HOW SHALL WE PAY OUR VOWS?
This is an important question with all the truly consecrated, and one surely of paramount importance. Let us consider, then, that when we consecrated ourselves fully to the Lord, we thereby signified that we would hold nothing back for self. That consecration included all our possessions, our time, our physical energies and our mental attainments. And it implied the sacrifice of all our former earthly ambitions hopes and aims, so that we should no longer pursue them to any extent. This, and nothing less, is what our vow of full consecration signifies.
But it signifies, further, that these possessions or personal qualifications, which the Lord terms talents, are not only to be released from the service of the worldly ambitions, etc., but that they are to be so released, not for aimless inactivity, but for the purpose of being utilized in an opposite direction–in the service of God, of his plan and of his children.
In the parable of the talents the Lord illustrated very clearly how we are expected to pay our vows of consecration to the Most High. He says: “It is like a man who, intending to travel called his own servants and delivered unto them his goods. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to each according to his respective capacity; and straightway took his journey.”
TO EACH ACCORDING TO ABILITY
This master had important and valuable interests to leave in charge of his servants; and as these servants had all engaged to serve him, he had a right to expect of them a sincere and faithful interest in the work. Yet he did not expect more of them than they were severally able to accomplish. He rightly expected larger returns from the one who had five talents than from those who had one or two talents. And in the reckoning, it will be observed that the servant who had doubled his two talents was just as highly commended as the one who had doubled his five. The reply to each was the same–“Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” And had the servant with the one talent been similarly faithful he would have received the very same commendation. Notice also that the parable does not represent the obligations of the world of mankind in the use of their talents, but merely of “his own servants“– the consecrated believers only.
And notice also that no servant was left without some talent of usefulness and responsibility. Each servant had at least one talent; and for the right use of that one talent he was just as accountable to his master as were those who had more.
But the professed servant with the one talent was unfaithful to his master, and yet he evidently wanted to be considered a servant still, and probably thought he was worthy of commendation and reward for not perverting his Lord’s money to other uses. He had taken good care of the talent; he had not turned it in opposition to the Lord, but he had simply buried it–failed to use it. At the reckoning time, he who had received the one talent said, “Lord, I knew thee, that thou art an exacting man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not scattered. And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth; lo, there thou hast thy own.”
“His Lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not scattered; thou ought therefore to have put my money to *the exchangers; and then at my coming I should have received mine own with interest.” It will be observed that this servant was not what men would generally call wicked. He was simply an idler, willing, if he could, to draw a servant’s approval and compensation, but lacking any real, active interest in his master’s business. He had no ill will toward his master; he was probably very glad that the other servants kept the business from going to wreck and ruin; he did nothing to hinder them from using their talents, but he did not feel the responsibility he had assumed in becoming a “servant,” nor take a proper interest in his master’s affairs. Yet, as a faithless, slothful servant, he was really a covenant-breaker, and therefore “wicked” and certainly unfit to be trusted with still greater responsibilities on the master’s return.
But let us remember that this was not a real case: it was simply a parable used to illustrate real cases. And if the illustration fits your individual case, let it not lose its effect upon you. The very object of the parable is to arouse such to a sense of their short-comings, and to recover them from the lethargy into which they have relaxed, by reminding them of their responsibilities. Activity in the Lord’s service to the full extent of our ability or talents is what the Lord has a right to expect of all who profess to be his servants; and it is what he does expect. Therefore, if you have but one talent, do not bury it, but cultivate and use it; do what you can, and all you can, in the great work to which we have already consecrated our lives.
Do not fear my friends if after putting forth your best efforts in the Lord’s service you see no immediate results, remember the Lord does not require the assistance of any of us to accomplish his purposes he is simply allowing us the honor of working in his vineyard in order to gauge the sincerity of our love, for him, the brethren and for the truth. Whether or not you or I personally accomplish anything at all is not the point, he is not judging you according to what you are able to accomplish he judging the intentions of your heart.
*The “exchangers” are the Lord’s people. Truth is exchanged from one brother to another and so on and so forth. You should make use of the knowledge which the Lord has given you to the best of your ability, in fact this is the Church’s most important work; the edifying of one another, that we might build one another up in our most holy faith, truth is to be shared not buried.
MUCH GIVEN, MUCH REQUIRED
Those who have several talents let them see to it that they too are faithful to the extent of their abilities, not being content to do merely what the one-talented man can do or ought to do. Such a one would not be a good and faithful servant, and could not expect the Master’s approving “Well done!” His approval will be given to those only who are faithful to the full extent of their opportunity.
