Let’s face it. All men aren’t really created equal.
I don’t mean that they shouldn’t have equal rights before the law; I’m talking about talent. I’m talking about capacity. I’m talking about leadership ability. I’m talking about potential and about impact. God didn’t design us with a cookie cutter. We are different, and we are meant for different things.
This is clear in one telling of the “Parable of the Talents.” In Matthew 25, Jesus tells about a man, who called his servants together and gave them each an amount of money. To one, he gave five talents (a talent is a measurement of weight used at one time with Roman money); to another, two talents; and to another, one talent. Then, the man went away expecting that the three servants would make good use of what he gave them.
When the man returned, he found that the one with five talents and the one with two talents had both doubled their money while the one with one talent had hidden his as insurance against his master’s judgment in case he lost what little he had. The master was pleased with the first two and commended them,
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 & 23)
The praise was identical for both servants even though one had accumulated ten talents and the other only four. There is such a hopeful Word for us in this! Jesus was using talents in the sense of money, but we wouldn’t be wrong if we borrowed the more contemporary use of the word. Jesus is saying that it doesn’t matter if you have less talent, abilities, resources, opportunities or capacity. It’s not what you have; it’s what you do with what you have!
Few of us will ever be Billy Grahams or Rick Warrens or Bill Hybelses (the “official” pluralization of a singular Bill Hybels). So what? God didn’t call us to have their level of impact. That doesn’t make our role any less important to His plan. God is not all that interested in what we can “do,” because He is the one who really “does.”
Billy Graham doesn’t win all those people to Christ through his own efforts. He just joins God in the work. Billy’s role is more like the role of a toddler helping Dad wash the car. Dad appreciates the company, but He doesn’t need little Billy’s expertise or skill. He could get the car washed in less time, with less mistakes and less waste, but Dad is not interested in efficiency; He’s interest in relationship. Doing the work together gives Dad an opportunity to train little Billy and to let Billy get to know Him better. Dad doesn’t care that it takes longer to wash the car, because He loves spending time with Billy, and that’s more important to Him than a clean car.
So, back to my first point… The master in Jesus’ story praised the first two servants equally. He wasn’t focused on how much money they had accumulated, because He could have doubled his money without their help. His focus was on their stewardship – what they did with what they had been given responsibility to manage. The master wanted to see his servants invest wisely with what he had given them. Both did, and the master was no less pleased with four talents than he was with ten.
This leads to another interesting point. The servants didn’t own the talents. They were just stewards, or “managers.” They couldn’t take credit for how much they had, because it all came from their master.
Rick Warren is a talented communicator. He most likely has a natural ability to communicate both in writing and orally, but he can’t take credit for that. Any natural talent he has came from the Lord. All Rick can do is invest what he has been given and improve it. This he has done quite successfully, but it would be wrong for him to look down on others with less communication skills just because they aren’t as good as he is. He would have no skills if God hadn’t given him the natural abilities and/or spiritual gifting to communicate.
This is where we get into so much trouble as human beings. We are always comparing ourselves to other people to try to see if we are better or worse. What nonsense! God has different roles for all of us to play. To accomplish the purposes He has planned for us, some of us are given “five talents,” and some of us are given “two,” but our capacity comes from the Lord – not from our own merit. Feelings of arrogance or jealousy betray our pride, showing that we think that we, ourselves, are the true source of our own talents, abilities, resources, opportunities or capacities.
In our home, we taunt our children with the phrase, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!” This is the final word on arguments about fairness. We hate hearing, “He got more than I did!” or “That’s not fair! She always gets to go first!” (Our children hate hearing, “You get what you get…”, but that’s parental prerogative.)
The truth is, life is not fair. We don’t always get equal opportunities or resources. The sooner we learn it, the sooner we will be able to forget about fairness and focus on being good stewards of what we do have. That’s the point of Jesus’ parable. Some get five; some get two. Get over it! Be faithful with what you have been given, and stop peeking over at what your brother or sister has to see if you’ve been treated “fairly.”
There is no shame in having less than our brothers and sisters. There is only shame in acting like the third servant, who distrusted his master and buried his talent rather than investing it. When he was called to account, he made excuses.
‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ (Matthew 25:24-25)
I’m sure he looked at his fellow servants and thought, “That’s not fair! They got more than I did!” He blamed his master and decided he wasn’t going to play the game if he couldn’t have things his way. Someone should have told him, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!” Instead, his master told him he was wicked and lazy and took the one talent from him to give it to the faithful servant who had ten (most likely so that he would get a better return on his investment).
Accept whatever talents, abilities or spiritual gifts you’ve been given. They may not measure up to your neighbor’s, but they were never meant to. You won’t be held accountable for having the impact of a Billy Graham or a Rick Warren if you weren’t given the raw materials that they were given, but you will be held accountable for what you do with whatever you did get from the Lord. Invest wisely.