All In: A Waste of Talent

All In: A Waste of Talent


Happy Birthday, Ashworth Road! It was in this month 45 years ago, November 1971, that 43 people came together for the very first worship services of a brand new church with a desire to reach this growing community of West Des Moines.

As we approach this Thanksgiving season and celebrate our 45th birthday as a church, we have a lot to be thankful for: the baptisms this morning, another year of service and missions to our community and around the world, a year of outreach to our community and a renewed passion to be a church that reaches all tribes, tongues, and nations. And last week, we saw over $30,000 given to Hope for Children of Ethiopia.  We have also added a partnership with our friends from Alive Church and Pastor Stephen Wonbenyakeh.  And most importantly, we are a church where the Spirit of God is real and active, where Jesus Christ is proclaimed, and where others can see and know that the Lord is God.  We truly have a lot to be thankful for.

As a pastor, I am constantly inundated with podcasts, blogs, and articles that tell me we need to be better. We can be larger. We should be planting 100 churches a year. Or even better, that we should be broadcasting my beautiful face across the metro into several Ashworth Road multi-site churches. If I’m not careful, it could be very easy to become disappointed or discouraged that we aren’t just a bit larger than we are, or our budget isn’t just a bit bigger than it is.

But long ago, I decided that my desire for this church, and my drive for this church would be one thing, and one thing alone: to be a church that reaches our maximum kingdom potential. And if that is a church of 200 members, so be it. If it is a church of 10,000, so be it. But we will do whatever we can to be all that God has called us to be, nothing more and nothing less.

As a parent, there is nothing more frustrating than having a child that you know has potential, is smart, can do more, only to see them do the bare minimum, or less, to get by. The grades come in and they are abysmal. The hustle in their sports activities that they said they wanted to do, is about 50%. Practicing the instrument you paid for started out strong, but is seriously lacking after a time. That is frustrating. Or maybe that kind of thing only happens in the Clark house?

Have you ever experienced that on some level? A coworker phones in their work, only doing the absolute minimum. A classmate decides they don’t want to contribute to the group project so the entire group either has to pick up the slack or suffer a bad grade. You get another email from your child’s teacher about how they aren’t reaching their full potential.

These can be frustrating experiences. It’s a little easier to deal with this when we are looking and evaluating our kids or others. But it becomes a little more uncomfortable when we turn the tables and begin to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Am I living up to my full capacity? Am I reaching my kingdom potential?” But occasionally we do need to ask ourselves, “What am I doing with what God has given me?”

The Parable

Jesus taught on this very idea one day. As he would often do, he used a parable, or a narrative story involving everyday life, to convey a message or teach something important. We find this parable in Matthew 25:14-30.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.  To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.  Then he went on his journey.  The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.  So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.  But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received the five talents brought the other five.  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents.  See, I have gained five more.’

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!’

The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’  he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

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!’

Then the man who had received the one talent came.  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.’

His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on  deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.’

‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.  For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

The Problem of the Wicked, Lazy Servant

The master was a hard man; he was a demanding man, harvesting and gathering where he’d done no work. He was a shrewd businessman and looked to make money wherever he could. He was man with an eye for business.

But the servant viewed this as a problem, not as something admirable or even respectable. He accused the master of exploiting others and putting him in a bad position. This attitude towards the master led
to wrong emotions.

In verse 25, the servant says, “I was afraid.” Because he viewed the master incorrectly, he was filled with fear that led him to do something that would have been unthinkable during that day and age. This fear kept him from doing what he should have done and led him to take the wrong action. . . he buried the treasure.

His actions made it impossible to lose anything, but it certainly made it impossible to gain anything either. Essentially he was paralyzed by fear.

He didn’t even do the bare minimum of depositing the money at the bank. It was a grievous sin to receive money from the master and fail to use it to the best advantage. But the real sin wasn’t the misuse of money; it was the missed opportunity. There was a chance to do something significant, to really make a difference, but that opportunity was squandered.

And instead of owning his own actions, when brought before the master, the servant began the conversation by making excuses.  He actually looked at the master as the reason he did nothing. He pointed out what he saw as character flaws in the master, rather than admitting his own laziness and distrust. He never took responsibility for his attitude and actions.

