Have you ever known that God wanted you to do something and didn’t do it because fear of failure kept you from obeying? Or have you looked at others and envied their abilities, skills, and talents, thinking that if you just had (fill-in-the-blank) you’d also be able to do something great for God?
I’d wager that these kinds of thoughts are pretty common to all of us. Unless you’re one of those unique people with boundless self-confidence or have a track record of fantastic successes trailing behind you, you likely have some regrets for things past and a bit of apprehension for future adventures. Insecurity and self-doubt are familiar emotions.
The parable Jesus tells in Luke 19 has an encouraging message for us “self-doubters,” as well as a warning not to let our doubts lead us into disobedience. Jesus describes a nobleman who travels to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself. While he’s gone, he assigns ten of his slaves to do business on his behalf and distributes one mina to each. A mina is equivalent to one hundred days’ wages.
When he returns, he calls them to account for how they used what he had given them. The first servant had a ten-fold return, turning one mina into ten. He was commended for his faithfulness “in a very little thing,” and rewarded with authority over ten cities. The second had made five minas from his one and was rewarded with five cities.
The next servant is, sadly, a disappointment to his master. Instead of putting the mina to work on the nobleman’s behalf, he hides it away in fear of losing it. All he has to show for his efforts is exactly what the master had given him originally. The nobleman rebukes him for his fear; at the very least he could have put it in a bank and received some interest in return. Instead, he has wasted his opportunity. The master takes away the single mina and gives it to the one who earned ten-fold.
Jesus sums up the moral of the parable: I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away (Luke 19:26).
A few observations:
1. Each servant received the same gift originally.
As believers, all of us have one common gift – the Holy Spirit who indwells us, living out the life of Christ in us. I don’t have “more” of the Holy Spirit than you do, or vice versa. The question is, “How much of me does the Holy Spirit have?” Every true believer who has placed their faith in Jesus has the same opportunity and the same ability to serve the Master well.
Ephesians 1:13-14 – In [Christ], you also, after listening to the message of the truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.
2. Each servant produced different results.
Obviously, the servant who had made ten minas out of his one had a gift for making money. The Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts according to His plans and purposes. We all have the same Holy Spirit, but we do not have the same gifts. Our responsibility is to allow God to develop and grow our gifts as we learn to listen and obey.
Romans 12:4-7,11 – Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. … But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
3. Each servant was judged not on results, but on faithfulness.
The servants who had employed the gift of the mina for the master’s benefit were faithful servants. They recognized they were simply stewards of what belonged to him and were rewarded accordingly. The unfaithful servant who hid his gift out of fear was rebuked for his lack of faith and obedience. He lost the opportunity to serve the master, as his gift, his mina, was taken away. As believers, God gives us spiritual gifts, opportunities, talents, skills, and experiences. What we do with them is up to us. Will we allow the Holy Spirit to work out His purposes and accomplish His plans through us, or will we let self-doubt and fear lead us into disobedience, and be ashamed when the Master asks for an accounting? What little influence we might have had for the kingdom will be lost.
Matthew 5:13 – You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
What’s our takeaway? God has given every believer equal opportunity for kingdom impact. We aren’t called to compare ourselves to one another or envy each other’s giftings, but to be faithful to use whatever platform He gives us for His benefit and glory. The results are up to Him. That old adage, “Use it or lose it” applies in the spiritual kingdom as well as the physical. Don’t waste what God’s given you longing for something different. Start with your one mina and see what He can do!
2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.