By Gerald Cowan
What is a talent? How many do you have? According to the dictionary, a talent is a special ability, and no doubt this is the way most people use the word today. Whenever they read or hear the word talent, they assume it means ability. That often leads them to make an improper application of “the parable of the talents” that Jesus told (Mt. 25:14-30).
The talents in that parable are not abilities but rather sums of money entrusted to servants whose abilities were known and appreciated by their master (just read verse 15 for the point about ability, and then read verse 27 to notice that the talent here was money). The talents in the parable amounted to opportunities to use one’s abilities in the service of the master. The point for us: God knows our abilities and gives each of us opportunities to use them in His service. The money and other resources one has constitute only one of the opportunities God gives him for service in the kingdom of Christ. The principle “Ability Plus Opportunity Equals Responsibility” applies to service of any and every kind.
For the moment let us put aside the parable (do not forget the principle) and talk about talents as abilities, and ask the question again: How many do you have, and how are you using them? Ability alone does not make one acceptable in the Lord’s service. Nor does opportunity alone mean one is approved by the Lord. Only when ability is applied to opportunity and results in service can one really expect approval from God. If you want to be sure you are using your talents properly, you will need to develop some other important characteristics. Here is a list of five abilities: the first four are optional or elective. The last one is mandatory; it cannot be rejected or avoided. Do not jump down the page to number 5. Read and think about the others, in the order listed.
AVAILABILITY. It doesn’t really matter how “talented” you are if you are not available. There are people who could do many things, but you can’t get them to do much. So, are you available to do whatever you can, whenever you are called upon?
DEPENDABILITY. Some accept assignments but you never know if they will actually follow through and do what they agree to do. Are you reliable? Can you be depended upon to do what you say you will do?
DURABILITY. Someone has said that it isn’t just how well you start but how long you last that really counts. How long will you last? How long can you be depended upon? Will you give up when the going gets tough, or will your see the job through to the end, as long as you are able?
EXCITABILITY. Enthusiasm! How enthusiastic are you? Is service a burden or a joy?
Be sure that you develop all these qualities, because – remember the principle – ability plus opportunity adds up to ACCOUNTABILITY. We are responsible, whether we accept it or not. When the Master returns, every one of us will have to give an account of our service, and the Master will respond appropriately to each one. And that is what the parable of the talents is all about.
Perhaps we should ask about one more. What is the PROBABILITY that you will apply this lesson to yourself and receive any personal benefit from it?