Not only did he make excuses, he also expected to be credited for what he did do. He thought that by just returning what he’d gotten, he should have gotten a pat on the back and been told he did a good job. He wanted a participation trophy for showing up. But it didn’t exist. In fact… in the end, he lost it all.

For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. —verse 29

We may think this is unfair. But the fact is that he had control of the money for some time and had done absolutely nothing with it. This showed that he had no intention of making use of it. And the money needed to be used. To make an impact, it needed to be given to one who would make better use of it. And it was clear that he wasn’t going to do it.

His failure to do something  with it was his forfeiting of it. His action was irresponsible and by playing it safe, he lost it all, and achieved nothing.

The servant’s wrong attitude toward the master led to wrong emotions, which led to wrong action.  He made excuses and blamed someone else, and in the end, he lost everything. . .

And he is recorded as being wicked and lazy.

The View of the Good and Faithful

By contrast, we see something entirely different in the first two servants, who were recorded as good and faithful.

They understood they were stewards

The word entrusted was used by the master when he gave his wealth for them to invest. He never transferred ownership to them; it always belonged to the master, and they treated it as such.

That word is used again by the servants when they return the money plus what they’ve made in verses 20 and 22.  Their use of this word highlights that they weren’t focused on the money, but on the relationship with the master and their responsibility.

The third servant didn’t use this word. He didn’t see the opportunity he’d been given. He missed it.

Likewise, when we don’t see what we have as a privilege or a blessing, it can very easily become an entitlement.

They felt the urgency of the task

The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work. —verse 16

The first two servants didn’t know how long the master would be gone or when he would return, but they knew they needed to be quick about it to do the best they could. There was an urgency and their urgency was motivated by a desire to please the master.

They were willing to take risks

They weren’t guaranteed to double their investment, but they knew the master had entrusted the talents with them; they loved and respected the master and did not want to disappoint him, so they stepped out and took the risk.

They may not have known what the result would be, but what they did know is that if they hid the money, it wouldn’t grow at all, and that would be a waste.


The master was not really concerned about who made the most money. He was concerned about what they did with what they had. The same is true of God. God’s desire for his people is to wisely use the gifts they have been given.

  • What about the gift of your life. . . What are you doing with it?
  • The gift of your money. . . What are you doing with it?
  • The gift of you family. . . What are you doing with it?
  • The gift of your time, your abilities. . .What are you doing with it?
  • Are you using it wisely or are you burying it?

Are you burying it by focusing it on material pursuits and selfish pursuits, or are you investing it in the kingdom of God, so that as you give and as you serve you see lives transformed because of your investment? You see marriages restored because of your investment in friends. You see kids grow up loving Jesus, serving Jesus, giving their lives to missions or causes that bring about freedom.

The more tightly we hold onto our talents, our time, our money, our resources, the more likely we are to lose it in the end.

For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. —verse 29

As a church, we must understand we are stewards. We must see the urgency of the task we’ve been called to. We must be willing to take risks. After all, what do we demonstrate when we are unwilling to take risks? We show that we really don’t trust God.

We cannot be so afraid to step out and trust God that we are immobilized by fear. We cannot operate from a poverty or scarcity mentality, clinching our fists around what we do have, hoping we can hold onto it. We must view God as good and faithful and we must be faithful and generous in return.

This parable was told during a time when Jesus was talking to his disciples about when he would return, and the importance of being ready. The point of this parable is that we cannot sit passively by, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the consummation of the kingdom Jesus promised, waiting for this new Heaven and new earth when everything is put right. We need to be active, producing results, putting to good use what God has entrusted to us.

What are you doing with what God has given you? Are you using it, investing it to make a kingdom impact? Does your view and attitude toward God motivate you to joyfully live generously? Or does your view of God cause you to give and serve begrudgingly?

Are we making the right investments from what God has given us or are we making excuses like, “I don’t have anything” and burying it in the selfishness and busyness of our lives, making excuses as to why we can’t do otherwise.

And what are we doing as a church with what God has given us?

What are you doing with what God has given you and what are we as a church doing with what God has given us? These are two questions that we should keep before us, motivating us to go All In.  To take some risks.  To trust God. To make a kingdom impact.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: