Your talents—gift for God’s service in your hands

This is a short question, but requires a long answer. . . why? Because the pronoun “It” can refer to many different things. In the previous issues of the Reformation Messenger,  (November 2017, December 2017 and February 2018) this same question was asked and was answered. If you have not read them, I encourage you to visit our web site and read them in order to gain a full understanding of the series of topics covered.

Parable of talents

Jesus Christ, the greatest Teacher the world has ever known, revealed some of His greatest truths about salvation by the use of parables. In Matthew 25:14–30, using the parable of the talents, Jesus explains how God entrusts every person with a talent or gift that is instrumental in his or her salvation. “The present is our day of trust. To every person is committed some peculiar gift or talent which is to be used to advance the Redeemer’s kingdom. All God’s responsible agents, from the lowliest and most obscure to those in high positions in the church, are entrusted with the Lord’s goods.” – Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 618

“‘The kingdom of heaven,’ [Christ] said, ‘is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 325

The man traveling into a far country represents Christ, who, when speaking this parable, was soon to depart from this earth to heaven. The servants in the parable represent the followers of Christ. We are not our own. We have been “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20), not “with corruptible things, as silver and gold. . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18–19); “that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

“The parable of the talents, rightly understood, will bar out covetousness, which God calls idolatry.

“God has lent men talents—an intellect to originate, a heart to be the place of His throne, affection to flow out in blessings to others, a conscience to convict of sin. Each one has received something from the Master, and each one is to do his part in supplying the needs of God’s work. . . .

In the previous articles, some of the talents mentioned were:

Time: All, without exception, possess the talent of time. Everyone has it—whether rich or poor, young or old, educated or uneducated. The Spirit of Prophecy tells us: “Our time belongs to God. Every moment is His, and we are under the most solemn obligation to improve it to His glory. Of no talent He has given will He require a more strict account than of our time.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 342

Speech: “Of all the gifts bestowed on the human family, none should be more appreciated than the gift of speech. It is to be used to declare God’s wisdom and wondrous love.” –The Review and Herald, April 9, 1901. The Lord bids us, “Let your speech be alway with grace” (Colossians 4:6) “that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). “Not one word is to be spoken unadvisedly. No evil speaking, no frivolous talk, no fretful repining or impure suggestions, will escape the lips of him who is following Christ. The apostle Paul, writing by the Holy Spirit, says, ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth’ (Ephesians 4:29). A corrupt communication does not mean only words that are vile. It means any expression contrary to holy principles and pure and undefiled religion. It includes impure hints and covert insinuations of evil. Unless instantly resisted, these lead to great sin.” –Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 197. “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matthew 12:36–37

Influence: Another talent which everyone has is influence. It is important to notice that, as with some of the other talents, this one can end up being either a blessing or a curse. “Every soul is surrounded by an atmosphere of its own—an atmosphere, it may be, charged with the life-giving power of faith, courage, and hope, and sweet with the fragrance of love. Or it may be heavy and chill with the gloom of discontent and selfishness, or poisonous with the deadly taint of cherished sin. By the atmosphere surrounding us, every person with whom we come in contact is consciously or unconsciously affected. . . .

“Our words, our acts, our dress, our deportment, even the expression of the countenance, has an influence. Upon the impression thus made there hang results for good or evil which no man can measure. Every impulse thus imparted is seed sown which will produce its harvest. It is a link in the long chain of human events, extending we know not whither. If by our example we aid others in the development of good principles, we give them power to do good. In their turn they exert the same influence upon others, and they upon still others. Thus by our unconscious influence thousands may be blessed.” –Christ ‘s Object Lessons, p. 339

Property: “To His people the Lord sends the message, ‘Sell that ye have, and give alms.’ . . . Every Christian is to act his part as a faithful steward. . . . Large and small sums should flow into the Lord’s treasury.” –Counsels on Stewardship, p. 114

