I have spent much of my life questioning how I can use my talents for God’s glory. I think much of the time I have confused my God-given talents with His gifts. He asked for us to increase or at least invest our talents, but His gifts are for the building up of the Church (I Corinthians 14:12). They may complement each other, but they are not the same.
In the parable of the talents Jesus shared in Matthew 25, there is an important lesson:
The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
While the talent was a form of currency in Bible times, God has also entrusted His people with talents. In the parable above, He praised the servants who took the talent He gave and increased it. He asked the one who did not increase it why the servant did not at least invest it.
God has asked me to increase and invest the talents that He has given me. The talents that He has given me can be enhanced through education with worldly knowledge. Talents can be fine-tuned through application and experience over time. God gifted me the talents, my gift to Him is how I grow them where He has placed me. I have to be faithful to build on what God has freely given.
Gifts on the other hand, are a spiritual gift from God that can only be developed through time with Him. They can only be fine-tuned through obedient expression. They are meant to build up the Church, both locally and globally.
He asked for us to increase or at least invest our talents, but His gifts are for the building up of the Church (I Corinthians 14:12). I have spent much time cultivating the talents He has given me, while at the same time resisting the use of His gifts outside of those talents. I am thankful that He allowed to grow in Him and be comfortable in some of His gifts as I invested my talents. I recognize that the success I saw in those I was brought along side of, the transformed lives and miracles, were His working of gifts through me.
However, I recognize that I have not been faithful in the obedient expression of His gifts because I have withheld them outside of that comfort zone. I may have shared them with members of the Church, and in such helped build up members of His body. I have not always been faithful to use those gifts where He has planted me.
His Word says in I Corinthians 3:17 that whatever we do should be done in His name. That thought really brought me conviction tonight. I have been praying for years that the Church would rise up and not just go to church, but really be the Church. I long for the day when the needs of our communities are met not by nonprofits and government subsidies, but by the Church as it was at the beginning of the Church. I know that it will take every person doing their part, and yet I had to admit if I was honest, I hadn’t been doing my part. In the world, yes. In the church, no. I pause on the brink of action, and yet want others to jump the hurdle.
I reflected on my own life, and I am grateful for those people who answered the call “Here I am Lord.” Those who share their gifts to build up the Church. I wonder where I might have ended up if it hadn’t been for the gifts of encouragement shared with a little girl in a messed up home. Or the gift of teaching that planted God’s Word in a real way so that when I strayed the Holy Spirit would have something to draw me back through. Or if some had said no to the expression of the gift of mercy, how a homeless mother of three might have taken a different path. Or if the words spoken through the gift of prophecy over my life had not pulled out what the world had tried to bury in me where I might have gone. I don’t want to stand in the way or be a hinderance to another who is walking down a path that God has called me to minister to through His gifts, and I know my talents aren’t usually enough.
Are there areas in your life where you rely on your talents and hold back His gifts? How are you investing your talents? How are you allowing God to grow your gifts? What keeps you from using your gifts to build up the church? How can you give God your whatever and surrender both your talents and His gifts to be used in Jesus name?