If you’ve ever grocery shopped at an Aldi, you know that the shopping carts are nested and chain locked in a corral just outside the door. To spring one out you’ll need a twenty-five cent bond. Pop in the coin, pull on the chain and you get—not a gumball, though every bit as delicious to the bargain hunter—a grocery cart with which you can haul home your organics for about 70 cents on the dollar. I was there today. I fished out the quarter from my change purse before leaving my car. Then, once inside, and with all the anticipation of a storm chaser, I wheeled my cart down the first isle, thrilled to seek out deals round every corner.
I spoke to no one. I kept my eye on the prize. Thirty minutes later, I unloaded 4 large bags in my trunk and held tightly to my prized receipt, again proving to myself that I’m the undisputed champion of money savings. I closed the trunk and turned to herd my cart toward the corral.
A small bent woman was crossing the lot, headed in my direction. She motioned. “I’ll take your buggy.” [Side note: This is good Aldi etiquette. You see a shopper headed to the corral and you’ve a buggy; so you make the trade on the spot.] She held 2 small dimes and a nickel between her tiny fingers. She squinted through the afternoon sun and said, “I’m so glad I saw you. I didn’t have a quarter.”
“Oh, it’s OK,” I say, “You don’t have to pay me for it.”
“No, honey, now you take it.”
So I did. “Thank you. Have a great day!”
I opened my coin purse and dropped her three small coins in with my all my others. All the way home, I can’t stop thinking about her coins.
I remember Jesus’ words: ‘Do business till I come.’ Luke 19:13 NKJV
There are 2 stories running through my head and once my produce is put away, I look them up: The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 and the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19. If you want to skim them, you’ll notice the similarities right away.
The Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30)
For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27)
As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”
I’m familiar with the symbols in these parables. We are the servants and Jesus is the master or nobleman. Jesus has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us but will one day return for us. When he does, we will be accountable for what we have done in this life. (Eph. 2:10, 2 Cor. 5:10, Mt. 16:7, 1Pet. 4:5)
“OK, Lord, you’ve got treasure in here,” I pray. “Help me to find it.”
I open Matthew Henry’s commentary. He contrasts the 2 parables this way:
“This parable [Lk 19 Parable of the Minas] is like that of the talents, Mt 25. Those that are called to Christ, he furnishes with gifts needful for their business; and from those to whom he gives power, he expects service…The principal difference is, that the pound [mina] given to each seems to point out the gift of the gospel, which is the same to all who hear it; but the talents, distributed more or less, seem to mean that God gives different capacities and advantages to men, by which this one gift of the gospel may be differently improved.”
In Luke 19, God’s children have each received the mina (or pound in the KJV), which represents the gospel. All are responsible for sharing it and for making disciples.
In Matthew 25, God’s children have each received talents (different “capacities and advantages”) that make our sharing of the gospel unique.
IN A NUTSHELL:
Many and various talents for uniquely sharing this gospel.
I look up “talent.” One of the definitions:
A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer.
1 talent = about 20 years’ wages
Hmmm. That got me thinking…
What has happened in my life over the last 20 years?
How are these experiences meant to uniquely aid me as I share Christ with others?
When I rewind my life twenty years, I‘m 4-years-married, with an infant, living in Madison, Tennessee. I’ve recently quit my marketing job at LifeWay Christian Resources. Travis and I are trying to make car, housing and medical insurance payments on one self-employed musician’s income. In fact, in 1997—exactly twenty years ago—I have a distinct memory of the three Cottrells (Jack was 4 months old), along with our friends, Benji and Jenna Cowart, and drummer, Brian Barefoot, packed in a van traveling the Florida BSU circuit, singing and playing for college events. We also did a round of FCA camps. We were just stepping out into ministry. Travis had a CD he had recorded in a friend’s bathroom (Window of Mercy); and as keeper of the moneybag, I became business manager. We were Kermit the Frog GREEN. But we gave God our “yes” and off we went.
While I was burping babies and making change at the CD table, God was at work in me. In fact, to quote Henry Blackaby, “God is always at work.” He had been making investments in my life before I was born—the family I was to be born into, the part of the world He ordained for my existence, my collective DNA, my generation, foreknowing my natural and spiritual gifting…But these last twenty years, while I was mostly oblivious, have been profoundly steeped in purpose.
