God, Why Did You Give Me This (One, Lousy) Talent?

John Calvin helped shape the modern meaning of the word “talents” by defining them as gifts from God in the form of a person’s calling and natural abilities, rather than just spiritual gifts.

God, Why Did You Give Me This (One, Lousy) Talent?

Here’s the question we have to ask. Which takes more effort: to take two talents and turn them into four, or take five talents and turn them into 10? These two tasks take the same amount of work, even though the amounts are different.

And in the parable of the talents, the two servants who invested their talents were rewarded similarly. The master tells them: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much” (Matt. 25:23). The Master measures success by the degree of effort, as should we.

I used to feel sorry for the guy with one talent. I thought, “He was just trying to protect his master’s money. What can you do with one crummy little coin?”

But then, out of curiosity, I researched how much money a talent would represent in today’s economy. I realized the guy with one talent took as much as a million dollars of his master’s money and buried it in the back yard! No wonder the master was mad!

The stewardship the Master asks for is not mere passive preservation of his gifts. God invites us to use our talents toward productive ends that will bring us satisfaction and joy, delight our Master, and benefit those around us.

The Puritan William Perkins defined calling as “a certain kind of life, ordained and imposed on man by God, for the common good.” The servants who multiplied their talents had to go out in the marketplace, make deals and compete to multiply what the master had given them. They must have felt a sense of accomplishment in their work. They served the common good of the community through their investment, and then they received praise from their master for their efforts. For their faithfulness, they receive an invitation to “enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).

That invitation into the joy of our Master should be our prevailing motivation for work. We are servants of a generous, loving Master who brings us into relationship with himself. Therefore, we offer all we have and all we are back to him in response to the gracious work he has done for us.

Editor’s note: Content from Monday Morning Success: How Biblical Stewardship Transforms Your Work. Download a free copy here


This excerpt originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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Hugh Whelchel
Hugh Whelchel is Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and author of How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. Hugh has a Master of Arts in Religion and brings over 30 years of diverse business experience to his leadership at IFWE.