As Christians, we are taught to trust in God and not to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). Yet, Proverbs 3 continues, saying that we should use our wealth to honor God (Proverbs 3:9), and that those with wisdom and those that gain knowledge will be blessed (Proverbs 3:13). Then Proverbs tells us that wisdom and knowledge are worth more than gold (Proverbs 3: 14). Is this a contradiction? Not at all. We are to never assume that we already have the answers, but we are to constantly be in pursuit of wisdom and knowledge. God wants us to use our wealth, wisdom and knowledge to serve Him and his people. He gave each one of us unique talents, opportunities, and resources so that we will be well-equipped for service. The key is to grow and multiply our skills and resources, as opposed to simply sitting where we are and relying only on past experience and past resources.
Unfortunately, many Christians only read the part where we are told not to lean on our own [current understanding. We take this to mean that God’s power can only be seen through our inaction. If we trust in God, we tell ourselves, then we should not plan, prepare, or try to move things forward. So, we sit and we wait for God to act. When God does not act, we pray harder. When God still does not act, we succumb to surrender, believing that it must be God’s will that we fail. We justify the failure by telling ourselves that God is teaching us a lesson.
As a college professor, one of the classes I teach instructs students in the application of Microsoft Office. Many of these students are new to computers and they can get stuck when presented with new tasks. I often have students ask for my help because they are stumped. I look over their shoulders and the computer screen to see what they are reading. “Help,” they say, “I cannot find the answer.” Time after time, I answer them, “Scroll down so that you can see what is hidden below.” Their eyes light up as soon as scrolling down just a fraction of an inch presents them with the hidden solution to their problem.
We often do the same thing with the Bible. We will fixate on one verse, never looking above or below. Information out of context never leads to the right conclusions. We have to learn to scroll down and see what is hidden below. Take all the information in; only then can we see the right answers and draw a proper conclusion based on the whole picture.
The parable of the three servants
God does not want us to fail. Sure, he will use trials and tribulations to help us grow, but God’s desire is that we take what he has given us and multiply it. I am not talking about personal success or saying that it is God’s will that we become rich and powerful. However, God is our Master and we must learn to use what he gives us to increase our Master’s reach in the world. Does he need us? No, his plans will not falter if we fail to act; he will find another willing to work and invest in the Kingdom. God does work through man, he does use us for his glory and for his gain, and we must choose what kind of servant we want to be. Will we help God’s Kingdom grow or will we bury the treasure and skills that he has given us so that we may do his work?
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable of a master who was leaving town for a long journey. Before he left, he met with three of his most trusted servants. He asked his servants to look after his wealth while he was gone. To the first servant, he gave ten talents (a talent was equivalent to about 20 years of accumulated wages. For a normal working man, it was a lot of money!). To the second servant, the master gave five talents, and to the third servant, he gave one talent. The money was not the servants’ to keep, but it was for them to look after while the master was gone.
After some time had passed, the master returned home and checked in on his three servants. The first and second servants had taken the wealth entrusted to them and doubled it, but the third servant had hidden what had been given to him out of fear that he would let his master down with a bad investment. The master rebuked the servant and had him removed from the household. Yet, the master rewarded the other two who had invested and increased his wealth.
Today, the third servant represents most of us modern Christians. The third servant tried to excuse his inaction by saying that he respected his master too much to act on his own accord, but the master did not buy the excuse. By telling ourselves that we are living in faith by sitting and waiting on God, we are no different from the third servant. We have hidden away the gifts that God gave us that were supposed to be invested and multiplied.
It is time that we scroll down and dive deeper into the bigger picture of what faith truly is. Faith is not a feeling; it is not an actionless commitment. We do not prove our faith by waiting. Our faith is proven and strengthened through action. Grace is given to us freely – it is not something that can be earned. But this does not mean that our faith should lay dormant, proven only in the silence of our souls. Faith must be an outward appearance; it must be tested and refined by how we choose to act. Grace is a gift and faithful actions is our thank you letter to a God that showed us undeserved mercy. Let us no longer confuse inaction as faithfulness, but let us act with courage and conviction, in full confidence that our Master has given us the resources to invest and increase His wealth. Not for our glory because we have nothing, but for the Glory of God, who has given each one of us everything that we need to multiply God’s love and mercy on earth until the return of the Master.