When I was working for Hyster Company in Portland, Oregon, I once decided that I could fix a clock we had at home that had failed to work. I thought, “Hey, I’m an engineer, I can do this!” Well, this was before the days of the internet and Google and Smart Phones to get a picture so you could see how to put things back together. I got done and had a couple pieces left. I tried again, but with no better success. I finally put everything in a sack and took it to work with me and gave it to Norm Shepersky, who happened to be a watch/clock smith. He returned it in good working condition—with no leftover parts!
It is never a good sign when you are trying to repair something and have parts left over that should have been incorporated into the item, whether it is the transmission of your car or the mechanism in your clock or watch or a jet engine! But, what about our lives as Christians? God gives us each natural talents and then adds to them spiritual gifts when we become Christians and the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, equipping us to serve the Body of Christ. I remember the “parable of the talents” which Jesus shared, recorded in Matthew 25:14-30. In the parable, before the man left on a journey he entrusted his possessions to his slaves, giving one five talents, to another two and to a third, one talent. (A talent was the largest denomination of money in the Greco-Roman world and is estimated to be worth as much as 6,000 days’ wages—or about 20 years of income— for an average laborer. Each slave was given a different amount, “each according to his own ability,” but the same expectation appeared to go with each, use it to be fruitful. Don’t hoard or squander it. Two of the slaves used their talents to gain more while the third buried his. When the master returned he told the two slaves who had multiplied their talents: “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (vv. 21,23). The third slave (who hid his talent in the ground) is condemned for his laziness (vv. 23-28).
In this parable, the man traveling to a far country represents Jesus Christ during His absence from earth. He entrusts gifts to His servants. The five and two-talent servants are believers who faithfully uses what God has entrusted to them and they are rewarded with even greater service for the Lord in the future kingdom (and eternal state). The third slave forfeits any rewards. He, in fact may be a mere professor who is excluded from the kingdom, and swept away in judgment.
While the context of this passage is most likely referring to the Tribulation period and the ensuing Millennial Kingdom, the principle applies to the Church age as well: God provides us with time, talents (including spiritual gifts) and treasures that are to be used in service to Him, and “It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy (faithful, reliable)” (I Cor. 4:2).
When we come to the end of the days that God has allotted to us (Job 14:5), we should not end up with “pieces left”! We are not to “bury” the talents that God has given us, but to use them to build up His Kingdom. There doesn’t come a stage of life at which we can say, “I have done enough. I’m just going to relax and sit around to wait for God to take me home.” We can’t take anything with us to heaven; we can only “send it on ahead” in terms of rewards for being faithful with what He has given us to use for Him here.
I often get asked if I am enjoying my “retirement.” I guess I don’t find that concept in Scripture. I find that we are to serve the Lord all the days of our lives. One of my favorite Bible characters is Caleb, one of the two spies (along with Joshua) who gave a good report of the “Promised Land.” When they conquered the land, He was 85 years old and you would think would be ready to sit back and take it easy. Not so! He said, “I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me (to spy out the land); as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you have heard on that day that the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me and I shall drive them out as the LORD has spoken” (Josh. 14:10-12). The Anakim, by the way, were giants who had been a terror to the Israelites for generations. “So Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb for an inheritance” (v. 13). Good for you, Caleb. May your tribe increase!
In the New Testament, we find another great example like Caleb. The Apostle Paul had suffered much in his ministry as God’s chosen missionary to the Gentiles. He lists some of his adversity in II Cor. 11:18-33, from beatings and stonings to shipwrecks and imprisonments. But listen to what he said to the Ephesian elders: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus Christ to testify of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24 KJV). Then in Paul’s final letter, written from a Roman jail before His martyrdom at the hands of Nero, We read: “…the time of my departure has come. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:6b,7). There were no talents hidden away, unused, no “pieces left.”
What a challenge to each one of us to use all that God has given us until the day we are called home through death or rapture. “And now little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (I Jn. 2:28).