Fear of Failure


In reference to His 2nd Coming, Jesus told a parable about wise investing. In this parable, the Lord did not mention bonds, stocks or options, and He certainly did not talk about cash stuffed into a mattress. Jesus talked “talents.”

Even though our modern definition of “talents” derives from this parable found in Matthew 25:14-30, in the 1st-century world a talent was not a gift or skill. It was a vast sum of money. It was, in fact, a weight of currency. For example, a talent would be between 60-90lbs of a precious metal. This is a colossal sum. At the time of writing, I calculate (always a dubious undertaking for me) a talent of gold to have the current equivalency of $1.2 million. You can finance a going concern with that kind of capital.

Now that we have the metrics in place, let’s turn to the story. It goes something like this: A master leaves on a journey, but before he does he entrust three servants with investment capital. He gives the first 5 talents, the second 2 talents, and the third 1 talent. This may seem unfair but perhaps the gifting is based on past performance which, as every investor knows, is no promise of future returns.

Speaking of returns, the master does and when he does he demands to see the books. He finds the first servant sitting on a ROI of 5 talents while the second servant has produced an additional 2. But the last servant hid his talent in the mattress. (By the way, if you going to hide 1.2 million worth of stock certificates in the mattress, make sure it’s not a water bed)

The master concludes that the first two servants not only made good investments, they are themselves good investments. So he entrusts them with even more. But he is enraged by the last servant. This servant is escorted to the door by Security after his assets are seized. Yes, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Why did this last servant act in this way? It’s simple, really. The servant was afraid. He may have thought he was acting prudently. Perhaps his inner monologue went something like this:

“I can hide the gold in the ground and make a detailed treasure map so I can find it again later.  I’ll fold the map up, put it in a zip-lock bag, and hide under the welcome map next to the key. No one will find it and I won’t lose it. As a bonus, I won’t have to worry about what anybody thinks of my investments, especially the Boss. Doesn’t he know that all investments carry risk? How could I be sure I wouldn’t fall on my face? How do I know he will he will even come back? No, the best play is to leave it in the ground and take a nap.”

I can see his point. Nonetheless, the last person mentioned in the parable missed the point of the parable. We have been given much and so we should invest much in the work of the Kingdom. I like to think of our investment strategy in terms of the 3 “T’s” – Time, Talent, and Treasure. Invest your time with God in prayer and in the Scriptures. Let the prospectus mention your joyful attendance at worship and your kindness to all in the name of Jesus. Invest your treasure by tithing to His church and her missions around the globe. And then there are your talents.

Life’s one big talent contest. So conquer the fear, get up on stage and let your light shine. It’s not a fair contest, to be sure. Some are more gifted, but no matter. Belt it out! You are singing for Him. He is your audience, so who cares what anyone else thinks. Jesus tells us we should place it all – our 5 talents, our 2 talents, or just our 1 – on lucky number 7 and let it ride.

Anyway, He’s going to want to see the books at some point.

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