Church’s Got Talent!

I recently enjoyed watching “Britain’s Got Talent” on TV. I am thinking of applying for it myself next year – as an Assemblies of God minister I have developed a remarkable ability over many years to simultaneously juggle balls and spin plates while singing in a foreign language. I wonder what Simon Cowell would make of that!

Today the english word ‘talent’ means a special gift, especially in the world of show business or the arts. Of course, originally it was a sum of money – around three hundred pounds. When Jesus taught the “Parable of the Talents” this first century crowd heard of three men, each given a different amount of cash. I believe God wants to bless, but prosperity-teaching aside, we are all given varying amounts of money in this life. The parable has a clear message. It’s not what we have that is important but what we do with it. Most missionary organisations will tell you that the Gospel is still sent around the world today by the mites of widows. Heaven’s reward will be colossal for those who have had so little but given so much. It seems that you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead of you.

Now, when the Master returned, he wanted to know what each of his stewards had done with the money he had given them. Clearly, to have resource means to have responsibility, whether that resource or gift is the ability to prophesy or preach, make money, serve in practical ways, or to give the most valuable of all assets, namely our time. The ‘baddie’ in the parable hid his resource away, preserving but not using it. Like the fig tree that Jesus cursed, it made for a nice photograph but lacked the fruitfulness that God had designed and desired.

So why did the man hide his talent? First, he obviously did not regard the talent as sufficiently valuable to use. In our contemporary Christian world, much admiration is given to those with supernatural gifts or charismatic personalities, but I am sure God sees it differently. In this context, it is foolish to separate so-called spiritual giftings from natural ones, as every good and perfect gift has a heavenly origin. When we were fearfully and wonderfully made, even within our mother’s womb the eternal God planned our path and ministry and equipped us there and then with all the necessary abilities to fulfil our calling. Everyone has talent for God has blessed all. We must use whatever we have, however small we may perceive it to be. Surely there is no such thing as a small gift from God?

Second, perhaps the man was afraid to use the talent. The business world, the context of the parable, is fraught with risk and requires a calculated gamble that may lead to loss. That’s why “the dragons” don’t always invest! Today, many are fearful of “getting involved” in the work of God. To let God use you is to enter the battle – where the swishing arrows of the enemy and the friendly fire of Christian Pharisees may await! Some feign humility by not wanting to push themselves forward, whereas sometimes this merely masks pride and the fear of failure. We all battle with this, but it’s time to be honest. Timothy was fearful to use his gift and had to be encouraged, so we’re in good company. God hath not given us a spirit of fear so don’t let it stop your ministry.

Third, there may also be character issues. Laziness abounds, and I’m sure it always has, leaving twenty percent of the church to do eighty percent of the work. The blessed are called “faithful” servants so it will be quite appropriate to call this man the “unfaithful” servant. We cannot be fruitful unless we are first faithful – firstly to God; secondly, committed to a local church and its human leaders; and thirdly, determined to finish whatever is started in the Lord. To begin using your gift ought to be considered like starting a business – there must be at least a five year plan!

Finally, perhaps the man didn’t believe that he would be held accountable for the master’s talent. If so, he was quite wrong. Everything belongs to God. We are merely stewards. Jesus said, “Behold I am coming quickly and I will give to each man according to what he has done.” This is not a dress rehearsal. We are on! Let’s get going! What is your talent doing today?

JOY Magazine, August 2008

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