Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Parable of the Abilities

We are all blessed with certain abilities from God.  Those gifts can be spiritual gifts like prophesy or tongues and they can also be natural gifts like musical ability or athletics and many other things.  These gifts are given to us for God's glory and to use as the Lord leads in the responsibilities He gives us.  Unfortunately, so many people abuse or ignore those gifts from God.  Today I want to talk about those abilities and the rewards to using them rightly and the consequences for abusing them.  Today we will begin in the parable of the talents.
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey." Matthew 25:14-15 NKJV
I don't want to focus on the talents themselves.  A talent is just a measure of weight and signified some type of money given to the servants.  How much a talent is worth is dependent on what kind of metal it consisted of.  What I want to focus on is the fact that how many talents each servant was given was determined by their individual abilities. 

And so we have a man with servants going on a long journey and while he is gone, he is entrusting his servants with his belongings with the hopes that they would be profitable in their service while he was gone.  He gave the most to the most talented and the least to the least talented. 

This is just like our lives here on earth.  Jesus has entrusted as with certain responsibilities here on earth while He is preparing out place in Heaven.  We are entrusted to be good stewards of the Gospel.  We are called to be ambassadors of Christ and our profit is measured in the souls we reach for Christ.  Our abilities are those gifts God has given us and we will see later that our abilities are not based on ourselves but on God.
"Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money." Matthew 25:16-18 NKJV
Now we have the account of how those servants used their abilities in earning profit on what their master entrusted to them.  Both the most talented and middle talented servants doubled the value of what their master had given them.  The one with the least ability did not even use what ability he had and just hid the money. 

For our own lives, we need to use what ability (whether much or little) in what the Lord has entrusted us with.  Refusing to use our ability and ignoring the charge given to us by God is abusing by neglecting that ability the Lord has blessed us with. 
"After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' 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.' He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'" Matthew 25:19-23 NKJV
And now the ruler returns to settle the accounts of his servants.  He calls them to him to see what they have done with what he has entrusted them with.  Note the first and middle talented servant received the same reward even though each earned different amounts. The issue was not how much they earned but how they used their abilities in service to their master.  Each worked to the best of their abilities and each were rewarded with even more authority.  In other words, they were awarded not in terms of material profit or greater ability, but in their faithfulness in what their master had entrusted them with.

For us, when the Lord returns and our works are judged, we will be judged according to what we have done with what the Lord has entrusted us with.  We will not be judged by how profitable we were to God, but with how faithful we were with the gifts entrusted to us by God.  Remember, though our souls will not be judged for salvation, our works will be judged.  Our Lord is returning and when He does come, we will have to give an account of what we did with what He has given us.  If we were faithful, we will be rewarded.  One reward specifically mentioned in this parable, is that we will be given great authority during the Millennial Kingdom.
"But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels' — as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star." Revelations 2:25-28 NKJV
There are rewards in the kingdom to come for being faithful to what God has entrusted with us now.  However, there are consequences for unfaithfulness.
"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.' But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest." Matthew 25:24-27 NKJV
And now we have the last servant.  While he was the least talented, he did not use what little bit of talent that he had.  He knew his master expected some profit and yet did nothing to earn a profit.  He knew he could have at the very least deposited it in a bank to earn his master money on interest, but did not even do that.  He just did nothing.  He had ability and was given responsibility and his response was to be lazy.  He hid his responsibility in the ground and used none of what ability he had to make his master a profit.  We will see soon that there are repercussions for not being faithful with what God has given us. 
'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Matthew 25:28-30 NKJV
What an amazing contrast we have here.  The most talented servant, and also the most faithful, was given even more.  The lazy servant lost even what he had.  The first and second servants were both given more responsibility in the kingdom to come and the lazy servant did not even have a place in that kingdom.  That's a sobering thought. 

While I do not believe that someone can lose their salvation, the Bible is clear that there are many who think they are saved when they are not.  Let's take a look and see where that last servant went wrong.  First of all, he willfully disobeyed his master.  He knew what his master expected and yet did nothing to satisfy that expectation.  Secondly, he took that responsibility given to him by his master and he buried it.  He put it out of sight.  He ignored it.  Finally, he did not use the ability his master knew that he had.  His master gave him a job and he did nothing.  He rejected it and disobeyed his master.  He rebelled and the master he called master was never really his master at all.  He rejected the authority of his master knowing that authority to be real, just as many of us reject Jesus knowing he is Lord. 

