I watched a video sermon recently by Andy Stanley, titled Embracing Your Responsibility. I decided to write about this study because the lesson to be learned from it is one that I believe many Christians will be blessed by. It has to do, obviously, with being responsible, but it also provides a perspective that teaches us to be content with whatever our lot is in life.
Think about these things for a moment: How often do you find yourself weighing up the blessings of someone else and silently wishing you had what they had? Or have you ever resented someone for earning recognition, or a promotion or award, for something you felt you were more deserving of? Or have you tried really hard at something, only to fail at it, and not once but several times? All of these scenarios stir up in us negative emotions, and lead us to complain about the unfairness of life. Jesus knows our human flaws however, and so he taught us through The Parable of the Talents, how we are to handle what we perceive as unfairness.
In case you haven’t read the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), here’s an overview:
- A wealthy estate owner has to go away for a long period of time, and so he entrusts all of his wealth to three of his servants. He distributes his wealth in uneven portions – he gives 5 talents to one servant, 2 talents to the second servant, and 1 talent to the third servant (talents, in those days, equated to a considerable amount of money).
- Before the estate owner leaves, he instructs his servants to manage his money well; in other words, he expects to see a return on his wealth when he gets back home.
- While the owner is gone, the first servant invests his 5 talents and earns 5 more. The second servant does the same and doubles his investment as well, but the third servant buries his talent and does nothing with it.
- The owner finally returns; he is pleased with the first two servants and rewards them with greater levels of responsibility. With the third servant, he is furious and accuses him of being “wicked” and “slothful.” The servant tries to justify his actions by explaining that his master’s reputation for being a hard man intimidated him, and rather than risk losing the talent he was entrusted with, he kept it safely buried. The owner recognizes however, that his servant was really just too lazy to do anything with the talent, and so he takes it back and gives it to the first servant instead (the parable also says that the lazy servant was “cast out” and sent away).
So, does it seem fair that the wealth was unevenly distributed? Or is it fair that the owner has complete discretion as to how the money is distributed? And what about the treatment of the third servant; is it fair that he was stripped of his responsibility and thrown out, while the other two servants were rewarded with even more than what they were initially entrusted with?
The truth is, it doesn’t matter if any of these things were fair or not fair. Andy Stanley raised a great point; he said that everything in life is fair (or unfair) to someone. Jesus’ point in telling this parable is that we are to accept “what is” in life, and if our portion seems unfair, then we are to learn how to leverage the situation. God is not going to fix or take away the unfairness in our lives; He’s not going to because He expects us to make the most of whatever our situations may be, regardless of how prosperous or lacking they may be.
It’s important to note too, that those with more are not necessarily better off. When God gives in abundance, He does so with the expectation that one’s extra wealth, or greater status, will be used to help others who are less fortunate. On the other hand, those who constantly feel cheated out of opportunities must be careful not to focus on their misfortunes; they must not use them as an excuse to carry out their responsibilities with minimal effort.
Here is how Andy Stanley suggests that we each handle our own unique set of circumstances; he says that we should identify if we are a) a 5-talent person, b) a 2-talent person, or c) a 1-talent person. The majority of us will fall into the second category, but whichever category you fall into, you should view your life in one of the following three ways:
- If you’re a 5-talent person, and abundantly blessed – be grateful for all that you have and never take it for granted; endeavor to bless others with your wealth.
- If you’re a 2-talent person, and have some riches/blessings – continue to be generous with what you have, continue to work hard, and stop comparing yourself with others.
- If you’re a 1-talent person and have only a little – never allow your circumstances to deprive you of doing the best you can with what you have, and never make excuses because you feel that life has been unfair to you.
We will all have to give an account at some point, on what we did with the amount of responsibility we each were given – don’t be the one who disappoints God because you failed to be responsible. Learn to leverage (take advantage of) whatever your circumstances may be!