Imagine that you have been given $2,000, and you are charged to take it and make more money. How would you do so?
Would you go and try to find ways to invest it? Would you use it to buy some tools or some other resources so that you could work and make money with them? Would you buy property and hope that it would increase in value? At the very least, would you not put it in a savings account at a bank and make interest on it?
What do you expect would happen to you if you did nothing with the money at all? What if you went and spent it on things that did not lead to profit? If the $2,000 were whittled away to nothing, what could be done?
We can see clearly the consequences of how people handle worldly wealth– some impoverish themselves by irresponsible living, and others take opportunities provided to them and become successful in life. The difference is rarely seen in terms of natural abilities; the difference involves what one chooses to do with that which one has been given.
Jesus provides this same scenario in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27. In these stories, three servants are given sums of money: either a talent or a mina. In each story, two servants take the money and use it profitably, making two to ten times more money than the original sum given. Likewise, each story presents one servant who did nothing with the money at all, and simply gave back to his master that which he received. In both instances, that servant is punished (in Matthew, he is even cast into the outer darkness!), and the purpose of the story is made clear:
“I say unto you, that unto every one that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him” (Luke 19:26).
Should we say that Jesus is just enriching the already rich? By no means! The stories are not really about money– they are about the gifts that God has given us. God has given to each person gifts according to their measures and abilities (cf. Romans 12:6-8). He does not expect everyone to be able to accomplish the same amount or to be exactly alike: diversity of talents and specialties is expected in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-28)!
What God does expect is for us to put our talents to use for His Kingdom! In Luke 16:8, Jesus upbraids the “children of light” because they are not wiser than the “sons of this world.” We have plenty of examples of people who have come from relative poverty and have become quite rich because they were willing to use the gifts they had to make money, yet how often are we willing to put our gifts to use for God? What would happen if we applied our talents and energies to promoting God’s Kingdom as much and as often as people of the world apply theirs to gaining money? How much more like Christ would we be, and how many more people would we attract to the faith (Matthew 5:13-16)?
We would never take money and just sit on it. Why do we take the gifts God gives us and let them rot away? God expects us to take what He has given us and use it to advance His will (1 Peter 4:10-11). If we are found to have wasted the talents God has given us, not only will we “have not,” but even that which we “have”– our soul– will be cast into the outer darkness (Matthew 25:30)! What, then, will you do with your talents?
Ethan R. Longhenry