In the 25th chapter of Matthew, we find the parable of talents. A wealthy man disperses some talents to three of his servants. He gives the first servant five talents, the second servant two talents and the third servant receives one talent. The talent was a unit of mass. The unit of mass Jesus was referring two was 130 pounds (58.9 kgs).1
Usually when we think of the word talent, we think of an ability someone excels at as opposed to a unit of mass. However, I found it rather interesting that the English word "talent" comes from the Latin word talenta which is the plural of talentum, unit or weight of money. Talentum comes from the Greek word talanton which refers to the pan of the scale.2 The talents referred to in the Bible were not single coins. They were probably bags of gold. This means the first servant received approximately 650 pounds (294.5 kgs) of gold. The second servant received 260 pounds (117.8 kgs) of gold and the third servant received 130 pounds (58.9 kgs) of gold.
As of right now, gold is currently $1,822.80 USD per troy ounce. That converts to $26,581.89 USD per pound. This means that in today's dollars the first servant received $17,278,228.50. The second servant received $6,911,291.40 and the third servant received $3,455,645.70. I cannot even begin to comprehend the value of this amount of money back then. I am certain there may have been some gasps from Jesus' audience.
When the master returned, the first servant had doubled what he had been given. He now had $34,556,457.00. The second servant did the same. He now had $13,822,582.80. How overjoyed the master must have been. The talents he had given them had doubled and instead of having a mere 24,289,519.90, the amount had doubled. He now had $48,379,039.80! What faithful servants! They had been faithful in what he called "a few things" and so now he entrusted them with more.
He turned expectantly to the third servant. He'd had the lesser amount but still, he did have over 3 million dollars. Tell me, would you have buried $3,455,645.70 in the ground or would you have at least taken it to the bank? Do you see why the master was so angry? The servant who hoarded what he had been given, the servant who kept it to himself lost everything.
There are a lot of thoughts running through my mind at the moment. What do we do with what God gives us? Do we moan and groan about how it is not enough? Do we bury it in a hole to keep for ourselves?
Any successful businessman (or woman) will tell you that you must spend money in order to make money. However, while I believe this parable is applicable to giving financially, I believe it also applies to servanthood in general.
However, we act like it is. We choose how much or how little we give to God financially and how we do it. Excuse me? Exactly who possesses what you call "yours". The servant (you) or the Master (God). Do we "invest" in the Kingdom of God? By that I do not mean giving solely to your local church although that is part of it if you belong to a fellowship of believers. I mean spending your money in ways that promote the Kingdom of God, blesses others and so forth. Do we even bother to ask God what He wants us to give and who/what He wants us to give it to?
Money is not the only "talent" we may have. When we are truly a faithful servant, we realize that while giving tithes and offerings is important, God requires more from us. He wants us to give ourselves in service to Him. Take a look at the "talents" God has given you. How can you use them for His honor and glory? Please don't stick to what we normally refer to as "talents". I'll give you an example of what I mean by using one of mine.
I've written a lot here at CB about two life-threatening health issues I've encountered over the past four years. During that time, I've been able to minister to some people who have been going through or know someone who is going through similar things. Last January, due to residual side-effects, I was placed on a medical leave of absence and to date, I have still not received clearance to return to work. This means I have more time available to me at the moment. It also means my husband and I have suffered a sizable loss of finances.
As I have contemplated my current situation, I asked myself these questions. What can I give? What can I do? As I ponder these questions I realized that I had a "talent" that a lot of people do not have. I certainly didn't want this talent. It is not one people are exactly standing in line for but God transformed something meant to harm me into a talent. Would I use it? I contacted my church a few weeks ago. I didn't know exactly how I would use this talent but maybe we could figure out something and we did.
When long-term illnesses like cancer strike an individual, friends, relatives and even strangers eagerly reach out to help. Unfortunately the average "attention-span" lasts about 30 days. My cancer treatment lasted for eight months and then of course, there are months and years of battling the side-effects, the possibility of recurrence, etc. These sort of issues are not "quick-fixes". They are also uncomfortable issues for most people. They don't know what to say or do. They don't know how to make it better and it reminds them of their own mortality so often times they stay away.
Over the past two weeks, I've made contact with three families. The first family is/was facing several issues. The husband has been diagnosed with dementia and the wife was suspected of having breast cancer. We just found out this week that her biopsy was benign but there are still huge issues this family is facing. My friend has cried on my shoulder more than once as we talk and pray together. My friend doesn't drive, her husband can no longer drive, but I can...
The second family: The mother has stage 4 breast cancer. Last Friday she went into hospice. Her daughter is caring for her but has no choice but to work three days a week in order to meet their expenses. She agonizes about leaving her mom alone for so long. If only someone could come and be with her for just a couple of hours, it would be better. She managed to get a couple of people to visit on two of the days but...
Then I called. The daughter had heard it all before. I am going to visit her mother on Fridays.
The third family: The father is going through cancer treatment, the mother is burned-out caring for him, their children and working hard to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. In addition a family of five moved in with them temporarily prior to the cancer diagnosis. That was nine months ago. She was suspicious of my offer to help at first. She'd heard it so often over the past few months but they vaporized whenever she actually asked for it. Then she learned that I was a cancer-survivor and I also lost my dad to cancer when I was a teenager. Ah... then I'd understand what things have been like for her kids. Her kids. Oh how she wanted them to have some sense of normalacy! They missed going to their youth group at church. They needed that so much but with her being the only driver in the household (the other man lost his license and his wife does not drive) it was hard for her husband needed her and she had to be running here and there so much. Would I... could I possibly pick them up and bring them home after youth group? Indeed I could!
Talents. We all have them. How are you using them for God?
1. Talent (measurement), wikipedia.com
2. Definition of talent, Merriam-Webster.com