When I was four years old, I loved watching figure skaters on TV.
I wanted to be just like them, so my parents bought me a pair of skates and my mother would take me to the local arena. She would glide around the periphery and I would mostly just slip-slide along the boards, holding onto them and trying not to fall down.
In one of our visits to the arena, I decided I wanted to jump like the figure skaters on TV.
So I slip-slided over to the centre of the ice and I jumped.
The next thing I knew, I was lying flat on my back, howling in shock. I don’t remember exactly how I got down there, but it was nothing like the jump landings I’d seen on TV. A kindly man helped me onto my feet and brushed the snow off my back. Then my mother, alerted by my howls, skated over to me and took me home.
As the years passed, I continued to skate, but I wasn’t a talented figure skater. I took lessons and learned how to be good at the basics, but I could never jump and spin due to balance issues, and my later vision problems threw off my hand-eye coordination, so I wasn’t much of an athlete. I’m OK with that now, because I know in Heaven (if I make it) I’ll have perfect athleticism. That’s what I’m holding out for: to learn how to figure skate in Heaven.
But four-year-old me knew nothing about Heaven. All she knew was that she wanted to do something that she had no ability to do. Even then, at such a tender age, I understood that no matter how hard I trained, I would not be able to skate like the figure skaters on TV. I just didn’t have the talent for it.
God gives us all talents. We all have something we’re naturally good at. The trick is to find what that is and then work on it. I worked on figure skating and became a competent skater, but I still couldn’t jump or spin: I could only glide gracefully around and around, backwards and forwards, in circles.
Skating wasn’t a talent God gave me. It was something I worked at, but it wasn’t a talent. In the body of Christ, which is God’s Kingdom on Earth (otherwise known as the Church founded by Jesus), we all have a God-given talent that we’re good at and that we’re expected to invest in the Kingdom. That talent is something we’re completely comfortable with and doesn’t feel like work. It’s as natural to us as breathing, and no matter how long or how often we do it, we never tire of it.
Jesus found his several talents in teaching and preaching and healing and casting out demons. He’d learned how to be a carpenter, but that wasn’t his talent. He was probably pretty skilled at carpentry work, having learned it from his dad from a very young age, but being a carpenter was not what he’d been called to do. He was called to heal the sick, cast out evil, and teach and preach God’s Word. Because he was called to do these things, he was given the talent to do them, which meant that he was able to do them night and day and never tire of doing them.
That, ultimately, is what a talent is – a God-given, God-driven, and God-fueled ability to do your calling. It’s that thing you do well that you then need to put to the service of the Kingdom. Paul reminds us that there are many different parts of the body of Christ, and that each part works in tandem with the others, the way organs and systems in a body work together. We can’t all be eyes or ears or gall bladders in the body of Christ, or it would be a pretty funny-looking Church.
What’s your talent? Some of us are good at teaching. Some are good at charity work. Some are good at ministering to the poor and homeless. Some are good at witnessing. Some are good at ministering to the elderly, and some are good at ministering to children. Some are good at listening and advising. Some are good at working quietly behind the scenes. Some are good at healing. Some are good at casting out spirits, some are good at Bible research, and some are good at preaching. These are just a few of the talents within the body of Christ.
Have you found your talent yet? If so, are you investing it in the Kingdom? When I was first born-again, I thought I had to do everything – charity work, teaching, preaching, witnessing, ministering to the poor, etc. None of these things were my talents, so I kind of bombed at them. I also felt out of place doing them, which was very discouraging to me. I didn’t feel forced to do them; I just assumed I had to do them. I later realized I was wrong, and I learned first-hand that God doesn’t expect us to do what we’re not good at. Being a follower of Jesus is not a “to do” list: It’s a calling.
God doesn’t want us pursuing activities in the Kingdom that are not our talents. He doesn’t want us slip-sliding along the boards, holding onto them for dear life, or falling flat on our backs the minute we try to step out to do something we’re not equipped to do. And he also doesn’t want us to work at something for years and years just to have the ability to skate around and around in circles, going nowhere.
The talent that God’s given you is what he expects you to pursue, not the things you see others doing and so want to do yourself. A talent is also not something that you can do competently enough but just competently enough. God doesn’t want you wasting your time on those things. He’s given you at least one talent, and he expects you to use it in the service of his Kingdom, like Jesus did. If you choose to do that, God will work through you and give you success in your efforts. All he asks of you is a willingness to invest the talent he’s given you back into the Kingdom.
I hope you choose to do that. I hope you find your talent (or talents) and go for it. We need all hands on deck in the Kingdom these days. Don’t bury your talent and don’t waste whatever time you have left on Earth pursuing things that are not your talent. Let the parable (below) and my four-year-old howling self be your warning.
(And for you literalists out there, yes, I’m aware that the parable is about money, but it’s also applicable to abilities.)
__________For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.