Those who find the truth and make the consecration before they are encumbered with the cares of this life, who have no families dependent upon them and who have a reasonable degree of health, have at least two talents–time and health–which can and ought to be utilized in the service to the best possible advantage. Then there are those who have a money talent, or a business talent, and such should consider how these are being used. Are they largely swallowed up in luxuries, or a superabundance of the good things of this life, for either self or family? Or are they being laid up as treasures upon earth–in banks, store-houses and investment securities, to enrich and to cultivate the spirit of pride in friends or children, and for them to quarrel over after you are dead?
Our talents for use in the Lord’s service consist of all those things and opportunities which are over and above what we need for the necessary and reasonable maintenance of ourselves or our families, if we have families, and the reasonable provision against distress in case of a sudden calamity or approaching old age, etc. Aside from these, all we have should be in active service, be they many talents or few. If we have five talents and are using only one or two, how can we expect the Master’s “Well done, good and faithful servant”? Did we not covenant to give and to use all for him?—all our money, all our time, all our influence, all our mental activity, all our physical ability? After providing things decent and honest for ourselves and those dependent upon us, let us judiciously appropriate our talents to what we profess to consider the chief business of life. Here are the testing points of true loyalty and devotion. Let us ponder them well and not lightly set them aside.
FORMER OPPORTUNITIES LOST
But observe further what the Lord has to say about this “wicked and slothful servant.” He says: “Take the talent from him and give it unto him which hath ten talents; for unto every one that hath [made use of his talents] shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not [made use of his talent] 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.”
The outer darkness here referred to is in contrast with the inner light of the holy place of favor and communion and instruction from God, symbolized in the Tabernacle. The testing comes on the return of the Master. Then the faithful servants shall enter into fuller joys and privileges and blessings, while the unfaithful will go into the outer darkness of error and ignorance concerning God’s plans and ways, which envelops the world in general, and their neglected opportunities for more abundant service will go as a reward to those who are already earnest and active, and whose earnest and faithful labors will in due time be abundantly rewarded.
As we thus view our Lord’s teaching, we see that our only security as sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ is in activity in the service of the truth. Well, says one, I see very few doing that. Very true: only a few will do it. But that precious few are the Lord’s jewels. Are you one of them? Ah, that is the point to be considered. No matter how few they are, or whether you ever saw or knew of any such, that does not alter the conditions of our calling. “This is the way: walk ye in it.” One, at least, has trodden it before. Look for his foot-prints and follow him, and “He will give strength unto his people,” even though they walk alone, as he did, without the cheering companionship of fellow-travelers.
“LO, I AM WITH YOU”
But think not that you are traveling alone in this narrow way. The Lord has now a consecrated people, a faithful band of servants who, with every talent consecrated, are steadily pursuing their course in the narrow way. (Onward Christian Solider) We know some of them by name and by character and by their steady and progressive activity in the blessed work. Not many of them have five talents, but a good many have two or three, and some only one. Quietly and unobtrusively (not conspicuous or attracting any undue attention to themselves) they go about from day to day preaching the wonderful words of life, and God is with them and is leading them on. Their hearts are full of joy and hope and they are kept securely amidst all the perils of this evil day. None are as clear in their apprehension and appreciation of truth as those who are fully enlisted in its service (This is a fact which anyone who is actively engaged in the Master’s service knows to be true).
Let all who would run the race successfully look well to their zeal and activity in the Lord’s work. If we bury our one or our many talents under a weight of worldly cares and encumbrances which might be avoided or set aside; if we bury them under worldly ambitions for either self or family– whether this be by wasting consecrated time upon science (for example the endless debate over evolutionary theories), philosophy, music or art; or upon business, politics or pleasures; or in pampering pride and appetite –then as unfaithful servants we will sooner or later go into outer darkness, by being caught up in some one of the many snares of this “evil day,” and will be led further and further into error and away from truth (one of the Adversaries best methods).
Mark well that it is not a case of such unfaithful servants being liable to get into outer darkness, into error: it is a case of must. The Master’s orders are peremptory and decisive: “Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” The light now shining is not for the unfaithful, but for the faithful servants; and no matter how clearly the unfaithful may have seen and understood the deep things of God, and no matter how he may have enjoyed them, if he has not loved them so as to serve them and to sacrifice his conveniences for them, he is unworthy of them and must go out into the outer darkness of the world in general. With these as with the world the disappointment of theories and plans in the great time of trouble will ere long bring the weeping and gnashing of teeth foretold. (R3695-3697)