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To Each according to his Ability
‘The kingdom of heaven is as when a man, going into another country, called his own servants, and delivered them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability.’—Matt. 25:14
In the parable of the talents we have a most instructive summary of our Lord’s teaching in regard to the work He has given to His servants to do. He tells us of His going to heaven and leaving His work on earth to the care of His Church; of His giving every one something to do, however different the gifts might be; of His expecting to get back His money with interest; of the failure of him who had received least; and of what it was that led to that terrible neglect.
‘He called his own servants and delivered unto them his goods, and went on his journey.’ This is literally what our Lord did. He went to heaven, leaving His work with all His goods to the care of His Church. 32 His goods were, the riches of His grace, the spiritual blessings in heavenly places, His word and Spirit, with all the power of His life on the throne of God,—all these He gave in trust to His servants, to be used by them in carrying out His work on earth. The work He had begun they were to prosecute. As some rich merchant leaves Cape Town to reside in London, while his business is carried on by trustworthy servants, our Lord took His people into partnership with Himself, and entrusted His work on earth entirely to their care. Through their neglect it would suffer; their diligence would be His enrichment. Here we have the true root-principle of Christian service; Christ has made Himself dependent for the extension of His kingdom on the faithfulness of His people.
‘Unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability.’ Though there was a difference in the measure, every one received a portion of the master’s goods. It is in connection with the service we are to render to each other that we read of ‘the grace given to each of us according to the measure of the gift of Christ.’ This truth, that every believer without exception has been set apart to take an active part in the work of winning the world for Christ, has almost 33 been lost sight of. Christ was first a son, then a servant. Every believer is first a child of God, then a servant. It is the highest honour of a son to be a servant, to have the father’s work entrusted to him. Neither the home nor the foreign missionary work of the Church will ever be done right until every believer feels that the one object of his being in the world is to work for the kingdom. The first duty of the servants in the parable was to spend their life in caring for their master’s interests.
‘After a long time the lord of those servants cometh and maketh a reckoning with them.’ Christ keeps watch over the work He has left to be done on earth; His kingdom and glory depend upon it. He will not only hold reckoning when He comes again to judge, but comes unceasingly to inquire of His servants as to their welfare and work. He comes to approve and encourage, to correct and warn. By His word and Spirit He asks us to say whether we are using our talents diligently, and, as His devoted servants, living only and entirely for His work. Some He finds labouring diligently, and to them He frequently says: ‘Enter into the joy of thy Lord.’ Others He sees discouraged, and them He inspires with new hope. Some He finds working in their own strength; these He reproves. Still others 34 He finds sleeping or hiding their talent; to such His voice speaks in solemn warning: ‘from him that hath shall be taken away even that he hath.’ Christ’s heart is in His work; every day He watches over it with the intensest interest; let us not disappoint Him nor deceive ourselves.
‘Lord, I was afraid and hid thy talent in the earth.’ That the man of the one talent should have been the one to fail, and to be so severely punished is a lesson of deep solemnity. It calls the Church to beware lest, by neglecting to teach the feebler ones, the one-talent men, that their service, too, is needed, she allow them to let their gifts lie unused. In teaching the great truth that every branch is to bear fruit, special stress must be laid on the danger of thinking that this can only be expected of the strong and advanced Christian. When Truth reigns in a school, the most backward pupil has the same attention as the more clever. Care must be taken that the feeblest Christians receive special training, so that they, too, may joyfully have their share in the service of their Lord and all the blessedness it brings. If Christ’s work is to be done, not one can be missed.
‘Lord, I knew that thou art a hard man, and I was afraid.’ Wrong thoughts of God, looking upon His service as that of a 35 hard master, are one chief cause of failure in service. If the Church is indeed to care for the feeble ones, for the one-talent servants, who are apt to be discouraged by reason of their conscious weakness, we must teach them what God says of the sufficiency of grace and the certainty of success. They must learn to believe that the power of the Holy Spirit within them fits them for the work to which God has called them. They must learn to understand that God Himself will strengthen them with might by His Spirit in the inner man. They must be taught that work is joy and health and strength. Unbelief lies at the root of sloth. Faith opens the eyes to see the blessedness of God’s service, the sufficiency of the strength provided, and the rich reward. Let the Church awake to her calling to train the feeblest of her members to know that Christ counts upon every redeemed one to live wholly for His work. This alone is true Christianity, is full salvation.
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