When thinking about talents, the first Bible story that comes to my mind is Christ’s Parable of the Talents (found in Matthew 25:14–30). Throughout our lives, we often ponder on our calling and talents. We might always compare ourselves to others, or we might feel our goal is to be better than others.
I’m sure we can agree that one of the biggest struggles during our teenage years is to find who we are or how to fit in with the people around us. For some people, that might mean hanging out with a specific type of friend group, or for others, it might mean having to gain academic approval from others.
For me personally, worrying/doubting too much about my talents and comparing myself to others is something that keeps me from doing my best, joyfully and willingly, for God and God alone.
The Ancient Greek word for ‘talent’ is ‘talanton’ (τάλαντον, meaning ‘scale’ or ‘balance’). At that time, this word was used as a unit of measurement, weighing approximately 36kg. As a unit of currency, one talent was worth about 6,000 denarii (scholars believe this to be worth around 600,000 USD). A denarius was the usual payment for a day's labour. In simpler terms, a person who owned one talent of money would have been very well off.
So, we can see that a talent was worth a lot back then. But like Jesus’ parable, when we talk about talents nowadays, we talk about ability or expertise. And yes, being talented nowadays is still something very treasured.
The Parable of the Talents
In the Bible story of the Master who gives his servants talents, we can see it as God who gives His servants (us) different amounts of talents. The servant who was given five talents came back with another five new talents, and the servant with two talents came back with two new talents. But the servant that was given one talent hid that talent and only came with excuses as to why he did not put that one God-given talent to work.
When we feel like we aren’t as talented or don’t have as many opportunities as the people around us, we grow too lazy or ashamed, stopping us from working the talents that God has given us. When asked why we do this, we might also give a whole list of excuses to prove that we are in the right.
Oftentimes, we feel like our worth is based on our talents or capabilities (especially when compared to other people). As cliche as it sounds, we need to understand that our worth does not come from our ‘performance’ or others’ opinions. God does not need our help, and pleasing people doesn’t do us anything good in the long run.
The only way to find our worth is in Christ, learning that He has first loved us and that we don’t need to achieve any worldly things to gain His acceptance.
Learning to trust in God
When the unfaithful servant gave his master excuses as to why he did not put his talents to work, he said, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.” (Verse 24-25).
The Bible does not explicitly state why the unfaithful servant did not work out his talents, but we can infer it is because of his proud heart. And, of course, we’re not any different. The servant might not have necessarily been jealous of the other two servants, but it is more likely that he was indulging himself in self-pity (not that I’m condoning self-pity either — jealousy and self-pity are both matters of the heart that we must take to God).
The problem was that the unfaithful servant did not trust his master. He was not happy with his single talent and felt like he deserved more. I think it’s very important for us to remember that God does not owe us anything. As sinners, it is more than enough that Christ died for us — what more can we ask for? God is not obliged to give us all the trivial things we want, and we do not have the right to expect God to give every human an equal amount of talents.
Truthfully speaking, if we were given a single talent, we might have been thankful and happy to work it out. However, like the unfaithful servant, when we see our friends with two or five talents, then we feel ashamed, and we bury our talent.
Have we been burying our talents?
Do you know what your talents are? While we’re still young and exploring ourselves, it is worth learning different things to see what we enjoy and show talent in.
When talking to my different friend groups, be it school or church friends, we often end up on the same topic — talents and God’s direction for our lives. Some of us might be at that age where questions like “What do you want to do after high school?” or “Which university are you going to go to?” start popping up from the people around us.
While we’re faced with the struggle and expectation to already know exactly what we want to do in the future, it’s important to remember that God has a plan for all of us. There is no such thing as a person that God does not love. Similarly, there is no one that does not have any talents — we just have to work to find what our talents are, with the help and guidance from God.
Like what we know from the Parable of the Talents, it is wrong not to work out our talents. We cannot simply say that we are talentless and bury all the potential talents that we have. And even if we think we lack talents, we still have the responsibility to work on the few talents that we may have.
Talents as a God-given grace
Lastly, I’d like to remind us all that we are created uniquely and perfectly, according to God’s image. Every person has different talents, hence why we mustn’t compare ourselves to others. After understanding how precious talents are, we must not put them to waste. God expects us to use all the power that we have to use and work the talents that He has given to us joyfully and willingly.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith.Romans 12:6