In Matthew 25, Jesus tells what is known as the parable of the talents. In an attempt to keep this post reasonably short, I’ll summarize it:
A man is going on a journey. Prior to leaving, he gives all his possessions, including a varying number of “talents,” to his servants to tend in his absence. (A talent is a measure of weight, I believe representing grace, – the influence of the Holy Spirit. I first heard this from Dan Gochnour). After a long time, the master returns. He calls a meeting with his servants to review his affairs. The one who had five talents had labored and gained 5 more. The one with two had labored and gained two more. The one with one talent hid it in the ground in fear, and hadn’t gained anything. The master was pleased with the first two servants, and rewarded them with more trust and responsibility in His kingdom. The fearful servant had his one talent taken and given to the one with ten, and he was cast into “outer darkness.”
Here’s one thing I found interesting: the master in this story didn’t directly order these servants to gain more talents. So, the two profitable servants labored to gain more talents simply because they wanted to please the master and make him wealthier. As we will see, the primary difference in the unfaithful servant was his fear-based perception of the master. Ironically, he ends up being rejected because of his fear! Here’s his explanation for failing to produce a profit: 24 …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.” (Matthew 25, ESV)
“I knew you to be a hard man” is the main excuse this servant gives for his failure to produce. This phrase could translate: “My perception of you is that you are a harsh, stern man…” I think his perception was such because he never had any real intimacy or relationship with the master. Notice also, he accused the master of a history of expecting yields where he had made no investment: “reaping where you did not sow.” It therefore seems he didn’t trust that the talent (measure of grace/Holy Spirit) the master had given him was capable of producing an increase. This mistrust, perhaps more than anything, dishonored and offended the master. More could be said, but the bottom line is this – the unprofitable servant was self-focused and didn’t truly care about the master’s affairs.
The unprofitable servant chose to keep his one talent in the ground. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable about seed, representing God’s word, being planted in various types of ground. Only one plot of ground yields mature fruit. Jesus explains that understanding is the key to God’s word bearing fruit. I believe “ground” represents a fundamental, basic mindset or way of perception. Remember, the Kingdom of God is within you and I. So, the ground within you and I is the seedbed of our heart which God’s word enters. Our ground will either nurture the seed into mature fruit, or somehow hinder and render it useless.
The fearful servant’s ground, from his own mouth, was this: “the master is a harsh and stern man, and expects more than He rightfully should.” I believe this common mindset caused him to cling to and hide what little he had been given, rather than use it. Do you see the application? Seeing God through a lens of fear and mistrust will hinder you from going out and using the influence of the Holy Spirit He’s given you to gain more. It will keep you stuck in the same place. TRUST Him. Seek and ask Him. And get to work using what He’s given you, large or small. Amen.