"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.' And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.' He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
“One talent? That’s it? I’m not a one talent guy! I’ve seen the two and five talent folks. They’re not that impressive. I don’t get it. Why would you give me so little to work with? The game is rigged. The deck is stacked. And I know how this is gonna go. You’re gonna want a great return on your investment, but there’s just not enough here to grow. So I’ll play it safe. I’ll bury this little bit in the ground, and when you come around, I’ll at least be able to give it back to you.”
We don’t know everything about the servant who receives the one talent, but we know that he was afraid (Matthew 25:25). Fear colors the way we see God, life, and the work He has entrusted to us. Fear leads us to compare ourselves to other people and count “talents” instead of thanking the Lord for the abilities and opportunities He has given us. Fear leads us to bury our life in the ground, to play not to lose, instead of taking risks because we know that the Lord has been both rich and generous to us. Fear always shifts our focus. Fearful lenses are like carnival mirrors: everything is distorted, and we forget what is real. We don’t see the Lord clearly. We don’t see our neighbors clearly. And we certainly don’t see ourselves clearly. How much does fear paralyze us and keep us from walking in the good works that the Lord has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10)?
The servants who receive two and five talents remind us that our abilities and resources are not the ultimate issue. What we do with what has been entrusted to us is what matters. We tend to ask, “Why did I not get as much as she did?” But the Lord would have us ask, “Why did You give me so much, and how do You want me to use it?” As we come to revel in being saved by grace through faith, humility and courage start to grow where fear once dominated our lives. We start to see that our abilities and resources are gifts from a God who loves us and lavishes His grace upon us. Why would we bury a life in the ground when there is so much to gain and nothing to lose? Fear is constantly running from dread; faith is constantly chasing down joy. There’s the joy of His salvation that dawns when we come to know Christ. There’s the joy of His approval that grows as we work unto Him. And there’s the joy of His commendation that awaits us at the end: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
We all spend a lifetime working in one way or another. But will we ever slow down and think deeply about our work? Will we rest in the finished work of Christ? Will we work, not to earn God’s love, but because we already have it? Will we hedge our bets for the sake of being safe, or will we take risks for the sake of being faithful? As His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, these are not small questions. According to Jesus, eternal joy hangs in the balance.