As a qualified accountant, it is a professional hazard to almost always include a story about money or investment. Hence, I would like to share my reflection about my first term as an elder with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14 - 30).
In short, the Parable of the Talents appears to be about the return on investment (ROI) as most astute investors would be familiar with this term. The master entrusted his property to his servants according to his ability. After a long while, the master returned to settle the account with the servants. The servants, who were given five and two talents each, doubled theirs. They were rewarded with the joy of the master and were given more. However, the servant with one talent buried the talent out of fear. This servant was deemed as wicked, worthless and lazy. The master, who was described as a hard man who would reap what he didn’t sow and gathered what he didn’t scatter, suggested that the servant should have at least put the talent with the banker to earn some interest. This last servant was then cast out into the outer darkness, where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Some key observations:
1) Stewardship and Accountability
2) Responsibility according to each Ability
3) Rewards and Punishment
Stewardship and Accountability
We all have some understanding of these two concepts. Once we know where we stand in God’s eyes on earth, we know that absolutely nothing really belongs to us. We are to use these resources wisely and we will be held accountable on Judgment Day. We will be asked what we have done just like the servants in this parable, being accountable for our actions for His kingdom sake, not just about how we manage our wealth. They were entrusted with the property of the master and were asked to show what they had done with the talents.
Responsibility according to each Ability
Notice that the servants were given different amounts of talent. The key statement in Matthew 25:15 is “each according to his ability”. I understand this to mean three things:
1) We will not be held to a standard beyond our God-given abilities.
2) We do not need to be envious or compare ourselves with others.
3) We need to know who we are, what God has given us and what we are called to do.
Rewards and Punishment
This part is binary, that is, you either enter the joy of the master and be given more or cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The key to receiving the reward is to be obedient and be a good steward, being found faithful. Failure to do so will end up being tormented, like the image from Revelations where, “... the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10, ESV).
Allow me to clarify the reason for this reflection. The purpose is to support Rev Darryl and the leadership of the church especially in the area of intentional discipleship making. I must confess that I was very surprised but delighted when Rev Darryl said at the start of his tenure of Senior Minister that if he had “only one bullet left to spend” in a ministry, he would use it on discipleship. It was at that point when I had just stepped down from two terms as a deacon and I was on a one-year sabbatical break from the church leadership. I was elected as an elder the following year when the whole church took a break from the usual book study series to study “Discipleship Essentials” by Greg Ogden. Last year, PSPC had our first Alpha Course that replaced the Discovery Class. During and after the Alpha Course, the PCGM started 5 Discipleship Essentials Classes and this culminated to more than 30 people who signed up for the February/ March 2017 Membership Class!
As I am co-leading PCGM with Eld Sim Kang, the “property” that we are given stewardship over is the cell groups and the Discipleship Essentials groups. I am convinced that this ministry was put to our leadership as making decisions and planning strategically for PCGM and intentional disciple-making become natural processes. This is not limited to my own thoughts but collectively with Eld Sim Kang, Rev Darryl, the PCGM committee members and the overall church leadership. Understanding the nature of the Master helps me keep the right focus on being a responsible steward. As you can tell, I have become more “kiasi” and “kiasu” with regards to our Lord, and some may say “kia-bor” too! (I have permission from Agnes to say this). Jokes aside and in all seriousness, it is my desire to be found faithful in Him in all that I do, at home, at church and also at the office.
So, which character can I identify with in the Parable of the Talents? I would like to think that I did not “bury” the talent. I can only say with confidence that I am still working out my salvation with fear and trembling and may God see what I have done in this ministry with grace and mercy. Let us all strive to be like the servants who used their abilities to double their talents for the extension of His kingdom.
May my observation of the passage of Scripture and my sharing be an encouragement and a reminder to all to make the most and the best of what God has blessed and provided for His glory. God bless.
Eld Long Seh Wei