Last year, my husband and I took a 10-day trip to sunny California. We were celebrating our 10-year anniversary. We flew to San Francisco and had over a thousand miles racked up on the rental car by the time our trip ended. We roamed all over central California including both Yosemite and Sequoia National Park (hello General Sherman!), and we did it all using only the spare change we’d collected and saved up the previous few years.
Yep, for real. Spare change. Our bank does a specialized savings account aptly called “Change Saver,” in which will collect change rounded up to the nearest dollar from every transaction on your bank card. $3.12 coffee purchase from Starbucks = 88 cents to the Change Saver account, $45.59 Target purchase = 41 cents to the Change Saver and so on. It is very small additions here and there, but the change adds up surprisingly fast.
I would never guess that a few cents here and there could go that far. And when it came time for our trip, I was (obviously) delightfully surprised.
But this is what investment does. It goes to work and multiplies.
I’ve been really challenged these days by the Parable of the Talents, and God keeps bringing me back to our Spare Change Vacation like He’s trying to show me something. The parable is found in Matthew 25 and Luke 19. The Cliffs Notes version is that a nobleman left ‘talents’ (money) for his servants to invest in his interests while he was away; when he returns he discovers the servants had all invested what they were given and turned a profit, except one. This one had buried what he was given because he felt it insignificant; it was only one ‘talent’ and not worth much.
The point of the story is threefold: 1. God is the one who gives us gifts/abilities/resources (‘talent’ is actually the perfect word); we don’t come up with them ourselves. 2. He gave them to us for a reason. In this newly established Kingdom of God, He intends His servants to do the work of the Kingdom on His behalf while He is away preparing a place for us (Matthew 28:18-20; John 14). This is the Church in action, doing what she was made to do. And perhaps the most important is this third point, 3. No talent given by God is insignificant. If He gave it to you – no matter how small you think it is – it has a purpose.
I am challenged by this parable because I too closely identify with the person who buried his one.
For a few reasons. Like you, I have some measly “one” talents. And I have long sensed the nudge of the Holy Spirit to invest them. Sometimes I do, awkwardly. My former anxiety/people-pleasing bent would feel so exposed and embarrassed by the fact that I only hold one talent in this area, as if it were a shortcoming or weakness for which to apologize.Why am I even in this arena? I don’t belong here! And I will be honest, although in a whole new place in regards to anxiety/people-pleasing, the easy access to blow-your-mind-twenty-talent-holders online lies to me on some days to not even bother because even my best efforts can’t hold a candle to that in effectiveness or impact.
Right? Surely I’m not alone in that.
Maybe that train of thought is just insecurity. Maybe it is fear. Still, I can’t seem to shake that nudge to offer certain ‘1 talents’ I’m holding in my hands. I imagine you have sensed that same nudging too.
How do we not bury our ‘1’? What can we do to overcome that sense of inadequacy and simply invest what we have?
One way is to consider that burying the ‘1’ is to overlook the inherent value in the gift God has given. Consider 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, chapters that speak to an inherent purpose and gifting within us all to contribute to the Church. Another is to see how burying the ‘1’is the result of taking our focus off of obedience and onto comparison. 1 Corinthians 3 is a great place to camp our hearts if that’s where we land.
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came
to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos
watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one
who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.8 The one who plants and
the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their
own labor. 9 For we are co- workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
I like how this passage nips comparison in the bud. Apollos and Paul? Big deal! God is the One who makes things grow. But it also reminds us that the work these two men did was assigned to them by God Himself, and that is no small thing. We are co-workers in God’s service. What if we considered our ‘1 talents’ as an actual assignment from God to join in co-laboring with Him? Therein lies its immeasurable value.
This passage also reminds us that the results of our efforts are not our concern. We all have our roles to fill, but none of us are responsible for nor get the credit for the actual increase that occurs in our investing. That belongs to God alone. When we put pressure on ourselves for the outcome, it immediately makes ‘1 talent’ out to seem inadequate. But we can't even begin to guesstimate or quantify the increase God will do with our efforts. He does, after all, “more than we can ask or imagine…” (Ephesians 3:20).
This gives me a sense of relief. My only job is to obey, which means investing my little ‘1talent’.
You know, I’ve gotten to be a fairly decent photographer, which I find comical. I never saw it coming. Photography has served for me as proof of this very principle. I more or less accidentally picked up the skill. I had no interest in it a few years ago. On a scale of one to ten, I would rate my talent quantity at a solid 1. But I decided on a whim to start taking more pictures when my third child was born. I wanted to capture the details of life with littles while they were still in fact little.
I did not care much how good the shots were; I simply did my best with what I knew at the time. I took pictures every day. The more I shot the better I became. My 1 talent quantity multiplied exponentially. Now just a few years later I take photos professionally for families, seniors, babies, weddings. It blows my mind. I wasn’t aiming for this. When I stop to consider the principal of investing our ‘1 talent’, I realize that I only got here in photography by doing the day-to-day work of investing and letting God do the increase. I did not get hung up on fear or comparison. And I cannot help but think, “Wow. This was only my ‘1 talent.’ Just imagine how God could multiply other talents I offer to Him.”
And I also wonder who it is that God might want me to reach or bless by this gift, and how.
I’m trying to remember these things as I determine to bravely and awkwardly step out and offer my ‘1’s.
What is your ‘1 talent’? What are you holding in your hand that you could offer but are assuming that it is not enough? And don’t tell me you don’t have anything at all to offer. God has created no fleshly knick-knacks. Not a single one.
That gift you hold - the assignment from God for co-laboring with Him - is not going to go away; Romans 11:29 tells us that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” The Holy Spirit will be gently nudging your heart to use it for His glory the rest of your days. Allow me to be an echoing voice and challenge you to offer it as well. Volunteer. Join that team. Start that idea. Invite those friends. Ignore the whispers of comparison and doubt and ‘not-enough’. If you hold it in your hand, no matter how small and insignificant it seems, God gave it to you to invest and not bury. It has a purpose. And that purpose can only be discovered once properly invested.
And like spare change, once faithfully invested in the Kingdom of an Ephesians 3:20 God, you may find yourself delightfully surprised in a place much further than you ever thought that measly ‘1 talent’ could go.