While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
“He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
“The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
“His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
“Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
“His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
“Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
“‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.
As a teenager I was a football obsessive, watching it, reading about it in magazines, playing and fantasising about it. Of course, I was nothing like my superheroes, in fact, I was nothing like the best players in my school or even my class. I was a four talent footballer, a bit better at rugby – perhaps six talents, but I was always surrounded by others with eight, nine or ten talents. I was also surrounded by one, two and three talent players but that’s another picture.
The point is I never compared myself to the lesser talents and thought ‘Oh, I’m ok at this game’. I always looked at the biggest and the best and thought, ‘They are really good but I’m pretty rubbish’.
When I started following Jesus it was exactly the same. I was in a big Christian youth group. I was good with the God talk but not so good at the walk. There were always others who were nicer, kinder, more prayerful and less screwed up than me. The same thing happened when I became a young vicar, an older vicar and even now when I am a pretty ancient vicar. There are always others who are wiser, more peaceful, less angry and more Godly. I seem to be permanently living as a four to six talent person surrounded by superstars.
Actually this story is not about giving us marks. Jesus is not a judge in ‘Strictly Come Christian’, holding up a notice board and commenting on our footwork. He is an encourager, not a ‘pointer-outer’. That is to say whether we are very talented or have lesser things to offer he welcomes all of us as fellow Kingdom builders.
It is about every one of us offering, giving, trying, doing and never burying. How much of our precious lives have we buried whilst lying on a sofa, watching rubbish telly, or endlessly flickering away on our phones? How many hours have been frittered away? How much action put into the non-action bin and creative, wonderful, truth-seeking thinking been put to sleep while we meandered aimlessly through so much YouTube nonsense? So stop burying and start living, doing and thinking.
In his ’12 Rules for Life’ Jordan Peterson, the ultimate God-father of all self-improvement gurus, warns us never to compare ourselves to others, we will always come off badly. Instead compare yourself to yourself as you were twelve months ago. Even if you are a one talent person see how your one talent has become better, deeper, richer and more golden. Be encouraged rather than discouraged, built up rather than brought down and taken forward rather than taken to task.
So can you work out one clear talent that God has given you?
Help me to be the person you have made me,
To use the talent you have given me,
To reflect the light you have shone on me,
And to live the life you have opened for me.