This morning, I read the parable of the talents that is found in Matthew 25:14-30.
When I have heard sermons based on this passage, the emphasis has always been on not wasting the resources that you’ve been given. This is indeed the most obvious lesson from this parable.
In the context of the church, we learn from Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 that we have all been given gifts that are to be used to build up the church. These gifts should be developed and not wasted.
But, this morning another emphasis struck me. The three different servants were given three different levels of opportunity. One got five talents, one got two and the third got only one.
In the west, and particularly in America, our culture tells us that we can be anything that we want to be. All we have to do is put in the effort and never quit. This ethos is helpful in that it shakes off artificial norms and helps people be the best that they can be at their chosen calling.
But, that same ethos can lead to frustration when there is a gap between what we desire and what we are able to achieve. Not everyone can achieve all of their cherished goals in life.
In our parable, it was the master who determined how the resources were doled out. The three servants didn’t get the opportunity to help in the decision making process. The servants were not pitching ideas as to how the resources were to be allocated.
I find encouragement in this. There are things that I would like to do but are prevented from doing for one reason or another. This does not take the Master by surprise. The opportunities are under his control and not mine.
Ramon Presson outlines three comparison traps that are “guaranteed to set us up for discontentment. They are:
- What I have now vs what I should have
- What I have now vs what I once had
- What I have vs what others have
God is the one who controls our opportunities and resources like the master controlled how the talents got distributed. Things often don’t work out how we would like them to. It is when things don’t work out that we are susceptible to the comparison traps listed above.
The antidote to the comparison traps is to take comfort in the fact that if your dream remains beyond your reach, it is not a surprise to God. If you feel that your talent is being wasted, take it to God in prayer to see how he wants to work in you through the frustration.
My experience is that God uses my circumstances to reveal to me how out of whack my priorities are. My frustration is usually due to pride or selfishness, neither of which are things that God will tolerate or support.