Parable of the bags of gold
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey . . . His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
In my first year at the Adventist University of São Paulo (UNASP), the communications course coordinator stepped into my classroom and enthusiastically conducted a quick survey with all the journalism students.
“Just to get an idea, who here would work for the Church?” he asked.
I don’t know if you have ever struggled with deciding whether you should dedicate your professional talents and skills exclusively to the Church. But for me, it was a big no.
Most of my classmates were really excited about the possibility of working at Novo Tempo TV, the “Brazilian Hope Channel” after graduation. Even some of the students who were not Adventists demonstrated interest.
In Brazil, there are also other exciting possibilities for Adventist communicators across the country—in the publishing house and several media centres in conferences, unions and the Division.
But none of them sounded appealing to me. I remember making sure not to raise my hand after the coordinator’s question as a clear manifestation of how uninterested I was in working for the Church. I just couldn’t see professional success in doing so.
In my 17-year-old head, I envisioned myself as an accomplished journalist working for the secular media producing thought-provoking documentaries and possibly becoming an international correspondent. How could I accomplish that working for the Church?!
While he was pointing out some of the possibilities, I could only think, “who would be crazy enough to waste their talents working for an institution that doesn’t pay so well and has very low professional recognition?”
Plot twist: me.
I did get to produce a “thought-provoking documentary” that was awarded and aired on national television as my major final project for university. But between my first and last years of uni, many things happened, and I started to understand that my talents would cause a more significant impact when applied towards the kingdom instead of for my own recognition and ambition.
Jesus actually tells a parable in Matthew 25:14-30 where we learn that we will be held accountable for how we’ve made use of the talents He’s given us.
Before we continue, I’d like to note a few things. I’m not suggesting that we should all be working for the Church in order to be saved and save others. Some people can do even more for the kingdom through a personal ministry or their personal testimony in their workplace and other spheres of influence. Others can use their talents to achieve financial success and also support the mission in that way.
But the thing is, are we using our talents to really do that?
This parable can have many interpretations. Some people say that when Jesus talks about the talents given to the servants, He wants to teach us that we should be good stewards with our money—given the fact that in the New Testament, a talent was a value of money or coin. Other people say that He used the unit of measurement, actually referring to faith.
But regardless of what He meant by talents—money, faith or skills—the lesson is the same: we were given something by our Creator, and we need to use it well. Even if we think it’s not much.
Each according to their own ability
At the beginning of the parable, in verse 15, Jesus says that each of the servants were given amounts of talents according to their abilities. One servant received five talents because his master knew he would be capable of using and growing those five talents.
God knows you and He’s never going to ask from you more than you can give. And there are endless stories in the Bible that prove that. He will probably ask you to get out of your comfort zone, which will be far from easy. But we have the assurance He will be with us every step of the way.
When God called Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt, Moses resisted.
“O my Lord, I am not eloquent,” Moses told God in the burning bush. “Neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10).
God, in a drop-the-mic moment, replies, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”
I can only imagine how hard it must’ve been for Moses to face Pharaoh and speak with such stubborn people as the Israelites, while having the speech impediments that many believe he had.
But regardless of how incapable he saw himself or how hard it was to get out of his comfort zone, he did it—with the help of his brother Aaron. In fact, Rabbi Mark Glickman, who is a stutterer himself and has written about Moses and his speech impediment, says that God tells Moses to speak more than 70 times in the Bible.
He makes you able
I remember when I saw the assistant editor position open at Adventist Record. I had been serving as a volunteer in the comms department of the North New South Wales Conference for two years—a big plot twist for someone who didn’t even want to work for the Church.
My husband sent me the link with the position description and said, “you have to apply!” Even though I knew I had good experience and skills, the challenge of doing all that in a different language and culture—now professionally—terrified me.
I couldn’t see myself capable of translating all my knowledge into English. If you speak a second language, you probably understand how challenging it is, especially with writing and creativity.
Then my husband reminded me of what God told Moses. That if He wanted me to work in this position, He would make me able.
As humans, we are full of limitations. But God knows us better than we know ourselves, and He sees something special in each one of us. He gave us talents, and our job is to harness them and bring them to the best level we can.
It’s been almost eight years since my graduation and for all these years, I’ve been “crazy enough” to dedicate my talents and professional life to the kingdom.
I don’t know if like me you’ve resisted the idea of working for the Church. Maybe you’ve been postponing finishing your volunteer application, starting that personal ministry or avoiding responsibilities in your local church. But whatever it is, don’t bury the precious talents that God gave you. Even if like the last servant, you’ve just been given the one talent, use it the best way you can to invest in the mission. The fruits will be priceless and eternal.