Strength [health] is a talent, and is to be used to glorify God. Our bodies belong to Him. He has paid the price of redemption for the body as well as for the soul.” –Ibid., p. 115.  God wants everyone to be healthy and to keep his or her body strong and in good health. Health is one of the talents that is of great importance, which we can use to serve both our God and our neighbours. “Health is a blessing of which few appreciate the value. . . . The misuse of our physical powers shortens the period of time in which our lives can be used for the glory of God.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 346

To Every Man His Work  

During a field conference, after explaining the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I asked a question, ”Anyone who has no gift, not even one, let him/her raise their hands.” Five sisters and two brothers raised their hands. Were they right? What about you?

“We are not to wait for something great to do. We are to perform faithfully the duty lying nearest us, small though it may be. Faithfulness in the performance of small duties fits us for the bearing of larger responsibilities.” –The Gospel Herald, January 1, 1903

Many may excuse themselves that “talents are given only to a certain favored class, to the exclusion of others who, of course, are not called upon to share in the toils or rewards. But it is not so represented in the parable. When the master of the house called his servants, he gave to every man his work. The whole family of God are included in the responsibility of using their Lord’s goods. Every individual, from the lowliest and most obscure to the greatest and most exalted, is a moral agent endowed with abilities for which they are accountable to God. To a greater or less degree, all are placed in charge of the talents of their Lord. The spiritual, mental, and physical ability, the influence, station, possessions, affections, sympathies, all are precious talents to be used in the cause of the Master for the salvation of souls for whom Christ died. . . .

God requires everyone to be a worker in His vineyard. You are to take up the work that has been placed in your charge, and to do it faithfully. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” –To Be Like Jesus, p. 86

According to the Ability of the Recipient

“In the Lord’s plan there is a diversity in the distribution of talents. To one man is given one talent, to another five, to another ten. These talents are not bestowed capriciously, but according to the ability of the recipient. According to the talents bestowed will be the returns called for. The heaviest obligation rests upon him who has been made a steward of the greatest abilities. A man who has ten pounds is held responsible for all

that ten pounds would do if used aright. He who has only ten pence is accountable for only that amount.” –Counsels on Stewardship, p. 116

God’s plan in giving talents is different. To one He gives more, to the other less. None should complain about the talents received. The Lord has a place for everyone in His great plan. Talents that are not needed are not bestowed. Everyone receives according to his or her ability. The one who has received more should not exalt himself above the other who has received less, and the one who has received less should not envy and complain against the one who has more.

“Occupy Till I Come”

“God has left us in charge of His goods in His absence. Each steward has his own special work to do for the advancement of God’s kingdom. No one is excused. The Lord bids us all, ‘Occupy till I come.’ By His own wisdom He has given us direction for the use of His gifts. The talents of speech, memory, influence, property, are to accumulate for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. He will bless the right use of His gifts.  We claim to be Christians, waiting for the second appearing of our Lord in the clouds of heaven. Then what shall we do with our time, our understanding, our possessions, which are not ours, but are entrusted to us to test our honesty? Let us bring them to Jesus. Let us use our treasures for the advancement of His cause. Thus we shall obey the injunction, ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'” –Ibid., p. 116

Are they yours?

In the past three articles in the series, I asked the question, “Is it yours?” Each time the answer was, “no”. We are simply stewards of the property and gifts that God has entrusted to us. There is a diversity of gifts. We read in the Bible: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.” 1 Corinthians 12:4–11

In His great wisdom Jesus gives the talents so that no one will lack anything, but also that one can complement the other. The church is given “diversities of gifts,” all for the glory of God and the salvation of His people. Not all have the same talents or the same gifts, but all are called to labor in His vineyard in harmony and oneness. Only through the Holy Spirit abiding in our heart can we make a wise use of these gifts and see them multiplied in the service for Christ. There are some gifts that only a few have, but gifts such as speech, time, influence, and health are enjoyed by nearly all.

