Salvation is a free gift that we cannot earn, but which we can lose or refuse because God always gives people a choice. Adam and Eve had access to a close relationship with God, but they also had the option to choose sin and death instead. Ancient Israel was asked to choose between “life and prosperity, and death and evil,” and implored to pick life (Deut. 30:15, 19). The Lord is not willing that any should perish (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9), but He also won’t force you into His kingdom. You need to choose, and then act on your choice.
We also can’t say “I choose life” and then keep living as if we chose death. We will be judged by what we do with the gifts given to us by God, and for those in His church today this judgement has already started (1 Pet. 4:17). God is watching us now to see what we do with all the gifts He gives us.
As we think about our relationship with God and examine ourselves as Christians, we all need to ask if we’re doing what God would want us to do with the gifts He’s entrusted us with. That includes examining how we respond to salvation, how we heed and use His Spirit inside us, and whether or not we’re truly following the example of Jesus Christ.
The Parable of The Talents
Shortly before His death, Jesus told a parable that illustrates how important it is for us to do something with the gifts we’ve been given. He compares His absence from earth between His first and second coming to “a man, going to another country, who called his own servants, and entrusted his goods to them” (Matt. 25:14, WEB).
This man divided his goods between his servants, entrusting each with a certain number of talents (a “talent” is measure of weight, typically used for silver, that is equal to 30 kg or 66 lb). This pictures the time that we’re in now as servants awaiting our master’s return. Like the servants in the parable, we’ve each been given gifts “according to his own ability” and must now decide what to do with them (Matt. 25:15).
Immediately he who received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. In the same way, he also who got the two gained another two. But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. (Matt. 25:16-18, WEB)
Each servant made a decision about what to do with the gift. Two tended and increased what they’d been entrusted with, but one put it away out of sight. His problem wasn’t that he’d received less than the others, but that he didn’t respond to what he’d been given in the right way. In a version of this parable recorded by Luke, ten servants are each given equal gifts and the outcome is still the same. Some produce a 10-fold increase, some 5-fold, and some produce nothing at all (Luke 19:11-27).
Accounting For Your Use of God’s Gift
I’ve been using the word “gift” so far to talk about what God has given us, but it’s not quite what we might think of when we typically think of gifts. After God gives salvation, His Spirit, and similar gifts to us they don’t belong to us to do with however we please. “Salvation belongs to Yahweh” (Ps. 3:8), and it’s by His grace that we’re made partakers. It is a gift in the sense that it is freely given, not in the sense that ownership is transferred to us.
The parable of the talents functions the same way. The master gives the servants his goods to hold in trust. They are stewards of something that belongs to another, just as we are “stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10, LEB). Eventually, we’ll be called to account for how we handle that gift.
Now after a long time the lord of those servants came, and reconciled accounts with them. (Matt. 25:19, WEB)
We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. … So then each one of us will give account of himself to God. (Rom. 14:10, 12, WEB)
Growing What You’ve Been Given
As the servants come before their lord, the ones who increased their talents both hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:20-23). It is the most basic principle of stewardship that when God gives you something you’re supposed to take care of it and use it for good, and that’s what these servants did.
Therefore also be ready, for in an hour that you don’t expect, the Son of Man will come. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord finds doing so when he comes. (Matt. 24:44-46, WEB)
Whatever our role in life and in the church, we’re supposed to faithfully follow God in all that we do. We must always live as if today is the day our Lord will call us to account for what we’ve done with the grace, Spirit, life, and every other good gift that He has given us. Receiving the gift isn’t enough. We also have to let it change us.
The servant who hid the talent and gave it back exactly as he received it was not praised. Even though he had what he thought was a good excuse, “his lord answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant’.” At bare minimum, the lord says, this servant should have put the talent in the bank where it could have earned interest. Because the servant didn’t do anything to grow his gift, it is taken away and he is thrown “into outer darkness” (Matt. 25:24-30).
The Need To Bear Fruit
Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves. (James 1:21-22, WEB)
We know words alone can’t save our souls, but this is logos (G3056) — the same Greek word used to describe Jesus as the Word of God (John 1:1-4; Rev. 19:11-13). Putting on Christ and internalizing His words is part of the salvation process. It’s not enough to just hear His words. We also have to act on them.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror; for he sees himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25, WEB)
It’s imperative that what we learn from and about Jesus Christ changes how we live. We don’t want to meet Him someday and hear Him ask, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46, WEB).
Live Like You Value Your Relationship With God
Jesus told us, “In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples. (John 15:8, WEB). If we’re not bearing fruit, it’s a sign that we are not connected to Christ, we are not His disciples, and we are not glorifying God the Father.
We will be judged by how we respond to all God’s gifts, which means we need to ask ourselves some serious questions. Is the holy spirit multiplying in me and you, resulting in good fruit? or do we ignore the gift and risk it being taken away?
I write this post not to scare us or make us feel like we’re failing, but to stir us up (me included). Our God is merciful and will judge us kindly. He just asks that we listen to His word, follow Jesus, and bear good fruit (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 5:9). In short, He wants to see us respond to the gifts He’s entrusted us with in a way that shows how much we value our relationship with Him.
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