One of my favorite parables in the New Testament is found in Matthew 25. Sandwiched between two other parables is the Parable of the Ten Talents. Something about each of us being given talents caught my fancy. Of course, in my humble youth I always assumed I was a five-talent girl who would end up with ten. I mean, why not? The sheer accumulation of years has knocked that ideation out of me but I still believe I am at least a two-talent girl just trying to double my abilities. At any rate, I have studied this parable and I now know that there’s more to it than I first thought.
Let me start with something that always bothered me. Why did one servant start with five talents, and another two, and another one? Somewhere deep in my subconscious I kept a fear buried. What if I wasn’t, in fact, a five talent girl? What if I was only a one-talent girl? The division of talents to the servants did not seem fair. In my youthful naiveté I even felt sorry for the one-talent servant.
If I had paid any attention to the line immediately following the division of talents though, I would have realized I was on the wrong road of thought. “To every man according to his several ability” (Mat 25:15 italics added). That’s just life. Not everyone has the same aptitude and ability and I have learned it’s actually more unfair to saddle everyone with the same expectations. In other words, ‘biting off more than one can chew’ can make a person choke.
Now that the unfair card has been noted, let’s keep going. The one-talent servant also seems to get the shaft because he went and hid his talent instead of doubling it. This is usually where the lesson of ‘letting your light so shine’ or ‘don’t bury your talent’ comes into play. A very valuable lesson indeed. But I think there is another lesson at play here. A lesson that can help us as we serve in callings.
The lord of servants and the one-talent servant share a verbal exchange. “I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where though has not sown, and gathering where thou has not strawed”
“His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed” (Mat 25:24, 26).
There is a word they both use. The word ‘knew’ leads me to believe the servant knew what the lord of the servants wanted and expected. He chose to come up with a different game plan contrary to what he knew the lord wanted. Even though we aren’t told explicitly at the beginning, I believe the ‘poor one-talent’ servant acted in a way that elevated his status from steward to owner. He knew what the goal was but he chose a different path anyway.
What made him deviate from the path? Fear? Pride? Doubt? All things that may plague us as we serve in callings. They can also be stumbling blocks as we try to take ownership of a calling instead of working as stewards.
In a church calling we are entrusted with one overall responsibility. One talent, so to speak, and we are asked to double it. In the end, we do our best to be a wise steward and if we are smart, we let go of ownership. We don’t own the work even though we put our heart, might, mind, and strength into it.
We know that Jesus taught in a way the people could understand. While He taught the people of His day, He also taught us. The Parable of the Ten Talents has taught me many things. What parable speaks to your soul?