Jesus’ famous parable of the talents (Matthew3 25:14-30) is an obvious place to start when talking about stewarding our gifts (or talents). And the obvious application is that God gives us gifts and abilities (some one, some ten), and He expects us to turn a profit on these gifts. They are not the kind of gifts that should sit on the mantel for display. In the parable they are called talents because that was an actual unit of currency at the time. Talents are money. In fact, our word talent comes from the Greek word for money.
Much has been said about how to determine what your spiritual gift is, and it’s possible to stall out right there and never get around to using our gifts because we can’t figure out what they are. But think of the money metaphor again. What ever you’ve got, even if it’s loose pocket change, get going on turning a profit. Move forward by faith.
God has bestowed a gift on each believer, and the purpose of these gifts is to “minister it to one another, as good stewards” (1 Peter 4:10). We are not to let our gifts tarnish in the drawer, but we are to be handling them, industriously using them, blessing others by means of them. Matthew Henry said, “These gifts improve by exercise, and brighten by being used.” We use our gifts and talents for God’s glory and for the good of others, not for ourselves. But the gifts are like perishable food, and if they sit idle, they will rot.
We are called to be “about the Lord’s business” (Matthew Henry again) and “the more we do for God, the more we are indebted to Him for making use of us, and enabling us, for his service.” In other words, it is more blessed to give than receive. As we use our gifts for others, we are doing good to our own souls.
“Stir one another up to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). “Stir up the gift of God which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6). Why do we need so much stirring and prompting? If we have gifts, why are we not always eager to invest them and anticipate a big return? I think we are reluctant because of fearfulness. We might be afraid of success. We might be afraid of failure. Maybe using our gifts and talents will take us right out of our comfort zone. So we bury our talent. We hide our light under a bushel.
The lord in the parable was not pleased with the servant who hid the talent. He was called “wicked and lazy” (vs. 26). It sounds so much better to say we are shy or nervous or “not good at it” than to admit that we are wicked and lazy! The man who buried the talent said, “I was afraid” (vs. 25). But we must remember who spoke this parable. Jesus is the One who called him wicked and lazy. So that’s what’s really at the bottom of our fears after all.
So what kind of gifts and talents do we women, what ever our age, have that we can minister to others? And who are the “others” we are to invest our talents in?
I love that God always lays our duties out right in front of our eyes. He does not play tricks on us, but makes things plain. Do you have abilities? Can you cook or quilt or garden or write or teach or visit a widow or care for the sick? Can you write a note of encouragement or offer counsel? Are the little kids in your neighborhood at your front door asking for a drink of water? Spend some talents. Invest lavishly. Be generous.
Who is right in front of you? Your family is nearest, then your friends and the church community, your neighbors, the unbelievers. You work your way from the center outward. As you use your gifts, God increases your confidence and skill, and gives you more opportunities to use them. Don’t start with those farthest away, though it may sound more glamorous or more “godly.” Start with those right in front of you. They may be the least glamorous, but ministering to them is far more pleasing to God than looking elsewhere. Don’t serve discontentedly. “Be hospitable without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). It turns out this is the verse right before the verse I quoted above (vs. 10). We need to be reminded that serving God is using our hands and gifts in very mundane ways with mundane temptations.
You have talents. What do you do well? Look for opportunities to use your gifts and abilities for the benefit of others. Invest them in people.But what if I look stupid? What if they don’t like the meal I prepared? What if my hospitality isn’t picture perfect? What if I am too shy to invite a stranger home? What if I make a mistake? I’m too old. I’m too young.
These fears and doubts should not succeed in stopping you from using your gifts. You will learn from your mistakes and get better at it. Remember, it’s not really about you, but about the others you are ministering to. Just because you have a gift does not mean you are perfect. You have to be willing to take a risk if you are going to invest your talents. Sometimes you will belly flop. Do you think all the great preachers felt good about every sermon they preached? Did one ever make a mistake or stick his foot in his mouth? They were human after all.
If we use the talents He gives us, He will give us more. If we squander what we are given, He will take away even the little we have. We render our talents, enterprises, and offerings to the Lord. When we use our gift to minister to one another, we are putting our labors on the altar.
So stir yourself up. Be about the Lord’s business.