"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
March 20, 2013
A Trust, a Test, and a Time of Reckoning
by Kathryn Grant

A past column’s challenge was to take time to identify your talents. If you haven’t done this yet, you might want to do so before moving on to the challenge in this column.

You know the parable: a master is about to leave on a long journey. Before going, he entrusts talents to three of his servants, according to their abilities: five, two, and one respectively. When he gets back, the master asks for an accounting. The servants with five and two talents have doubled them; their master is pleased and the servants experience joy.

But the last servant timorously hides his talent in the ground. At his accounting, this servant gives his master the unused talent, accompanied by excuses: “I knew thee that thou art an hard man,” he tells his master, “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” (Matthew 25:24–25). If the servant hoped the excuses would get him off the hook, he’s disappointed. He loses the one talent he had and receives not joy, but sorrow (Matthew 25:30).

Maybe this parable raises two questions for you as it did for me — questions that are actually flip sides of the same coin (or, could we say, talent?): 1) How can we avoid the fate of the unprofitable servant? 2) How were the first two servants able to double their talents?

One clue is found as we contrast the actions of the profitable servants with those of the unprofitable servant. The profitable servants found a way instead of an excuse. Did everything go perfectly for them? I doubt it, but they carried on. I can imagine their excitement, frustration, and fulfillment as they tried, failed, learned from their mistakes, succeeded, and ultimately were able to multiply their talents.

I’ve wondered too if the unprofitable servant was envious because the other servants received more talents than he did. However, the master geared the talents to his servants’ ability. What’s more, the servant who received two talents didn’t complain that another servant received more than twice as much; he just did the best he could and doubled what he was given. At his accounting, he received exactly the same commendation as the servant who’d gained ten talents.

Also, the words and actions of the unprofitable servant show no gratitude for his master’s generosity, nor for the opportunity for learning and growth. Would he have been more likely to magnify his talents if he’d been grateful for them? Could gratitude be a key for us?

Finally, the unprofitable servant wanted to avoid risk — not just foolish risk, but any risk at all. Could refusing reasonable risk actually be a form of pride? Perhaps the unprofitable servant didn’t want to fail, look dumb, lose out, or have a less-than-perfect record. But in failing to act, he took the biggest risk of all and ultimately incurred the greatest loss.

Joy or sorrow? Abundance or lack? Could that much hinge on the way we use the talents the Lord has given us? I believe so, and not just for ourselves but for those we could serve through our talents.

So the challenge for this week’s column is to prayerfully choose one of your talents, then to make and implement a specific plan for magnifying it. Imagine your own accounting to the Lord. How could you prepare to meet Him knowing that you had appreciated and tried to make the best of the talents He’s given you?

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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