We’ve all heard the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). A master gives three servants various sums of money (“talents”) and goes on a journey. When the master returns, he demands an accounting of his resources. Two servants have invested and doubled the original sum. One has buried it and returned the original amount. The two are richly rewarded. The one is chastised for being slothful and cast “into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30, English Standard Version)
That can’t be good.
I’ve often felt haunted by this parable. It fills me with a deep sense of foreboding – fear that I’m not doing enough, not giving enough money, not investing enough time in being the best mom or wife or friend or parishioner or neighbor, not evangelizing enough, not reading enough books, not pouring enough of myself out (and out and out). How can I possibly say I’m truly invested if I don’t yet feel like a sucked dry juice box? Only then can I say I’ve really tried!
The weight of responsibility and the pressure to make something of my life can often feel like too much to bear. It doesn’t help that this passage is often preached with a bit of fire and brimstone, a reminder to redeem the time! You only live once! Carpe diem! (Translated to mom speak… “Your children won’t be small forever so enjoy every minute of the little years!” Yeah. That one haunts me too.) I know theoretically and theologically why it’s wrong to feel this way. But my heart still fears. My heart would break to hear my Lord tell me I’ve been wicked and slothful. I long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
The good news is, most of us aren’t the servant who was given five talents or even two. Most of us were just given the one. In an objective evaluation of our lives, we will find we’ve been gifted with a pretty basic set of responsibilities – spouses, children, extended families, neighbors, jobs, homes, cars. Most of us will not be billionaire philanthropists. Most of us will not have spiritual charge over hundreds, thousands, or millions of people. Most of us will not be CEOs of large companies.
So, let that take a little pressure off.
We know from this parable not to bury our one talent. The question is, what do we do with it? How do we know we’re doing enough? There are three principles which guide the answer to that question – gratitude, stewardship, and rest.
The first posture of any receiver is gratitude for what they’ve been given. From that gratitude will flow a desire to steward your gifts well. To steward something is to provide responsible management for the “talents” God has entrusted to your care. We don’t know much about the first two servants, but we do know they received their “talents” and responsibly invested them. Investing is done with the hope of benefiting all parties since you give to one who needs and receive more in return than you initially started with. By contrast, the third servant receives his “talent” with fear and buries it – benefiting no one, least of all himself.
As you consider how to steward your gifts, remember God offers you abundant grace in addition to the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t bury your God-given gifts out of fear – hoarding and shielding them – but rather approach them with gratitude, willing to share them, cultivate them, accept God’s mercy in giving them to you and extend those mercies to others. This can be as simple as being actively present with your children or volunteering your time for a Sunday service a couple times a year. God is not the hard master of the parable, but a loving father who sees and aids your efforts to love Him well by caring for His gifts.
Finally, remember that one of the most valuable gifts God calls you to steward is yourself, and you were created to need rest. Rest is a key part of Biblical stewardship as established in first chapters of Genesis. God does not ask us to work seven days a week, but commands us to set aside a day of rest and calls this day “holy” (Genesis 2:3, ESV).
If your strivings are exhausting and motivated by fear of failing God, it’s probable that you’re burying yourself rather than investing yourself.
Remind yourself that God desires to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” as much as you long to hear it. So as you work to be a faithful steward, obeying your master’s commands (including resting in Him), take comfort that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).
If you suffer from chronic doing and/or fear of not doing enough, here are a couple of ways to practice faithfulness instead of fear:
- Mediate on and then rewrite Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 about specific seasons of your life. Remember that God does not call us to do all things in all seasons.
- Make a list of your gifts – many of them will be quite “ordinary” (but no less precious!). These include your families, your friends, your home, your neighborhood, your opportunities. Pray over these gifts and how to care for them. Also be sure to read the Babylon Bee’s Father of 3 Wonders When He’ll Get Chance to Influence Others for Christ.
- In the moments you fear you’re not doing enough or not getting it right, remember that Satan guilts in generalities while the Holy Spirit convicts in specifics. In these moments, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if there are specific failings and to protect you from the attacks of the enemy.
- Ask God to make you aware of the small ways he calls you to faithfulness in your daily life – perhaps pausing to ask a neighbor how she’s doing, putting down your phone to enjoy play-dough with your toddler, or inviting a friend over for coffee.
Danielle Hitchen is the founder of Catechesis Books and the author of the Baby Believer board books – a set of concept books designed to introduce very young children to the core tenets of the Christian faith. She desires to create beautiful books to help parents have better faith conversations with their children.
Her professional background includes communications consulting, radio production, event planning, and non-profit and church administration. Danielle is a graduate of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University where she earned her B.A. in Humanities. She resides in northern Virginia with her husband and two (soon to be three!) children. You can find learn more about her books at www.babybeliever.com and follower her on Instagram and Facebook @catechesisbooks.