“For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”
Matthew 25: 29 NIV
The verse above is an excerpt from Jesus’s Parable of the Talents. In the story, there’s a boss who gives one servant five talents of money (a talent is worth more than a thousand dollars in today’s money), gives another two talents and another servant one talent. Then story says that the boss determined the amount of money he gave out based on each servant’s ability. The servant with five talents went out and put his money to work and made five more, the servant with two took his money and did the same thing, making two more talents. Meanwhile, the servant who had one talent went off and buried his money in the ground. Upon the boss’s return, he was pleased to see what the servants with five and two talents had done with their money. The boss wasn’t so happy to see what the guy with one talent had done with his money, though. This servant admitted that he got scared and buried the talent rather than going out and doing something with it. The boss wasn’t happy with this guy–he took that money away from the servant and gave it to the servant who had ten talents.
The fun thing about this story is that this is where we get our modern-day definition of the word “talent”–a natural aptitude or skill that you’re born with. You can’t do anything to earn a talent. No amount of work or dedication will give you a talent. It’s a God-given ability.
It’s pretty obvious in this passage that the boss is God, and we’re the servants. Sometimes we’re born with ten talents, and sometimes we’re born with just one–but it’s how you multiply those talents and use them for God’s glory that determines your fate.
I’ve always been one of those people who looks at others and thinks, “man, I wish I was more like them.” It’s not quite jealousy, but it’s definitely not contentment. I often catch myself wishing I had the talents that others have, and not capitalizing on the talents that I was given. For example, my school is full of logical, linear thinking engineers who all more or less fit the same wholesome, down-home stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that. But being around my friends and classmates who, more or less, all have the same backgrounds and all want the same things in life, can be a little exhausting sometimes. I often find myself feeling out of place and not really a part of the group.
The thing is, I’m not normal like everybody else at my school. I didn’t grow up as the daughter of a pastor or in a family whose parents aren’t divorced. I didn’t have many Christian friends growing up and I’ve been through a lot of crap that made me feel insecure and unloved. I don’t fit the cookie-cutter version of what a typical Christian looks like, but here’s the thing–the Bible tells me that that’s okay.
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Romans 3: 21-24 NIV
Romans tells me that while I might not be normal, I’m made righteous through Jesus Christ. I don’t have to be like the servant with one talent, hiding my God-given abilities so that I can fit in with the “cool” Christians. The Bible tells us to take our talents and make them multiply, knowing that while on our own we are nothing, we are made righteous and worthy through Christ.
“..From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Luke 12:48b NIV
To whom much is given, much is expected.
When I was young, I was always the kid asking questions. How can birds fly? Why is the sky blue? Why do jellyfish sting? Why is stealing wrong? What does amen mean? Why should I be kind to people who are mean to me? The list goes on. That talent of simply asking questions got me into some trouble as a kid, but as time went on, it fed into some pretty big dreams of mine. When I graduate with my bachelor’s degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology in a year, God willing, I plan on going to graduate school to earn my Ph.D. I love scientific research because it allows me to do my favorite thing–ask questions. Simply asking questions got me some pretty cool opportunities so far–I’ve hiked mountains in Glacier National Park and explored tropical caves in Guam in search of the answers for my research. It’s been an incredible blessing and journey so far and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Sometimes in the Christian community, though, asking questions gets me into some tricky spots. A lot of Christians don’t like it when they’re asked too many questions, because often times they don’t know the answers. Living and working around so many scientific minds has allowed me to work past this resistance in myself and get into some cool conversations with people who aren’t Christians about Jesus, sin and–my favorite–evolution. It’s funny, though, how sometimes I find conversation about Jesus to be easier with non-Christians than with people who claim Jesus Christ as their savior.
Maybe it’s because as Christians, we think we already know what the gospel is about. We think that because we’ve repented our sins and claimed Christ as our own, we’re good, and we can live our lives in these bubbles without really pushing ourselves to get to know God better. We forget about using our talents and abilities to serve God, reasoning that if we just volunteer in kids’ ministry at church every week, pray for the rude guy in our physics class and go on a mission trip or two with our buddies, that we’ve served enough. We think that if we fulfill that checklist of “good Christian things”, God will still give us a gold star and a pat on the back at the end of the day.
But are we really taking our talents and making them multiply?
Earlier in the year, I applied for close to twenty internships, and was convinced that I would get at least three or four. That wasn’t the case. After receiving rejection letter after rejection letter (one company sent me not one, but two rejection letters by accident), I was convinced that it was just God telling me I needed to stay home for the summer and relax. That wasn’t the case. Two weeks before the end of school, I got a call saying I had been offered a prestigious research internship–in the Mariana Islands. If you don’t know where those islands are, I’ll tell you this–they’re small, remote and on the other side of the world.
My first thoughts were, I’m not ready. I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. My best friend was fighting cancer and was close to the end of his life. I felt disconnected and detached from my friends and family. I had just failed another organic chemistry test. I just felt so inadequate.
But I prayed about it. I prayed, cried a little, and prayed some more. As a result, I started to feel this unexplainable peace in my heart whenever I thought about my decision. I somehow knew that I was supposed to accept.
A good friend of mine told me recently that God doesn’t use adequate people to share the gospel, rather, he uses people who are horribly inadequate in order to highlight our need for the gospel. For example–Moses. This guy had a speech impediment, hated crowds and was scared of everything (hey, like me!), and yet God used him to lead a nation out of slavery.
After accepting my internship offer, I thought things would be smooth sailing from there on out–hey, I listened to God’s will, I’m using my talents to serve Him and share the gospel with people in a third-world country who have never heard it, I should be good, right?
Wrong. I won’t get into too many details (that is literally a whole entire blog post in itself), but my internship was one of the most challenging and harrowing experiences of my entire life. At the beginning, I felt like giving up every single day, and a handful of times I almost quit. Through my grief from losing two close friends, the challenges of being in a new environment, and dealing with danger on a daily basis, God used me in ways I never thought possible. He grew me, stretched me, and pushed me way outside of my comfort zone every day. I went to sleep praying and I woke up praying. I grieved with two coworkers who had also recently lost loved ones and really understood what they were going through. I shared the gospel with skeptical roommates. I took a step back from the hustle and bustle of daily life and questioned my purpose. I dove into God’s word without the distraction of my phone, computer or of school. I used my talents for God’s glory, and I saw them multiply.
The events of this past year have caused me to take a step back and look at how I am using my talents for God’s glory. Am I making excuses? Am I playing the victim? Am I taking God’s forgiveness for granted? Am I getting so comfortable with my daily routine that I’m ignoring God’s calls to go and serve Him?
Here’s a challenge for you in the coming days: Push yourself outside of your comfort zone so much that you become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Share the gospel without reserve. Have great conversations about Jesus with people you don’t know that well. Don’t be afraid of what anybody else thinks. Chase your God-given dreams with no regrets. Don’t try to be normal–stand out. Make people wonder why you live with abandon. If you take your talents and make them multiply, you’ll be blessed in more ways than you can ever imagine.
To whom much is given, much is expected, so start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.