The parable of the talents describes Christian servants as stewards who have been given talents for the use of serving the Lord. In the story the "talents" refers to a measure of money - a weight of gold or silver etc. In it's application all our gifts and abilities are given to us by God for the use in His service as good stewards.
In these seven words of our Lord's appraisal, I want to look at six areas of assessment that we can use to set goals to give our best to him. All we should do should be done by the power and grace of God - so these checks are not meant to make us feel guilty or inadequate but to have a clearer direction in our personal growth and service.
1) THOU - PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
It is usually easier to see faults, flaws, weaknesses etc. in others more easily than we can in ourselves, but we won't be giving account for others nor can we blame others in the final assessment. Even when a message is preached in church we can find ourselves saying so-and-so needs that. When Peter was told by Christ what would happen in his later years he pointed to John and asked what will this man do? Jesus answered What is that to thee follow thou me.
Another temptation is to measure ourselves against others. This person does this bad thing and I don't so I am better than them. Or I am better at this than them etc. The bible says that comparing ourselves among ourselves we become unwise. Christ is the rule of measurement - the perfect pattern that we should measure ourselves against. He doeth all things well.
A third aspect of self judgement is the habit of passing the buck. It goes back to the garden of Eden and it is easy for us to say, Well if they didn't do that I wouldn't do this. In the end we know we can't blame others for a lack in our stewardship. Personal responsibilty helps us take ownership of our own lives and enables us to be better stewards.
2) WELL - EXCELLENCE
It used to be a common saying that a job worth doing is worth doing well. In an era of disposability and cookie cutter consumerism this idea of craftsmenship and pride of workmanship is in danger of being lost. It was said of the prophet Daniel that a more excellent spirit dwelt within him. He excelled in all that he did. The idea of going beyond or going the extra mile is the attitude of excellence.
The bible says that whatsoever we do should be done heartily as to the Lord and not unto men. It should be done with our might. Excellence is more than talent. It has to do with character and commitment. I know preachers, teachers, sunday school teachers, and people in the music ministry who have "winged it" in their service because they had become to busy to put in the proper amount of time into practice and preparation. I have done it myself. The answer may be to change our priorities. Instead of doing a lot of things poorly maybe the Lord wants us to do fewer things and do them well.
Are we doing things half heartedly? Are we striving for excellence? He deserves our best.
3) DONE - DILIGENCE
The Apostle Paul said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." We are good starters at times but are we committed to finishing the task the Lord has given us? We need to be not only good talkers, good dreamers, or good starters but good finishers. We need to be diligent in our commitment to Christ. We need to set our eyes on the finish line. Jesus said, "It is finished" and in John 17:4 he said, " I have finished the work which thou gavest to me." He said in another place, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work." He had diligence and determination.
4) GOOD – MORALITY IN ACTION
Goodness is more than doing the right thing and not doing wrong. Goodness has the idea of doing things that benefit others. In this passage the steward is required to take what he has been given and use to profit his master. Jesus said that when we do things for those in need we are doing it for him. If we show kindness and help to others then we are benefiting them and pleasing the Lord. Are we aware of the needs of those around us? Do we give of ourselves so others can be blessed? Is our life affecting others for good and for God? Do we have compassion and a perception of the needs of others?
5) FAITHFUL – DEPENDABILITY
Have you ever asked an unreliable person to do something for you and experienced the frustration of something forgotten or done wrong. As stewards we are entrusted with spiritual gifts, time, material resources, and the message of the gospel. Are we being faithful in our testimony and in our deeds with what God wants us to do?
6) SERVANT – HUMILITY
Jesus came not to be ministered unto but to minister and give his life a ransom for many. Does it matter who gets the credit in our lives? Do we hold onto titles and accomplishments? Are we serving or being served? DO we have an attitude of service with our families, friends, and neighbours? Do we have it at work? Do we see positions of authority as responsibilities to serve?
Out of a heart of love and gratitude we ought to strive to give our best to him and for him- and maybe one day he will say: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant"