February 19, 2018

Return on Investment

Devotion for the Week...

It is fascinating to me to watch my boys grow up and discover the things they are good at and enjoy.

Aiden has musical talent that astounds me. He can play drums and guitar, both without formal lessons, and he has started writing his own music.

Zachary really enjoys social time with his friends and is developing an interest in school sports, especially now that he's old enough to try out for the senior teams. This year, so far, it has been cross-country running, softball, archery, volleyball and basketball (both the junior and senior teams).

And Nathan loves drawing and creating things out of cardboard boxes. It's pretty impressive what he can make out of the cardboard. After watching the Olympics for a couple of days he set out to make a luge track and sled, both of which turned out nicely.

I firmly believe that God has given special talents and abilities to everyone. If you've been reading these devotions any length of time then you've probably heard that from me before. No one was left out when God handed out abilities, and He wants us to use all of those abilities to serve Him. Some people have abilities that are impressive and public, like musicians. Others have abilities that are more behind-the-scenes, like organizers. Neither of the two are more important than the other, but we definitely tend to value the public abilities more than the behind-the-scenes ones.

Last weekend our pastor read out the parable of the talents. In the Bible, talents were a weight of money, like silver, but the meaning of the parable actually relates to talents, as we use the word. Here's the parable, from the New Living Translation, which uses "bags of silver" rather than talents:

"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’" (Matthew 25:14-30)

As he read, my pastor paused right at the beginning and repeated the phrase, "according to their abilities" and then kept going. That wasn't really important to the point of his message that morning, but it really stuck with me.

The three servants were each given a certain amount of money, in proportion to their abilities, as the NLT puts it. The first two used those abilities of theirs to double the amount of money they'd been given. The third servant hid the money, did nothing with it and returned it to his master when he returned.

What I find interesting is that the first two servants were given the exact same praise when they returned the money to their master. One had started with 5 bags of silver and returned 10, the other started with 2 bags and returned 4. Yet, even though the first servant gave back 6 whole bags of silver more, he was not rewarded more than the second servant.

Looked at another way, the second servant was not chastised for having fewer bags of silver.

Why? You would think any master would be happier with the one who made him a bigger profit, wouldn't you?

The answer lies in the phrase in proportion to their abilities.  They both did the best they could with the abilities they had, for which the master rewarded them equally.

Some people have abilities with which they will reach and influence hundreds of thousands of people for God. Think Billy Graham. Think Chris Tomlin. Think A.W. Tozer. Millions of people have been impacted by their abilities.

Other people have abilities with which they will reach and influence a few people. Think of a pastor of a small, rural church. Think of a person who works at a women's shelter. Think of a business man who volunteers as the treasurer of his church. The world at large will never know who they are, but that doesn't mean they aren't using their abilities exactly how God wants them to be used.
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God isn't going to compare the results of my service with your results or with Billy Graham's results. He's only going to compare my results with what my results could have been if I used my abilities. Did I take what He gave me and use it to serve Him? Or was I too scared to step out in faith and use what I'd been given? Did I bury my talents and ignore them, passing them back to God at the end of my life still in their original packaging, so to speak?

God is looking for a return on the investment He made in our lives. Are we using that investment to serve Him to the best of our abilitiies?

1 comment:

  1. I have always loved that parable, but I really love the way you drew us into it. Such a great question to ask, and apply to our lives.


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