“I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth.” – Matthew 25:25
Faith is an important factor in religion, and in everything of life. We do not look for victory where there is no courage. We would not trust an army to the command of one who did not believe that he could succeed. What we accomplish with what is committed to us, natural or spiritual, external or internal, depends primarily upon our faith.
Faith gives us the impulse to try. In trying we discover power and realize possibilities that before were concealed. Fear keeps us from knowing what we can do and what the Lord can give. The Word has much to say about fear and faith. They are so elementary, they lie so fundamentally at the beginning of success or failure that we need to know them from the first.
Fear and faith are opposites like darkness and light, for in ratio to the presence of one, the other vanishes.
There are two kinds of faith, the wrong kind and the right kind. There is a faith and a consequent courage born of conceit, self-esteem, or ignorance, a faith that relies simply upon self. This is the wrong kind of faith, for some time it will fail, if it is not regenerated, and leave one worse off than ever. And yet we must say of this unregenerated, natural faith that it performs a use. It gives us something to act from until we can acquire something better. Natural faith is a shell in which there may be a seed of life. If we use our natural faith to obtain a better faith, the Lord will so manage that only good will come through it. He will gradually take away the wrong kind of faith as we perceive and exercise the right kind.
The right and wrong kinds of faith are forcibly illustrated in that portion of Scripture from which our text is taken. Those with five and those with two talents traded with them and made respectively five and two talents. The Lord said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Here is an illustration of true faith. But he that received the one talent was afraid to use it, and so he hid it in the earth. He meets the reproof, “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not 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.” Here is the picture of fear, the opposite of faith.
The instruction intended in this parable is much broader and more universally applicable than the inference that he with one talent stands for those who do not have much ability and do not use what they have because it seems so little. In the Word doubling a number represents applying our talents – represented by them – to life, thus acquiring wisdom. The owner of one talent is he who remains as he is, that is, he does not join what abilities he has to uses; he remains his natural, unregenerated self, without any good thing added.
We are told the reason why he with one talent did not procure other talents. He was afraid. But of what was he afraid? He feared that he would not be successful. He had no faith. The reason he gave for hiding the talent explains the origin and nature of his fear: “I knew thee, that thou art an hard man, 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.” Examine carefully what went into this reply. He did not know the nature of God. He did not realize His bountiful mercy and the many things that God would have given him if only he had tried. He did not believe that if he opened his mind and heart, the Lord would give into his bosom good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. He reasoned that the Lord wanted something for nothing. He thought that He demanded work where He had given no ability. He thought that the Lord required a harvest where He had sown no seed. He was deaf to the heavenly law of thirty, sixty, and an hundred fold to those who believe and try. Under such false conceptions his will lay supine, his arm of moral power withered. He settled back into the seemingly easy life and attractive delights of the nature into which he was born, and immersed all of his spiritual abilities in the gross earthliness of the natural man. This is the sin that brought the condemnation, “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” And what else can happen to one who says, “God demands of me that I subdue my evils, but He gives me no strength; He requires that I live according to His laws, but He will give me no vision; He commands me to love mankind and Himself and to find the joy of life in such loves, yet I am born with a tendency to all evil. A hard master is the Lord!” Here was the origin of his fear. He looked upon life and upon the Lord as if he were to gather where no seed was sown, and to rear where nothing was scattered.
We are familiar with this tendency. Affliction comes. Then one says, “Life is barren; there is no happiness for me.” Thus he denies the Lord’s power, accusing Him of asking when He has not given. Were you to tell him that the Lord could deliver him from all his troubles, he would not believe; so he settles into worldliness, and buries his spiritual possibilities.
Now we know that the way to be spiritually successful and happy is to stop thinking of self, and to do something for other people wisely and from love. But there is the tempter, putting into the mind the thought, “I cannot; I have no ability or opportunity. I have no influence. I was born as I am, and I must so remain; I cannot make myself over again.” All such feelings originate in the lack of faith, faith in what the Lord can do. In the writings we find the following encouraging statement: “My friend, shun evil and do good, and believe in the Lord with all your heart, and in all your soul, and the Lord will love you, and will give you a love of doing, and faith to believe. Then from love you will do good, and from faith which is trust, you will believe, and if you persevere in so doing, a reciprocal conjunction will be effected, which will be perpetual, and this is salvation itself and eternal life” (T.C.R. 484).
There is a great Christian truth, namely, that heaven is not merely a far-off land. It lies all about us pressing at the door of the heart to get in, and it is only the weight of our sins that keeps it back. Heaven is a state of life, possible not only hereafter but attainable now, not in its fullness, of course, but in a measure. The Lord said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and His faithful disciples have realized and testified to this truth: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Yet people say, “I know, but I cannot overcome. I have lost a husband, wife, or child, a fortune, or my health. I do not believe that I can any longer be useful or happy. I cannot reap where nothing is sown. The Master who would ask the impossible is hard. There is no use to try.”
And so in one way or another we are all liable to fear, just as the possessor of the one talent did, and not try. But if we do not lay hold of our spiritual possibilities, they will grow ever harder to reach. If we do not use the truth, it will recede. If we do not love, our hearts will shrink, our sorrows will press more heavily, life will grow more forlorn, until after a time a life of peace near to the Lord in faith, love, and usefulness will be buried deep in what is of this world; the talent will be hid deep in the earth of worldly thought and life. How can we get power out of truth if we do not believe in it and obey it? How can one get comfort from the thought that the Lord loves him if he denies the fact as to himself? Our misfortunes should draw us closer to the Lord that we may find something that is better than that which we seem to have lost. Our temptations should show us that happiness is not from material things but from our relation to the Lord.
Everyone is created for a use. The power to attain that use the Lord will give. The Lord is not a hard master reaping where He has not sown. Use the talent given you. Do not fear, but believe, and the talent will increase. Be faithful over the little that you have and He will make you ruler over many things. For it is the law of heavenly increase that if we bury our ability beneath the earthly rubbish of false and worldly reasoning, we shall lose the faculty of seeing the beautiful laws that operate in the soul, and shall cast ourselves into outer darkness. How then can it but follow that our hearts will be full of pain and forebodings and rebellious at our lot. This is the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
How different is the way of those who draw near to the Lord, who have the courage to test His Word! They find that inward realm of life and peace, enabling them to say, “Thy will be done.” Let us thoroughly believe this. Let us have faith that the Word of the Lord can accomplish what it will, and that in its truths we can find our joy, peace, and blessings, for this is the interest due Him on the talent committed unto us. And then when we have attained this, other talents will be given; for out of our right relations to the Lord our lives are enriched and sanctioned in all things: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”