Have you ever been in a position where the way you perceived your leader influenced the way you worked? Today we’re looking at 1) how our perceptions affect our opportunities to grow and 2) how those perceptions also sometimes alter how we perceive God.
The Parable of the Talents
Jesus tells the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Maybe you’ve heard of shekels being used as currency – one talent was equal to 3,000 shekels!1 Long story short, one talent is estimated to be worth around 15 years of a laborer’s wages.2
In this parable, a man was preparing to go on a journey, so he gave talents to three of his servants to look after while he was away. To one servant he gave five talents, to the second he gave two talents, and to the third he gave one talent.
Upon his return, the man came to his servants and found both the first and second men wisely stewarded their talents. To both he responded:
“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.’”– Matthew 25:21, 23 (NKJV)
The third man, however, hid his talent in the ground:
“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. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’” –Matthew 25:24-25 (NKJV)
The third man perceived the owner to be a “hard man,” so he hid the talent out of fear. As a result of not stewarding what he was given, the one talent the man did have was taken away. The man’s perception of the owner kept him from being a faithful steward.
Our Perception of God
Interestingly here, the third man did have the opportunity to grow. Had he been faithful to continuously steward what was given to him by his lord, he would have been rewarded like the other two men. Instead, he perceived his lord to be a “hard man” and lost even what was given to him.
Similarly, the way we perceive God affects how we steward what He’s given us. Especially if we have known other Christians who talk down to or judge us critically, it’s easy to feel like God thinks about us that way too.
Fortunately, that’s not the case! It’s true there are consequences to our decisions – both good and bad depending on our choices. But talk about the justice of God misses an incredibly important part if the conversation focuses on punishment.
Paul tells us in Romans 2:4 that it is “the goodness of God” that leads us to repentance. God loves us so much, He sent His only Son to take the punishment for our sin – He chose to die rather than live without us. And He continues to pursue us today, patiently guiding us into His freedom.
Thoughts On Stewardship
I came across Tim Butler’s blog while looking up some questions for this post. Something he said toward the end got me thinking: the master gave each man according to what they were able to steward. Can you imagine if he gave the man with one talent five talents instead? The man wasn’t faithful with even his one talent.
At the same time, the man who was given two talents proved faithful to steward his two talents – and grew those to two more talents. He didn’t complain that the first man was given five talents. He patiently stewarded his two talents faithfully and was rewarded by his lord.
Lastly, even to the man who was given one talent, that talent was significantly more than what he had on his own.2 Just because he was given less than the other two men doesn’t mean what he was given was insignificant.
God knows all of these things – what we are prepared to steward well, how we need to grow in order to be ready for what He has planned, and He sees the value in even our small, unassuming beginnings.
Our stories won’t look the same, but they are all significant. His plans for us are far more than what we can do on our own, we just need to be willing to submit to His guidance, correction, and molding.
Wherever we find ourselves today, however we feel, we can hold on to the hope that God loves us and is there to help us in our time of need. Even in the times when we feel like He has every reason to be mad at us, we can trust that not only is He faithful to forgive, but He also gently leads us on the right path when we are willing to follow Him:
“A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.” – Isaiah 42:3 (NASB)
Here’s to our journey!
1 The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. V, p. 922.
2 The New American Standard Bible (NASB) notes that a talent was worth about fifteen years of a laborer’s wages.