No man can claim to have only one gift because life, speech, influence, time, etc. are all talents. You may be poor, lame, uneducated, etc. but you may have many talents. You may not realize what talents you have, but should improve those that you are aware of, until He comes.  “Christ has given you talents, and these talents He expects you to improve. To one He gives ten talents, to another five, and to another one. He gives to each according to his several ability. If the man with one talent will improve that talent to the utmost of his ability, he will be given other talents. To these, as they are faithfully improved, will be added others. Thus the talents continually increase. But supposing a man has only one talent and gains only one? If his work has been in proportion to his ability, he will be just as surely rewarded as the man who gains a larger number of talents.”  –Sermons and Talks, vol.1, p. 313

“God calls us servants, which implies that we are employed by Him to do a certain work and bear certain responsibilities. He has lent us capital for investment. It is not our property, and we displease God if we hoard up our Lord’s goods or spend them as we please. . . . The talents are in our hands. Shall we use them to God’s glory, or shall we abuse them? We may trade with them today, but tomorrow our probation may end and our account be forever fixed.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 668 (emphasis mine)

As the servant who received the one talent, “There are many who give no decided evidence that they are true to their baptismal vows. Their zeal is chilled by formality, worldly ambition, pride, and love of self.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 155

“To every man God has given ‘according to his several ability.’ The talents are not apportioned capriciously. He who has ability to use five talents receives five. He who can improve but two, receives two. He who can wisely use only one, receives one. None need lament that they have not received larger gifts; for He who has apportioned to every man is equally honored by the improvement of each trust, whether it be great or small.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 328

What will be your reward?

“After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.” Matthew 25:19. “Every talent which returns to the Master, will be scrutinized. The doings and trusts of God’s servants will not be considered an unimportant matter. Every individual will be dealt with personally, and will be required to give an account of the talents entrusted to him, whether he has improved or abused them. The reward bestowed will be proportionate to the talents improved. The punishment awarded will be according as the talents have been abused.” –Counsels on Stewardship, p. 119

Without exception, all of us will be called to give an account of our work and of the talents bestowed upon us. A special responsibility is placed on those who have been entrusted with greater abilities and gifts, “for unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48. Even the one who has received less cannot be indifferent to the gift received, because when we are dealing with salvation, nothing is unimportant. In the work of reforming our characters, all things are essential. Even if God has entrusted us with only one talent, He will hold us accountable for the faithful use of it.  In the parable, he who received one, and did not improve it, it was removed from him. Either your reward will be eternal life, or you will be cast out, and lose even the life that you had here.

The faithful use of talents

“God desires His workers to look to Him as the Giver of all they possess, to remember that all that they have and are comes from Him who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. The delicate touch of the physician’s hand, his power over nerve and muscle, his knowledge of the delicate organism of the body, are the wisdom of divine power, to be used in behalf of suffering humanity. The skill with which the carpenter uses the hammer, the strength with which the blacksmith makes the anvil ring, come from God. He has entrusted men with talents, and He desires them to look to Him for counsel. Thus they may use His gifts with unerring aptitude, testifying that they are workers together with God.” –Counsels on Stewardship, p. 114

Paul and Peter confirmed this truth (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Peter 4:10–11).  “If we desire to be acknowledged as good and faithful servants, we must do thorough, consecrated work for the Master. He will reward diligent, honest service. If men will put their trust in Him, if they will recognize His compassion and benevolence, and will walk humbly before Him, He will cooperate with them. He will increase their talents.” –Ibid., p. 116

Dear reader, are you ready to consecrate the rest of your life in service to the Lord? If you are not going to do this today, tomorrow might be too late. What is your choice? Are you going to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”; or the fearful condemnation, “Thou wicked and slothful servant”? “Now the God of peace . . . Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20–21. “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well.” Isaiah 1:16–17

Since all that we have and all that we are belongs to Jehovah, let us learn to use our talents, as if we are in the direct presence of the Master, until He comes. Amen.

Victor Shumbusho, DR Congo