In Matthew 24 and 25 Jesus talks about the end of time. He provides a warning that our actions here on earth will dictate what happens to us after death. He clearly states that we should be prepared because we will not know when the time is and being prepared means don't waste the life you've been given.
When Christ talks about not squandering what we've been given, He uses the parable about the master who goes on a journey and empowers his servants with talents (a form of money) to manage his property while he is away.
14 For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
The line "Then he went away." Is like God giving us free will. God provides us with amazing gifts and talents in life and then gives us freedom to make choices through free will. Are we going to use our gifts and talents or chose a path that might look immediately more gratifying? This is often where we go down a path away from God and begin to explore and choose things that might be instantly gratifying but in the long term destructive or at least misrepresented as good and then when we discover it isn't, we are so far in, its hard to turn around.
16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 7 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.
So how did they succeed? We can infer the Master knew his servants well and knew their strengths because he differentiated them by giving them different amounts based on what they could reproduce. But we also see that the servants must know the master well to know what is expected while he is away.
Think about a relationship in your life where you know the person really well, you truly understand him/her because you've spent time together, listened and experienced things together. When they asked you to do something, do you generally understand what the expectation is for you to complete what they are asking? Maybe they've asked you to do it before, or you've seen them do it themselves. It might be like taking care of their dog.
They show you what food the dog likes and where they like to be scratched behind the ear and when you are watching the dog while they are away you feed the dog their favorite food and scratch them behind the ear so the dog is very happy and well fed when your friend gets home. It is the same between this master and his two servants. And it’s the same between God and us. God has given us His son, Jesus, so we can know him through His word and actions. So when He blesses us with strengths, we have guidelines and a teacher to better understand how to use them because we know the purpose for which He created those strengths.
We also gain a sense of fulfillment in knowing that we are doing the work we were designed to do. When you’ve done a good job watching your friend’s dog or completing something you are good at doing, how do you feel?
But what happens when we don't understand our strengths, or we don't know God? We are like the third servant:
18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.
And this is how the Master responded in comparison to the first two servants who understood him:
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
Let's look at this a little closer. The third servant saw an action the master took but didn't clearly understand the meaning behind it. Because he didn't know the master and understand his motives, it was not clear how he should act. He reflected on what he saw the master do but failed to understand the meaning so made some bad assumptions and acted in fear. The result is that he held himself back from the reward.
What in your life are you holding yourself back from because of an assumed fear? Is it getting to know God? Is it taking a chance on a new job or asking someone out? The action may be different, but the outcome is the same: a life less lived and a feeling of wanting more.
The master even teaches the servant who is fearful to stop looking at the fear and look at what he sees and put it into action. In this case, even if the servant does not understand the Master's meaning behind what he did, he would still be better off than if he acted in fear.
26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
Another way the master may say it today could be:
If you saw what I did, why did you not do what I did? You could have invested the money to gain interest where you did not work for it. If you do nothing, you reap nothing.
If you act in fear, you hold yourself back. The same thing happens with the strengths we have been given.
28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.
How often do we see others given opportunities and take them without fear and continue to prosper? Yet, we continue to make the same decisions driven by a known or unknown fear?
The good news is that God did not design us for a fear driven life. He has given us the strengths we need to live a life for Him so when He comes again, we will be given the reward of the ten talents. But we are also impacted in this life with a sense of fulfillment in doing his work.
Our free will choices and desire for instant gratification or immediate relief has caused greater confusion and walls in our lives.
The even better news is that the talents and strengths that God has empowered in us are alive and well and waiting to be used. The path to a life that is fulfilled with the greatest potential is possible. I found it through knowing God through his son, Jesus Christ.