Many of you are familiar with Jesus’ story about the talents in Matthew 25 and Luke 19: an extremely wealthy landowner went on a journey and assigned his financial management (talents) to three of his trusted servants. To one servant, he gave 5 talents; to the second, he gave 2 talents; and to the last, he gave 1 talent. (A talent was an ancient measure of weight, the exact value of which is probably lost to history; however, to give you a rough concept, rich King Solomon received a whopping 666 talents of gold as his annual tribute.)
The servant with the 5 talents had doubled his investment by the time the master returned. The servant with the 2 talents had likewise doubled his investment. But the servant who had been given just 1 talent, in a fit of unfounded fear (Matthew 25:25) actually buried his talent in the ground, and the master punished that “worthless servant” by firing him and subjecting him to a life of misery and anguish.
Now, this parable is arguably about leveraging your resources for the Kingdom of God. It’s also arguably about faithfulness. Recently, though, I’ve thought about this parable through a completely different filter. Let’s say I was awarded a mind-bending 10 million dollars. If God asked me to invest even half of it into some cause, I could probably do it without a second thought. After all, I’d still be left with a dazzling 5 million.
But let’s say, for some reason, all I had was $10 to live on for the month, and God asked me to give Him half of it—leaving me only $5. To follow through in obedience this time would be a lot more difficult. Why? Sure, God is asking the same thing from me as in the first example—half of the initial amount—but it costs a whole lot more in the second example.
Maybe things are going your way and you are living in plenty. Maybe you feel closer than ever to Jesus, you have confidence and inner vibrancy, you and your spouse are more joyfully committed than on your wedding day, you’re engaging in thriving relationships, you’re financially stable, and you feel deeply fulfilled in life. Maybe you’ve been given 5 talents. When God asks for a special sacrifice in this mountaintop season, it’s difficult, yes, but it’s still doable.
Versus—maybe things are not going your way. Maybe you haven’t recently been aware of Jesus’ closeness, you’re struggling to hold onto hope, you and your spouse are simply distant roommates, your relationships are unraveling, your finances are out of control, and you feel lost. Maybe you’ve been given one talent. When God asks for a special sacrifice in this season of darkness, it can feel unfair. It can be scary. It could be way beyond hard.
This is what I know from Jesus’ parable, though: when you’ve been dealt one talent, don’t bury it. Don’t react from a place of fear, like the wicked servant did, and don’t misinterpret the Master’s nature, like the wicked servant also did (Mt 25:24-25). What you have to give may admittedly be very small, but give. Yes, give.
Give, like the poor widow gave her very last coins (Mark 12:41-44). It is in this special, unusually beautiful, precious sacrifice that Jesus will surely comment, “I tell you the truth, you have given a larger offering than any of the wealthy. For the rich only gave out of their surplus, but you sacrificed out of your poverty and gave to God all that you had to live on, which was everything you had” (verses 43-44).
Now certainly, a talent was an enormously generous amount. I understand that to be given just one talent is an honor of honors. And I definitely am not promoting ungratefulness, or worse, entitlement because you didn’t get two talents or five talents. And giving away all you have for the Kingdom is a sacrifice, whether it’s a minimum-wage job or it’s a yacht, a mansion, and a private jet. I simply wanted this piece to acknowledge the pain that is sometimes associated with giving out of some sort of poverty… but to ask you to give anyway.
So if you have five talents, fabulous! Give them all to Jesus.
If you have one talent, you also must offer it all to Jesus. In aloneness, in pain, in betrayal, in loss, in confusion, in disappointment—offer what you have to Jesus. You probably won’t feel like it, and you may not sense the fruit immediately. But your tears will not be wasted. Heaven will stand to applaud. Yes, great is your reward!
Jesus will be so, so proud.
From my heart,