Note: This post is part of a series about building a personal relationship with God by reading the parables of Jesus. You can browse the entire series here.
The Parable of the Talents is one of my all-time favorite parables.
It is a story about the first “hedge fund investors” in the New Testament, which really speaks my language: I was fourteen when I read my first book on investing, and after that, my goal in life was to work on Wall Street and become a “Master of the Universe.”
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
Matthew 6:19-21 NLT
This passage shifted my perspective and priorities by helping me understand that money isn’t the ultimate treasure. In fact, it’s something that can become the “other god” in our lives (Matthew 6:24) as we pursue it and rely on it for security. The ultimate treasure in life is God and the purpose he gives us by developing our talents to make an impact in people’s lives.
So you can imagine my intrigue when I found out about the Parable of the Talents, a story about a master giving each of his servants a sum of money to invest as he leaves for a journey.
Of course, this story is not actually about money; it’s about how God believes in us, invests in us, and helps us to live up to our potential by making an incredible difference with our lives. Whether or not we believe this about God will impact the way we live.
In this devotional, we will learn to believe in God’s purpose for us by reading the Parable of the Talents and asking ourselves the following three questions:
- How do I feel about myself?
- What talents has God given me?
- How do I feel about God?
Let’s get started!
How do I feel about myself?
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.”
Matthew 25:14-15 NIV84
I was a college student learning about and studying the Bible to know God when I first read the Parable of the Talents. My initial reaction to the parable was, “I need to work harder so I can be the five-talent person.” My worth as a person was based on my accomplishments and possessions; I already had a bad case of “Imposter Syndrome,” meaning I battled secret feelings of inadequacy and failure.
I was constantly insecure, but didn’t show it. I often doubted my skills, accomplishments, and successes, but I never talked about it. I was confident on the outside but always anxious on the inside.
Researchers say there are different ways people act when they feel like an imposter. Among the types of imposters listed, I was a “soloist,” which is a person who prefers to work alone and won’t ask for help for fear of looking weak and incompetent. I avoided the risk of failure at all costs.
Read More: Asking God For Help
Reading the Bible made me start to ask myself why I did the things I did. It helped me begin to understand my heart and my motivations. At the same time, the Bible gave me courage and hope that I could change and have an impact on other people. Once I started being honest about how I really felt inside, I began to understand that God didn’t see me the same way I saw myself.
As a result, my life changed radically after I became a Christian; I became more courageous, took more risks, and grew in unexpected ways because of my relationship with God. I no longer needed to achieve to feel good about myself, and I wanted to have a true purpose rather than living for success or material things.
I wanted to be like the early disciples in Acts, who were described as unschooled and ordinary, yet did extraordinary things (Acts 4:13). They didn’t need a Harvard MBA to be confident or make a difference. They taught me that all I needed to believe was that God had chosen me.
The Parable of the Talents is a story about God entrusting his property to his servants. He must have believed in them. But as we’ll see, the servants’ view of themselves and of God mattered too; if they were plagued with insecurity and negativity, they wouldn’t have been able to appreciate and invest the gifts God had given them.
Pause and reflect
- Are you honest about how you feel about yourself?
- How does your view of yourself affect how you see God?
What talents has God given me?
“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 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!’
Matthew 25:17-19, 22-23 NLT
America’s Got Talent is a reality television talent competition where contestants perform with the hope of winning a marquee slot in Las Vegas, plus a cash prize of $1 million. The most memorable moments are the unexpected ones, when someone you least expect comes out with an amazing talent.
The same is true in our lives. Often, we think we know what our talents are, but God brings out talents we never knew we possessed. When entrusted with the master’s money, the two-talent servant discovers he has a level of faithfulness he might not have otherwise known he had. This servant could have easily spent time being self-focused and jealous of the five-talent servant, but instead he focuses on what he does have and not what he doesn’t have.
Read More: Get to Know God by Getting to Know Yourself
In my high school years, I didn’t think I was very talented. I did not play sports, and I was not popular. I was a good student, but I wasn’t one of the smart kids. The one thing I liked to do was to sit in front of my locker and read the Wall Street Journal. I know, I know, it’s a pretty sad picture. But the other thing I was good at was being a loyal friend. I didn’t know that these were gifts until a friend explained to me that they were and how to use them to help people.
Little did I know, God gave me these gifts for a reason. I got the opportunity to use my interest in finance to build several nonprofits on strong financial footing and to start a successful company. My desire to be a loyal friend has also helped me learn to mentor and young leaders in the church by training in the full-time ministry when I graduated college.
I have had to learn not to spend my time comparing myself to other people, but to appreciate the gifts God gave me instead.
Everyone has talents. Everyone has gifts. What are yours? How could you use those talents to help others?
Pause and reflect
- When was the last time you asked a friend what your gifts are?
- Try it out. You might be surprised when they bring up gifts you didn’t know you had or that you don’t think of as gifts.
How do I feel about God?
“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.’
“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.”
Matthew 25:24-27, 29 NLT
Each servant’s response in this story relates to their view of their master. The master gives each of his servants talents in proportion to their abilities. Both the five- and two-talent servants immediately go to work and double their talents, and the master later says they did this because of their faithfulness to him. How do they feel about the master? They trust the master and have the courage to take risks to grow.
The master must have also known that the one-talent servant had the ability to double his money. All the servant had to do was trust the master. However, the one-talent servant immediately digs a hole and hides his master’s money. His reasoning is that his master is harsh, demanding, and unscrupulous, which makes him afraid.
Is this your view of God? The one-talent servant has an incorrect view of his master, and we can sometimes have an incorrect view of God that doesn’t match what the Bible says about him. Changing our view of God takes going to the Bible to find out what it says about God rather than our own experiences or preconceived notions.
Read More: How to Change Your View of God and See Him as a Friend
For example, Psalm 18:35 (NCV) talks about God being willing to stoop down to help us to be great. 1 Thessalonians 2:11 (NIV) describes God as a father who is encouraging, comforting and urging his children to live worthy lives.
I loved playing sports growing up, though as I mentioned before I wasn’t very good at them. I remember times that my friends celebrated every point I scored or rebound I made. When I missed a shot or lost the ball, which was often, my friends would encourage me to keep my head up and keep trying. That’s what God is like, but even better.
A negative view of God results in playing it safe and not having faith to take risks. What if the one talent servant had the same heart as the two and five talent servants? He would have doubled his talent to two and then doubled that to four and so on. Who wouldn’t be happy with a 100% return?
If our view of God doesn’t match the Bible, we will end up letting fear run our lives rather than faith. We won’t use the talents God has given us, and will miss out on the way our relationship with God could grow if we were to decide to trust him.
Pause and reflect
- How is your view of God stopping you from investing and multiplying the gifts he has given you?
- Sometimes, our true talents are hidden because we choose to stick with talents that make us feel secure or make other people happy. What fears are holding you back from finding or developing new talents?
Most of us will never receive a sum of money to invest as we choose, but all of us have an ability or gift from God that we can grow over our lifetime. How we do that depends on how we view and trust in God.
Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us.
Ephesians 3:20 Voice
Don’t be the servant that receives a talent and immediately hides it in a hole in the ground. You can start working on your relationship with God and double the talent that he has given you.