Mat 25:20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.'
Mat 25:21 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'
1Co 3:12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—1Co 3:13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 1Co 3:14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
The Bible doesn’t give us a whole lot of details as to what the reward system for saints will be in eternity. It does make it clear that there will be reward and that it will be according to our service in this life which would radically affect most of us if we actually lived with this in mind. But beyond that God has willed that we be left in the dark as to most of the details. He has given us some clues as to how to please him and that has mostly to do with our motivations. Reward will come when we do all things out of thanksgiving and to glorify the Lord that we love. This is why love fulfills the law or God’s will for us.
But I got to thinking about the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 and the difference between the one who was given 5 talents and the one given 2. The one given 1 talent was an unbeliever which separates him from the first two but I was thinking about what is the difference between the 5 talent guy and the 2 talent guy.
Growing up listening to the preacher this passage was usually approached by the English play on the word “talent”, so that it was seen as the different talents or abilities or gifts God has given us. While some have more than others, the point was to be faithful in what God has given you small or great. I wouldn’t argue that this is an application.
But I wonder if the “gifts” are seen in the “abilities” later in the verse; “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” It seems that the gifts God have given us are implied in the abilities, and the talents are given in light of the way God has made each of us. Maybe instead of reading it, “He gave gifts to each according to their gifts”, we might understand it, “He gave each opportunities to invest in the kingdom according to the gifts he had already given them”.
Now let me try to explain why this distinction might matter. I think I have tended to apply this to the amount of “talents” each of us have. So I look at someone who is a gifted communicator or singer or one who has been given a big income as having perhaps more talents than the rest of us. And so they have more to work with and have the potential for greater reward. I am fine with that since God can do with each of us as he sees fit and whatever God does is not only perfectly just but is much better than we deserve anyway.
But instead of thinking of it primarily as “talents” or gifts which might be implied in the word “ability”; I think it applies better to opportunities for investment which is how the Lord uses it in the text. The extra talent or two that some get might be the situations to serve the Lord that many of us don’t get. The 5 talent saint isn’t the gifted preacher who sits in his air-conditioned office sipping freshly brewed coffee while he tries to find Scriptural application for his people who are making good money and have relatively few outward problems. There is nothing wrong with this because this is where God has placed him and he is to be faithful in that setting. Except for the gifted part I find myself in the same situation. But because being a Christian costs some of us so little, I wonder if at best most of us in the West are the 2 talent servants and the 5 talent ones are those that have much bigger investment opportunities than we will ever have?
I think about faithful saints who live in places where being a Christian is dangerous and yet while they try to be faithful in danger they also have to deal with poverty and all that goes with bad health care and inadequate nourishment, etc. They have all the gifts that we do but their opportunities to display the power of God in their gifts are much more than most of us have. I think these are the saints that are the 5 talent saints and their reward will be greater, and rightly so, than those whose faith didn’t cost them nearly as much.
Maybe instead of thinking of these “talents” as my ability to sing or teach or give or whatever, we need to start asking ourselves if we are willing to use them when it actually costs us something. How many saints deal with loneliness or life with an abusive or uncaring spouse, or constant pain, or never knowing where the money for their next meal is coming from or are treated like fools because they profess Christ? How many live in areas where they might be arrested or tortured or killed because of their Faith? To me, these are the 5 talent saints who will have the most reward in glory among the saints. We all will be faithful but some have had much more difficult situations to be faithful in than some.
If God has put us in the place of the 2 talent saints then that is fine. Let us be faithful with what we have and we too will receive the “Well done, good and faithful servant”. But let’s not glory in our gifts and privilege but in how well we honor the Lord when life is hard and when people are difficult. Let us count it all glory to suffer for his sake. Not just by singing and preaching in our comfortable churches but at home and at work when we are surrounded by the enemy and yet can testify to the goodness of God when it actually costs us something. I think sometimes we lose reward because we are happy to serve when it is comfortable and convenient but we balk and complain when all of the sudden the Lord takes away our comfort and we don’t understand because we think we deserve it.
Maybe what the Lord is doing is giving us another “talent” or better opportunity to use our gifts. Displaying our gifts in church or when everyone is saying “amen” is one thing but I would think the greater reward is getting down in the trenches and ministering to people whose lives are messy and make us uncomfortable. It is interacting with people who don’t love the Lord and don’t understand why we do. Maybe American Christians are about to be given more “talent” opportunities than they have had in the past by living in a society that hates God and his Word. The question is will we embrace this new “talent” or complain about it? Will we hide them because they are difficult or invest them for the Kingdom of God?