Can I be condemned for not using my gifts? Answered by Patrick Crandall
Hey guys, Patrick here, and today on ask Theocast, I’m going to be answering the question from Dave that came to us about whether or not how we use our gifts affects our condemnation or approval before God. This question came up out of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, where we read that the master’s going on a journey, and before he goes, he entrusts three of his servants with some money to steward while he’s gone. When he comes back, the first two servants come to him, and they’ve done business with that money while he’s gone, and they’ve turned a profit. They’ve doubled that money and they’re commended for it, but when the third servant comes, we find out that he had simply buried his talent and brought it back. He’s condemned by the master who calls him wicked and lazy, and then has him cast out into the outer darkness. So, the question is, does this mean that our standing before God is maintained by how well and faithfully we use our gifts?
I think a passage that answers this for us is First Corinthians three. There, Paul, in verse 11, says that there’s one foundation that’s been laid and that foundation is Jesus Christ, and on that foundation, we can build lots of things. There are some things that we can build on it that are valuable and permanent. Then there’s these other things that are temporary and pretty much worthless. Whatever we build on their ultimately gets exposed at the last day, and it is tested by fire. Some of it lasts and passes through that fire and the rest of its burned up. The key thing is the last verse there, verse 15, where Paul says that even if it’s all burned up, as long as the foundation is Jesus Christ, that man is still saved.
So, if our standing before God is in any way contingent on our faithfulness with our gifts or anything, our faithful obedience in any way, we’re doomed. We will never be faithful enough. The only standard that scripture gives us for faithfulness is perfect faithfulness. We will never use our gifts that well and that perfectly. So if we need to do that to be all right with God, we’re damned; but, that is not the case. Our approval before God is one fully, only, and completely by the finished work of Jesus. We cannot add to it, and we cannot diminish its sufficiency by anything that we do, any faithfulness or lack thereof.
That being said, what does the parable actually mean? The key to understanding the parable of the talents is to not get obsessed with the talents and not to get obsessed with the work that the servants did, but to look underneath that, to the motives. We’re not given a clear picture of the first two servants’ motives, so I think we can apply those from the third servant’s motive because he talks about why he buried and hid his talent. He goes to the character of the master and he says, I know you are a hard man, that you reap where you do not sow. His description of the master is of somebody who is harsh and who takes what isn’t his. His perception of the master is one that provokes fear.
Does this sound like our God, who gave up his own Son to redeem us from sin and death? It doesn’t. That’s the key thing here. The problem for the last servant wasn’t specifically what he did with his talents, it’s the fact that he didn’t know God. He did not know a redeeming God who graciously saves a people for himself. His perception of God was all law, and because of that, he was terrified. He was paralyzed. He couldn’t move forward in any productive way, because he was so terrified of doing it the wrong way that he couldn’t take any steps forward.
By contrast, you see the other two servants who don’t seem to share the same opinion of the master. We aren’t told explicitly how they see it, but they are not afraid to go out and to do business with their talents because I think they understand who the master actually is, that he is gracious. He’s a good, gracious God whose riches are not limited, who doesn’t have to take what isn’t his, because he owns everything. Because of that, they are free to go and to use the talents, to steward what has been given to them without fear. They live the way that they live because of the way they see the master. They actually know him. The servant who’s cast into outer darkness, he’s cast into outer darkness, not because of what he did with the talents, but because he didn’t actually belong to the master. His view of the master is what kind of gives us the lens into that.
I hope that’s helpful. Take care, guys!