Be All You Can Be – Be Yourself
When Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, there something feels familiar about the three men described.
Do you recognise the first two guys in the parable? Do you know their type?
Always do their homework and have it in on time. Never had a late library book. Never lose their mobiles. Always punctual. Never lose a friend’s CD.
All good things of course.
Car is always clean, inside and out. Lawns always neatly trimmed. Bills paid on time.
Can you think of a cartoon character who might be a little like this?
Ned Flanders. He gives us all a bad name. He is the stereotype of Christianity that billions of people see world-wide each year. For those who know no better, he is the face of pious, obsequious, self-righteous Christianity.
The other guy, number three man, is the other extreme. He is a user. Armed with shovel in hand, he ducked for cover when there was a chance to not succeed.
He spent his whole life evading responsibility, making excuses. He is George from Seinfeld.
No confidence, paranoid, no healthy self-love, blaming others for how he is, prefers the coffee shop to the job search.
And how extraordinary of Jesus to use a short-story to paint people in extremes – Ned versus George.
But of course that is what a story-teller does. He paints characters in bold purples and yellows to attract attention. Jesus tells these stories to shock people.
He tries to shake up people who spiritually have gone to sleep, because they think they know it all.
I remember teaching some year 12 girls at a private Christian girl’s school about a parable of Jesus’. They said, ‘Oh we did that in Year 8.’
No further elucidation could be possible. All wrapped up.
This parable in Matthew 25 is Jesus’ verbal electric cattle-prod into the soul. It is meant to shock, challenge, and wake us up.
But why did he tell it?
Because, and remember this is towards the end of Jesus’ time on earth, He could see some people missing out on the opportunity to know Him and see God in Him and through Him.
The third guy in this parable shows us about wasted opportunities, and challenges the reader: What do you do with what God gave you?
But let’s back up a little first. We must clearly note that the servants only had what the master gave them.
They had nothing themselves. It all depended on the master. That tells us that the master is generous. He is giving and seeks benefit for himself and his servants. So too is the Lord generous. Every good thing we have comes from the Lord. The home you live in, the voice you sing with, the brain that imagines, writes, draws, remembers exam times, and gifts from God.
Thank God for every good thing He has given. For life in this country, rather than Syria, Sudan or Bangladesh. Do what you can for the needy in those countries and show your gratitude for what you have.
Like in the parable, every good thing comes from the Master. He is a kind giver, not at all like the apparent distortions the third servant comes up with.
In the master’s view, some are five talent people, some two (remembering that we are talking about money here, not gifts).
The five and two talent people have done brilliantly. They doubled the boss’ money. He is delighted and gives them a cut.
But the main point of parable focuses upon the other guy.
He didn’t have a lot. He was given one pile of silver or gold – what would he do with it? He had been given an opportunity like the others.
He could prove to his master that he could rise above the little faith the master had in him through giving one talent to him. It was a generous chance to break the stereotype. To step out. To go to the bankers and invest. He might not double his money. These days he might end up paying the bank and government taxes. But one thing crippled him.
In verse 25 it mentions fear. ‘I was afraid.’
He had built up such a distorted picture of the master that the master became what the servant feared. Fear can cripple our lives.
There is a car sticker that says, ‘No fear’. There is another that says, ‘No fear, no brains’.
Fear at patting the Doberman with the white-pointed teeth is good sense. Fear at getting into a car with a drunken friend, is common sense. But a life attitude of fear is not.
Fear can make you reach for the shovel and bury the future.
Fear God and nothing and no one else.
Some of you would know that I undertook an exchange with a minister from Cambridgeshire in England in a few years ago. As we contemplated our plans, Bali happened and then Bin Laden’s tape and all those threats were released. We had to decide, do we allow this man’s threats intimidate us and cancel our plans.
We felt the Lord say, ‘If you trust me when life is relaxed and the swimming pool warm, then even more so when threats and dangers come.’
Jesus is Lord and no-one else. So we were quite at peace and proceeded. The Lord seemed to say, ‘Do not bury the future in the ground because of fear, but see it is as a precious gift. And double its value through what you do with it.’
You see this parable is ultimately about delighting God, not about not disappointing him.
It is about pleasing him, about being bold for him. Using what you have been given to benefit the Lord, yourself and others.
The other thing that often goes with fear is a lack of self-confidence. Fear leads to it. For much of my earlier life I was crippled by it.
When I became a committed Christian in Year 12, a year when many look to the Lord with some anxiety, I told the Lord I would do whatever he wanted me to do with my life, so long as I would never have to speak in public. I learnt from this that it never pays to tell the Lord what you are not going to do.
But it was as I faced my fear and lack of confidence that the Lord showed, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ and I seldom looked back.
Or when I entered theological college and had to take up a qualification, I took up the lowliest diploma I could find, an L. Th. (a Licentiate in theology), because like the third guy I thought I would fail. Then I discovered that I liked study and occasionally passed some subjects, until the college had to kick me out in the end to get some work out of me.
If you don’t feel confident, let me tell you that it will come as you go. And as your learn from succeeding in small ways, God will give you bigger ways to go as well. Handle the one talent level of trust in the Lord and he will give you more and your confidence will grow and grow.
Put away the shovel and get out there with what God has given you.
He has invested greatly in you through Jesus Christ. He believes in you so much and wants you to accomplish all you can in the time He gives you, with what He has entrusted to you. Things like your time, ability, brains, and the capacity to build up other people and in turn yourself.
He wants you to be all you can be. Don’t waste your time complaining about being given the one talent, or gloating at being a five talent person.
The Lord just wants you to be all you can be, with all that He has given you. Don’t compare, just be who you are in Christ, and the Lord will help you to be content. Don’t worry about how many talents the others have. You have received from the Lord too.
He has placed you in this moment of time as you are, because he needs you to be yourself.
He wants you to love, obey him and be all you can be so that when the time of His coming arrives, you can hear the words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, come enter my joy.’
By George Robert Iles