There is an interesting parable in the Gospels that I believe Jesus purposefully told to prepare the disciples for Christ’s eventual departure. It would be a harbinger of what was to come.
I am referring to the teaching on talents found several times in the Gospels. It appears in different forms and at different times, and it seems Jesus told this parable multiple times, because it was a message His disciples needed to hear.
In the account recorded in Mathew 25:14-30, a ruler is going on a long journey and decides to leave his wealth or talents in the hands of his slaves to invest, until he returns.
This parallels Jesus departure from earth, the bestowing of the Holy Spirit and His gifts (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8) and then Jesus second return.
What are the talents?
I believe in God’s kingdom, they are the giftings (spiritual and natural) and callings that God has bestowed on every believer. The Lord has tasks for us to fulfill before He returns. Some of them are spiritual and some secular, but all equally important.
In this context one slave is given five talents, another three and the third one.
One of the major concerns Jesus had involved people who fall short of reaching their full potential. We know this because the focus of this parable is not on the first two men who doubled their master’s investment, but rather the third man who buried his talent in the ground (v 25).
He didn’t even bother to put the money in the bank to earn interest, he just hid it and waited for his master to return.
The man was controlled, or more accurately paralyzed, by three fears that dominated his life:
Fear of expectation
As we read the account, on of this slave’s biggest fears was that his master was a brutal man, and would not handle the slave’s failure.
‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ (Matthew 25:24-25 NASV)
Whether this was true or not is irrelevant, because the other two servants had exactly the same master and were not controlled by this fear.
This was a personal issue for the slave with one talent that he needed to deal with. He wanted to blame someone else for his shortcomings, but the real issue was his own insecurities.
As children, this fear of expectation can be built in us when our parents put unrealistic expectations on us in sports or school. When we fail to meet these expectations, we feel that we have let them down.
We see the look on their face that we have failed them. The best way to avoid this rejection is not to participate at all.
This fear will often follow us as we become adults.
If you put this on your children, ask them to forgive you. If your parents did this to you, forgive them.
Fear of men
We are scared of what others may think.
I am sure the man was aware of what the other two slaves were doing with their talents. They shared the same home and they were no doubt bragging about how well things were going with their investments.
We are often intimidated by the success of others and we shrink back as we compare ourselves.
There will always be someone better, we just can’t use that as an excuse not to reach our full potential. Truthfully, we may be utterly shocked on what our full potential is.
Fear of failure
We are also terrified of losing and the best way to do that is not to play the game. Here is the thing, we are going to fail. We are going to make mistakes, that is simply part of life’s journey.
But what so often happens is that we define who we are by our successes and failures. If you succeed, you are a winner. If you fail, you are a loser.
Your successes and failures have nothing to do with who you are in Christ. We must not let our achievements (including successes) define who you are. You are a child of God and accepted by the Lord, whether you fail or succeed.
Learn from your mistakes and move on.
Ultimately, this slave was controlled by an unbelief in his own ability to invest the talent wisely.
Fear is probably the single greatest impediment to fulfilling your calling in God. These fears need to be dealt with for you to reach your full potential.
- The first step in this healing process is recognizing how much you are controlled by fear.
- The second step is to quit blaming others for your failures.
- The third step involves asking the Holy Spirit to come along side to strengthen us (Romans 8:26).
- The fourth and most important step is believing that God wants you to succeed.