We are offered eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord and while some call on him for salvation, they never make him Lord of their lives.  If Jesus is not Lord, Jesus is not savior. That is not to say we are saved by how well we follow Jesus, but if we do not accept him as Lord, how can we accept him as savior?  I say that because a foundational belief in Christianity is the deity of Jesus.  Jesus is God and therefore Lord.  If you do not believe him to the Lord, you do not believe him to be God.  If you do not believe him to be God, you do not know Jesus.  If you do not know Jesus, you can not be saved.  Remember, Jesus is just his name but the Lord is who He is.  You can not call on Jesus without calling on the Lord. 

Now we need to look at where ability comes from.
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5 NKJV
Any ability we have to do anything comes from the Lord.  Whatever talents we are born with, whatever natural ability we may have, whatever strengths we develop through learning and practice are meaningless when we are not abiding in God.  Apart from God, we can do nothing.  With God, we can do anything.  We have to recognize that whatever we accomplish for the kingdom is all by what ability God has given us.  God ultimately gets all the glory and depending on our faithfulness, He determines our rewards and punishments. 

The least of the servants was not a servant at all is like the one who knows the free gift of God in Christ, but chooses to do nothing about it.  He was given one talent, that being the Gospel, and he buried it or ignored it.  The only fruit he was expected to bear was that unto his own salvation, but instead of planting that talent in his heart where it can grow into profit, he chose to plant it out of sight out or mind in the ground.  When it comes time for him to stand before the Lord, that talent (the Gospel) will be removed from him as it is no longer an option and he will be cast into Hell.  Once you stand before the Lord, there is no more chance for to accept that gift. 

Now we have the rest of us in Christ. God will give each of us responsibilities according to our talents (talents provided by God) with the expectation that we will use those God-given talents to earn fruit for the kingdom, that is reach souls for Christ.  We see here that the more faithful you are, the more rewarded you are.  We also see that the more responsibility you are faithful in, the more you will be given.  Being that responsibility is a measure of talent, you will also be given more talent.  This is so because God will never ask you to do something that He will not empower you to do.  If He gives you more responsibility, He will give you more power.  All we have to do is be faithful in what we are given.  On the other hand, if we are unfaithful in what we are given, that which we have will be taken away.  If you are not faithful in using your God-given talent for the responsibilities God has given you, God will take away that talent and responsibility. 

Last year, I purchased a nectarine tree for the front yard of my parents house.  It was dormant when I planted it and as all the other trees sprung back to life in Spring, that tree remained dormant.  There was no sign of life in the branches.  I called the company to express my concern that they sent me a dead tree and before they would send me a new one they asked me if I would first try pruning it.  And so I took out some cutters and cut each branch back almost to the trunk.  What happened after that was that over Summer last year, that tree grew (from the cut branches) new branches almost as long as before they were cut.  This year those branches sprang to life in Spring, flowered, and even tried to produce some fruit.  I have faith that next year, we might be enjoying nectarines off  of that tree. 

This is just like what Jesus shared about the the vine and branches.  The trunk would be Jesus, the branches would be those of us in Christ, and (in all humility) I would be God as the vinedresser.  Those branches were not performing as expected and were essentially dead and so they had to be cut back to almost nothing.  This year they produced some fruit, but being still not fully grown branches it was not much.  Next year (as they were faithful this year according to their ability as new branches) they will remain as they are and should produce even more fruit.  As we grow as branches on the vine of Christ, we will produce more and more fruit as we grow stronger and stronger.  On the other hand, if we cease to produce fruit, we will be pruned.

Where are you in this story?  Are you a dead branch that needs to be heavily pruned by God in order to produce fruit in the future or are you a longstanding solid branch producing more and more fruit each year or are you a branch that has been so faithful for so long that you grew your own branches producing even more fruit?  We all start as new branches, we should all strive to be the last example, and we should never be in position to be pruned. Pruning is chastisement of the Lord.  If you are pruned, have faith that your time of chastisement was not to kill you but to save you and ultimately restore you.  Use the talents God has given you, and you will produce much fruit and you will be rewarded and there is no greater reward than a reward from the Lord.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.  1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NKJV

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