In Matthew 25.14-30, Jesus tells a story of a rich master who entrusts his wealth to three servants while he goes away on a long journey. While he is gone, two of the servants double the value of what they've received. The third servant buries the wealth he's entrusted with, and earns no return on it. The rich master rewards the first two servants, saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much." But the third servant receives the brunt of the master's anger, "‘You wicked and slothful servant! …you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.’ And [he] cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness." He gives the third servant's entrusted wealth to the first servant, declaring, "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. "
This parable is where we get our modern word, "talent," meaning skill or special natural ability. But in Jesus' time, a talent was simply a coin, equal to 20 years' wages of a laborer. One talent is today's equivalent of somewhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000.
Jesus' message is clear: we are stewards in God's image, and each of us has been given enough to generate tremendous value! We are to interpret the man on a journey as Jesus himself, since he's describing an interim period just like the age directly after his death, resurrection, and ascension. Through this series of events, we are empowered through his spirit in a way far beyond any other period in history, because we're literally tapping into the resources of heaven to accomplish heaven's goals through our work.
Now what's also clear from the parable is that the first two servants were involving themselves with business ventures in order to make money. The implication is that in order to bear any kind of spiritual fruit, there must be activity, risk, courage, and diligence, with whatever we are entrusted. Jesus is taking simple business principles and applying them to his Kingdom reign.
Richard Pratt puts it this way in his book Designed for Dignity:
"The great King has summoned each of us into his throne room. Take this portion of my kingdom, he says, I am making you my steward over your office, your workbench, your kitchen stove. Put your heart into mastering this part of my world. Get it in order; unearth its treasures; do all you can with it. Then everyone will see what a glorious King I am. That's why we get up every morning and go to work. We don't labor simply to survive, insects do that. Our work is an honor, a privileged commission from our great King. God has given each of us a portion of his kingdom to explore and to develop to its fullness."
Hugh Whelchel, in How Then Should We Work, says this, "God creates something out of nothing, and makes us in his image, so that we can make something out of something." That something, is whatever God gives us. In the form of abilities, yes, (after all, this is the exact text where we derive our word "talent"), but it's not just that! This includes family connections, social positions, education, and experiences, and also our very being, our life, every single breath, every opportunity and interaction he puts in front of us on a day-to-day basis! All of these things are gifts from God, to be used for Him in service to others. God entrusts us with our self, with all of our life. Each one of us is the most significant capital investment we will ever have, and it's an investment directly from God himself, made out of his 6 days of labor, to be used to bless and care for all of the other capital investments out there, that is, the rest of the world. According to scripture, the earth's most precious and valuable resource is its people.
Tim Keller, in The Reason for God, states:
"No matter who performs it, every act of goodness, wisdom, justice, and beauty is empowered by God. God gives out good gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty, and skill "graciously" - that is, in a completely unmerited way. He casts them across all humanity, regardless of religious conviction, race, gender, or any other attribute to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world."
We are God's capital investment. If we believe this, we can connect the significance of our work to God's creative work.
If we believe we are God's capital investment, we can lead well, we can lead up the ranks of our workplaces, we can change our companies, and we can change our cities, our culture, and the global marketplace for the glory of God.
If we believe we are God's capital investment, we can accept the height of our dignity in representing and extending the authority of the King of the Universe; we can accept our identity as children, and therefore Princes and Princesses, Dukes and Duchesses of the King.
If we believe we are God's capital investment, we celebrate more than anyone when his common grace breaks through and we can be in awe of a particular achievement, because we know it is all due to what He's given us!
If we believe we are God's capital investment, we can be co-workers with God who carry out God's mission in the world. And we can have fun doing it, knowing it's all a gift.