I flip through a mental scrapbook of trials he allowed, neighbors he chose, the friendships he brought, the mentors he assigned. The chronic sickness he entrusted to me; the healing through which he graced me. The regrets and triumphs in my marriage and in my parenting. The heartaches within our collective family. The churches where I worshipped and served, the podcasts to which I’ve subscribed, the cities where I’ve lived. The Sunday School classes, bible studies, worship nights, conferences, home groups, coffee dates with wiser women, Friday morning prayer time with girlfriends. The ministry partnerships where we were hired to lead worship—except God knew we needed to sit on the front row and learn from the likes of T.W. Hunt, Robertson McQuilken, Henry Blackaby, Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, and so many more pastors, teachers and evangelists. The road life with our band and singers who became family to us. Our relationship with LifeWay. The inner healing; the saving; the delivering. The trust I’ve gained, the faith He’s grown, the wisdom imparted, the huge mistakes I’ve made. Christ, whom I’ve come to know and prove—as the old hymn says—over and over.
I was given a minas (the gospel that saved me) at age 7.
I was given a new “talent” these last twenty years.
Twenty years of experience, opportunity, training…relationship with Him.
A weight of His glory.
And since I’m the one writing this, I’ll personalize it and say, “HIS investment in me.” This is my talent whether I’ve valued it as such or not. Whether I can quantify it as 1, 5 or 10, it was given to me that I might do business until He comes. I’m sobered. I could sob and sob.
Most of these last twenty years, I’ve had my head down in survival mode. I was off the road after the birth of our second child. Travis traveled. I ran our ministry office. I wanted to stay home to parent our three wonderfully busy and strong-willed children. I fought an auto-immune disease for many years. There was much warfare surrounding our ministry. I started a Friday morning prayer group out of desperation and I wondered if I when the kids were grown if I would have time to be more involved in Christian service. I didn’t realize at the time that a prayer ministry was being birthed through this crucible, and I was in the middle of boot camp.
“Business” (two of Merriam-Webster’s definitions):
= purposeful activities
= dealings or transactions
So…enough about me. Let’s talk about you. :o)
What purposeful activities have happened in YOUR life these last 20 years? What deposits has the Master made in you? What kingdom transactions are you making
with people all around you? Take a minute to remember where you were in 1997. What about 2007?
How has the Master been investing in your life?
And what kind of return has He been getting on that investment?
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:8
Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “He’s a 10 talent guy.” The biblical model for a 10 talent guy is a 10 talent return. A 10 talent guy or gal who only invests enough to yield 7 more talents—versus a 1 talent gal who invests and yields 1 talent—is coming up short of her potential, even though it looks like she is knocking it out of the park.
In other words, we aren’t smart enough to quantify all of this and then try and compare ourselves to others and see where we rank. So don’t try it. It’s a distraction, waste of time, and honestly a joy-stealer.
Producing a yield in your field is really as simple as listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and following where he leads each day. Simple, daily obedience, not comparison and freaking out is the key. Henry Blackaby said it best in my opinion: “Look to see where God is working and join him there.” How basic. How profound.
You wanna hear something else that will bring a big ol’ sigh of relief? Look back at the word “ability” in Matthew 25:15:
To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one,
to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
The word ABILITY here in the Greek (the language in which the New Testament was originally written) means Power through God’s ability.
1411 dýnamis (from 1410 /dýnamai, “able, having ability“) – properly, “ability to perform” (L-N); for the believer, power to achieve by applying the Lord’s inherent abilities. “Power through God’s ability” (1411 /dýnamis) is needed in every scene of life to really grow in sanctification and prepare for heaven (glorification). 1411 (dýnamis) is a very important term, used 120 times in the NT.
Let’s read the verse again with that definition inserted for the word:
“To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one,
to each according to his power through God’s ability.”
Aren’t we often amazed by the abilities of others and fail to have confidence in our own? But God’s ability is a trump card. It wins every time. Why is God giving me his dýnamis power? He knows I need it to be empowered to do what he has asked. I need his ability to grow in Christlikeness and to have a part in making disciples of those around me.
My power through God’s ability is a game changer.
It’s the only way I’ll hear him say, “Well done good and faithful daughter.”
I don’t want him to give away my influence or opportunity to someone else because I’m not getting the job done. I want it to be me. I want to occupy all of the spiritual territory He’s allotted to me. And I want you to do the same. We’re all graced with talents to invest in the kingdom. And God’s power enables us to gain a return on the investment.
Consider the last twenty years of your life with Christ. What talent have you been given? What marketplace? Don’t compare it to anyone else’s. Let Him multiply His investment in you. Press through your fear, your inadequacies, your lethargy. Get up! Move out. Today is the day!
Jesus says, “Engage in business until I come.”