Hiding Our Talent
We’ve all known people who’ve been gifted with natural talent in an area, such as music or art, but who’ve never developed that talent, and didn’t improve to a point of having great skill or expertise. We tend to look on that person with pity, thinking about the waste of talent, and what could have been. Spiritually speaking, we’ve all been gifted with “talents” which we choose to use or hide.
Now most readers of this article know that our English word “talent,” in its original meaning, did not mean “natural ability.” The word talent took on the meaning of “a natural ability to be developed” in the 1400’s, based on the Parable of the Talents in the Gospels. The Greek word “talenton,” in the New Testament referred to a unit of weight, from which a monetary value was derived. There are debates as to how much a talent of silver weighed, but most sources seem to put it in the range of 60 to 80 pounds, placing the value at a minimum of $100,000. Let’s just say it was a big sum of money.
Now let’s look at the Parable of the Talents, paying particular attention to the third servant, the one given one talent:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.
After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'
Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. Matthew 25:14-28
Now what was so wrong with the way the third servant dealt with his master’s money? If we compare this servant with the Prodigal Son, for example, our one-talent friend would be looking really good. The Prodigal Son absolutely blew his entire inheritance, by spending it foolishly. We could all point our finger at the Prodigal Son, and see him as a real sinner. Not so with the one-talent third servant. He didn’t lose a penny. We might even say that he gave 100% to his master. So where did he miss it?
Sadly, the one-talent man seems to fit a negative stereotype people have of Christians - you know, those who try very hard not to do anything wrong, and who judge others who do. Like the proverbial “Church Lady,” the third servant could pride himself on his avoidance behaviors (“I don’t commit adultery, I don’t curse, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke,” etc. etc. etc.). But what did he do on the positive side?
As Believers, our lives need to follow the original blessing on mankind in the Book of Genesis: “Be fruitful and multiply…” In other words, merely avoiding wrong behavior, and living in our own little worlds isn’t what our Master expects from us. We need to invest our lives in the Kingdom and in the lives of others, so that we become profitable, so to speak. Let’s not waste our lives, or our talents. Don’t be afraid. Go ahead and dig up that buried talent, and use it for the Kingdom. It’s one investment you’ll make that pays eternal dividends.
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