1 Thessalonians 4:9-11
As for loving our brothers, there is no need for anyone to write to you about that, since you have learnt from God yourselves to love one another, and in fact this is what you are doing with all the brothers throughout the whole of Macedonia. However, we do urge you, brothers, to go on making even greater progress and to make a point of living quietly, attending to your own business and earning your living, just as we told you to.
Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.
‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”
‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’
Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter
The workplace is great for character building. How we behave when we’re under stress, how we handle bad situations, how we deal with failure. It’s all there! And perhaps more than any other place, this is where we show our true colors. To deflect the focus from our own failure, we like to cook up all manner of excuses. We were not given the resources. Our deadlines were too tight. Our colleagues were not team players. My personal favorite in fact, is the one that’s most commonly used – “My boss is so stubborn, there’s no point talking to him because he never listens”. Those of us who lead teams know what I’m talking about. It is always the boss’ fault.
In the Parable of the Talents, the more interesting character is of course, the Third Servant. Failure is a great teacher and in a lot of ways, the Third Servant mirrors our own selves. How? He was an idle fellow. He had the resources, he had the time and he had the means to do something about it – but he did not. We know that we can get that way when we’re given projects we don’t like to do. We complain about how hard it is, how we’re ‘concerned about the risks’. We complain – but we don’t seek solutions for it. His excuse for idleness? “I was afraid so I hid your money in the ground” (Matt 25:25). Often we use fear as a shield to mask what is really inertia and plain laziness.
He squandered his time. The master of the house gave the three servants ample time to make good on their capital. Time is one of the resources at our disposal that is least appreciated. We think we have so much of it, then lo and behold, we celebrate our 40th birthday and realize that our days are nearing an end. Still we continue to put off going to church, we procrastinate with our work for His ministry, as if oblivious to that ticking clock – ‘Next week Lord, I’ll do it next week’. Then weeks turn into months, and months turn into years. Before we know it, our time is up and we have to give our reckoning to the ‘master of the house’.
He had a bad attitude. I’ve always found this line a bit disturbing, like it doesn’t belong in the verse. But as I’ve grown older and observed myself in the workplace, I’ve realized what it refers to. “Master I know you are an exacting man. You reap what you have not sown and gather what you have not invested”. The third servant is essentially saying, “I don’t want to work for you because I don’t respect you”. How many of us have left jobs because we have grown disillusioned by the quality of leadership? We might not respect them but this is the path we have chosen. We should walk it despite our irritation. Similarly, a few bad eggs in a ministry don’t spoil the whole church, but some of us use that as a reason to walk away. Is that justified?
Examine our hearts today. Don’t we seem more like the Third Servant than the First or Second? “To those who have, more will be given, so that they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them” – Matt 25:29. Our talents and circumstances are on borrowed time from God. We should try to make the most of them while they’re still available to us. It’s use it or lose it after all!
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for a willing and fearless attitude towards both our jobs and our responsibilities within the ministry. God only asks that we be faithful in small things, He will take care of the rest.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our colleagues at work and within God’s ministry who soldier on despite their deep dissatiscation.