Do you ever feel like you are not enough? That your life is insignificant? You look at the people around you who appear to be nailing it. Then you look at yourself, how little you have to offer in comparison, and begin to doubt your worth?
I’ve been there. Way too many times. That’s why I’ve chosen the word faithful to focus on in 2016. So today I share with you something I wrote a year ago when I was struggling with feeling insignificant and inadequate, something that is not far from my mind whenever I think about the word faithful.
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There’s parable in the Bible that haunts me sometimes. Specifically, a character who lingers in my thoughts and can chill my heart with a fear I’ve battled for years.
It’s the parable of the talents (Mattehw 25) in which a master gives three servants varying quantities of talents. Of course a “talent” in this parable is a sum of money, but I love that our modern use of the word talents actually parallels the metaphor the parable is establishing. The master entrusts these three servants with his money while he is away, and then has them bring account of what they have done with the money in his absence. The man with 5 talents has doubled the money, and receives the master’s praise. As does the servant given 2 talents. The servant given 1 talent doesn’t fare so well.
Sometimes I feel like the servant who has received 1 talent–that my world is so small and I make such little contribution to the wider world.
Some days I look at the servants whose hands can barely contain their 5 talents and then look into my hands and the penny there seems so pitiful and insignificant. And this servant who haunts me convinces me that this one talent is not good enough, perhaps that I myself am not good enough. And I fear that the Master himself will agree and chide me for my measly contribution to His kingdom.
But the Master is not concerned about how much we have been given. After all, He chooses what to give us, places us where we are in life with the personality and circumstances and giftings that He chooses. No, the master in the parable condemns the servant because he takes the master’s talent and buries it in the ground, does nothing at all with it. For that the servant earns the names wicked, lazy, and even worthless.
Had he wisely used and invested the single talent, he would have received the same praise that the other servants he received: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Perhaps I am only called to “few things” right now. But I will be faithful to them. To the best of my ability, I will teach my children to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbor (and sister!) as themselves. I will saturate myself with God’s word and His presence, so that when I speak to my friends and my family and my neighbors His words will speak life and truth through me. I will serve with my hands not out of obligation or drudgery, but out of love, seeing my actions as a gift “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11).
I am tempted to think of these things, this one talent, as small. But with a little bit of digging, I have discovered that I have been grossly mistaken about the value of a singular talent.
A talent is not the measly penny my mind imagines.
A talent was the largest measurement of currency in Jesus’s day. 75 pounds of precious metals—the equivalent of perhaps 10 or even 20 years’ salary. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another way to put the value of a talent in perspective: not much exceeds a crown as a symbol of opulence and value. King David’s crown weighed a full talent of gold (2 Samuel 12:30).
Indeed, there is nothing measly, shameful, or insignificant about one talent.
How wonderful to know that the things we deem small and insignificant have great value in God’s eyes.
So when the chilling whispers of the wicked, lazy, worthless servant no doubt surface again in my heart, telling me that I am not enough, I will remember the words of my master “You have been faithful with few things; I will put you in charge of many things,” and then thank Him for the tasks He has laid before me, asking Him for the strength and privilege of fulfilling those tasks “prepared in advance for me to do” (Eph 2:10). Tasks whose significance far outweigh the value I sometimes assign them.
And friend, no matter what stage or role of life you find yourself in, I invite you to do the same. Rejoice in the tasks the Master has set before you. Commit to fulfilling them faithfully instead of comparing yourself to others and their callings. You are not responsible for managing someone else’s talents. You are responsible to faithfully manage the ones you have been given. The beauty in such a simple act is that, as you are faithful in what He has already given you, He will entrust you with the more that your heart sometimes craves. But most importantly, when you seek to do the best with the opportunities before you, when you actively use what is in your hands for the Kingdom, one day you’ll hear those precious words, well done, good and faithful servant.