he trusts that we will do well with it. One of the lessons to be learned from the parable is that we are only judged against ourselves. Our master, the Lord God, knows our capabilities. If we are given one talent or two, we are not judged against someone who has been given five. The street vendor is not judged against Michelangelo. God only expects that we do the best with what we have. If you’re given one talent, return God two. If you’re given two talents, return four. God invests in us. Christ redeems us. And for that massive investment, God is expecting a return on His investment. He wants you to put your talents to good use for Him, and for His glory.
You are responsible for a great many talents. It is your duty to invest them well.