Mobilized By Attitude or Magnitude?
The perfect example of the command to invest is the parable of the talents (money). It turned out that the servants were not at liberty to choose whether they would set to work or not. The reason they were given the talents was to invest.
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
“But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
“His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed.”—Matthew 25:14-26.
There are many things to learn from this parable. One of them is that people tend to be mobilised by what they perceive to be the size of their assignment and the weight of their starting capital. The bigger the size of the assignment, the more a person would be mobilised to hit the road. This is what I call ‘Grandeur Syndrome.’ Nevertheless, if we take lessons from life generally, we will appreciate the fact that the starting capital doesn’t put a limit to what one can grow into. The one who got two talents didn’t surpass in profits the one who got five talents. This was the same with the one who got one talent—in fact, he was not mobilized at all. Going by the trend, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he invested and made only one more talent. We shouldn’t be satisfied that this trend shown here—that is, five makes five more; two makes two more, etc.—should be the norm. Though Jesus did not reprimand those who at least did something, this trend was not perfect. We will come back to put this into perspective using the parable of the pounds in Luke 19:12-20 later.
This parable (Matthew 25:14-26) implies the kind of attitude the servants attached to the magnitude of their assignments. There was no reason to expect the one who got five talents to get ‘only’ five more; the same applies to the one who got two talents. The best attitude is to refuse to let the size of the talent limit what we can do. The secret for success does not depend on the amount of the starting capital. Rather, it depends on the diligence, persistence, patience and enthusiasm with which one sets upon his work. Did you know that there was all the possibility for the one who got one talent to make more profit than the one who got five? It is important to remember that one’s departure point doesn’t dictate one’s destination.
We saw in the above scripture that each was given according to his ability. We must remember though that abilities don’t remain the same if we exercise. For example, the one who got five talents could only manage five talents at the beginning, but by the time the master came back, his ability had grown to manage ten.
Some few months after getting saved, I was called upon to preach to about 500 high school students. I was so intimidated that I had no nerve to go preach to that ‘big’ crowd. I declined. If I was called upon to preach to a small number, say ten, I would have taken up the offer. If I was to continue preaching and each time the number increased slightly, it would just have been a question of time before I grew into preaching to a big multitude.
The above parable takes into account this level of ability, that is, we are not given more than we can handle for a start. If I was to fit in the above parable, I would be given ten people to start with, for example. As long as the multitude grew in my watch, my ability would grow with it.
It is wrong to save what is meant to be invested. It is a serious thing to do. It is not enough to give back exactly what you were given for a start. If it was given for purposes of investment, the profit will be required—nei, demanded. That is the essence of giving an account. The Bible says that everybody will give an account before God, that means everybody is a steward. We better find out what our talents are and what our resources are and then set to work.
And now let us look at the parable of the pounds.
“… A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
“Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin.”—Luke 19:12-20.
Unlike Matthew talking about different amounts of talents given out to three servants, each according to his ability, Luke is talking about ten servants and ten pounds. It is safe to conclude that these servants were not working in a team. This conclusion is plausible because when the master came back, each servant gave personal rather than collective account. From that, we can further assume that each servant got a pound.