Authored by Steve Hearts
I personally believe each of us is created with at least one talent. It’s likely that we possess several talents, including those we may have not yet discovered.
Two definitions of the word “talent” found in the Free Dictionary are: “A natural endowment or ability of superior quality,” and “A variable unit of weight and money used in ancient Greece, Rome, and the Middle East.”
This second definition helps us understand the story Jesus told in Matthew 25:14–28 about the master who called three of his servants and gave each of them a certain number of talents. When the master returned from a journey, the first and second servant both showed him what they had gained from their investment and were duly rewarded. The third servant, having buried his talent in the ground instead of investing it, simply returned it to his master and was sternly rebuked. The talent was then taken from him and handed to one of his fellow servants.
This story shows us not to bury the talents God has given us. Yet, when reflecting on my own lessons and experiences, I came to realize that it is also possible for us to be buried by these same talents, if we are not careful.
The talents God gives each of us, however many or few they may be, are meant to serve as tools to help us fulfill our calling or passion. The danger occurs when we allow ourselves to be so driven by these talents that the virtues of the heart and soul are buried—such as love and humility.
There was a time when my musical talents became so prominent in my life that I forgot the purpose for which they’d been given to me. I focused so intently on improving my musical skills that I forgot all about my initial goal of using music to bring people to Jesus. When called upon to perform or participate in musical programs, I wished to impress people with my talents rather than minister to those who heard my music. I was often proud and conceited—looking down on others who appeared less talented than I was. The more important virtues of the heart were all but forgotten.
When I was 15, much to my delight, I played percussions in a series of benefit concerts during the Christmas season. These events were organized to feed the homeless, as well as minister to them spiritually. On this particular day, the music crew had practiced for several hours in preparation for the program that evening. I had eaten little and was starving. Some delicious sandwiches were being prepared and I was looking forward to grabbing a few after the program. After all, I figured, I deserved it, being one of the “stars” of the show.
When the time came, I found that my mother had given my sandwiches to a poor lady who had not made it to the serving line in time. Though I knew Mom had done the right thing, I wasn’t happy about it and I told her so. My mom replied with, “That sandwich is probably the best and the most that that poor lady has had to eat in a long time.”
I immediately felt ashamed of myself. I was so focused on myself and what I felt I deserved in recognition for my hard work that I had all but forgotten about the needs of those who were less fortunate than me.
I’m reminded of a drama story I heard as a boy. It tells of a young lawyer who was nominated by the U.S. president for a position as ambassador to Great Britain. He was extremely proud of his “important” status—in particular, the fact that his ancestors were among those who first came from England to America on the Mayflower. Although he had rivals for the position as ambassador, he was confident that the position would be his.
When he met with the president for an interview, he made disdainful remarks about other countries and their cultures. The president replied, “I see you have not altered your views any over the years.”
“What do you mean?” asked the man.
The president then proceeded to remind him of the day their paths had crossed several years before on a public street car. Fresh out of law school, the man sat in his seat sulking over the lack of more sophisticated transportation. Just then two Irish immigrants boarded the street car. One of them was a laundress, carrying a heavy basket of clothes. She looked tired and worn. Her companion approached the lawyer and requested that he give his seat to the laundress. He rudely refused, suggesting that if these women had a mind to go anywhere, it be back to their own country.
The president and his wife, having witnessed the exchange from their seats in the rear of the car, both stood up and offered their seats to the two women.
Now seated with the president, the man said, “I fail to see what the events of that day on the street car have to do with my appointment as ambassador to Great Britain.”
“I’m afraid,” said the president, “they have everything to do with it.” He then dismissed him, and on the appointed day, the position that was so coveted by this lawyer was given to one of his rivals.
A tale is also told of Saint Francis of Assisi being approached one day by some men who asked him how he’d come to accomplish so much for the Lord. He answered by telling a story:
One day, God instructed His angels to look for a man to carry out His work. They did so and found a very capable and learned man with all the seemingly necessary qualifications. But God did not accept their choice—knowing that people would think it was this man’s capability that made him useful instead of recognizing God’s power working through him. He sent the angels out once again to look for an insignificant man. They searched and searched, but found none.
Finally God sent the angels in search of one who was despised in the eyes of men. Such a man was found, and the choice was approved by God, who said, “Since he is nothing in his own eyes and in the eyes of others, he will truly glorify Me.”
Francis concluded by saying, “I was that man.”
Whether you consider yourself talented or lacking in talents, you can always work to hone the true talents and virtues of the heart—such as love, humility, and service. After all, these are of much greater importance to God. And if you’ve been blessed with talents that are considered more “showy,” you can use them for the benefit of others and to glorify the One above. Don’t allow your talents to bury you; use them to lift others up.
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International