Jesus tells a story in the Bible about three servants who are entrusted to a portion of their master’s wealth (the Bible calls these “talents"). One servant received five talents to invest as he saw fit, another two, and another only one.
The servant with five invested his shares and earned five more. The servant with two earned two more. The servant with one hid his portion in the ground and did nothing with it.
Once the master returned, he rewarded the first two servants with commendation: '‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much."
But the last one he punished for not investing what was given to him, and his share was taken away and given to the other servants.
You can read the whole story here.
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Now it’s easy to see the difference in the first two servants from the last servant. They used what they were given while the other did not. But what about the difference in the servant with five talents and the one with two? Why did one get more than the other?
For starters, the Bible says that the master gave each to their own ability (Matthew 25:15). No other commentary is made here, but it’s understood that the Master (God) gave responsibility to each as he saw fit. Maybe the first servant was more savvy with money. Maybe he had more experience. Maybe he was a better leader, or communicator, or had more potential. It doesn’t matter and the Bible doesn’t say.
It’s important to recognize what the Master desired was not the amount that they earned, or the ability of the servants, but their faithfulness in using what was given to them. They both were praised for being good and faithful servants, not good and fruitful servants.
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Just like in the story, as believers we all have been entrusted to a part of our Master’s wealth.
How you use your talent is up to your discretion. Not everyone is a five-talent servant. Sometimes we’re the guy with one or two. What we choose to do with that lesser amount is just as important as the guy or girl with the greater amount.
It’s easy to confuse success for faithfulness, but one doesn’t necessarily imply the other.
Consider if the five-talent servant only used three of his five talents. Maybe he could sit back and think “I’ve made three more talents, so I’m good.” If we simply measured his fruitfulness, we may be impressed that he brought in three more talents, but this isn’t his best effort. The Bible teaches to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:42-48) and the one who is given five talents ought to use his five talents. Anything less than his best would not be honoring his Master.
In the same way, sometimes we slip into wishing we were more successful, or had more natural ability, or had a bigger platform. Some of us are not fully invested to what God is doing because we don’t see the fruit we thought we’d have.
“I really wish I had as much talent as her. She’s good at everything… "
“If only I had as many readers as he does on his blog…”
“How did he ever get that position? Some guys have all the luck...”
“Oh really? They’re going to let her lead the meeting? Why don’t I ever get asked…?”
Don’t mistake success for faithfulness to God.
Sometimes faithfulness is hard to measure and doesn’t look as glamorous as its more successful counterparts, but it’s what God has asked of each of us. Don’t get caught up in comparing your ministry setting and your successes (or lack thereof) to someone else's. Remember what God has entrusted to YOU.
The Master, in his wisdom, gave to you according to your ability. Our role is to be faithful and obedient to Him.