September, 2001 - Wasting Our Talents
By Billie Marie Zal
"Billie Marie, you are wasting your talents, and God is going to hold you accountable!!"
This is what I heard most of my life from my mother who is now in heaven. I am sure by now she knows that she was terribly wrong in her assessment of my life.
I suspect that she thought of "talents" as most people do.
If you can play the piano, sing, write, etc., you are described as "talented."
But that interpretation of the word, "talent," is all wrong.
In the Bible, this word means MONEY. Jesus gives us "the parable of the talents" in Matthew 25: l4-30. If you have never studied this passage, you must. Through this Word of God, we get God's input as to how we use our talents.
A talent in Jesus'day was a weight among the Jews, of 10 to l00 pounds, according to the standard in use at the time. The value of a gold talent would be as much as $29,000.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus explains clearly what is expected of us--how we must live our lives if we are to please God.
The story goes, that a man traveling into a far country called his servants, and gave them his goods. He gave one five talents, another two, and another one--"according to his ability"--the Bible says.
Then he left on his journey and the man who got five talents (around $l50,000) traded them, and got double. The next man who had two talents also gained another two. But the third man who was given only one talent dug a hole in the ground and hid it until his master returned from his journey.
At the master's return, he called these three men to account and to the first two, who had doubled the worth of the talents, He said, "Well done thou good and faithful servants; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
When the third man came with nothing extra, his master berated him and asked why? This man replied, "Because I was afraid and went and hid thy talent in the earth; lo, there thou hast what is thine."
But his lord answered and said, "Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not spread? Thou oughtest, therefore, to have put my money to the exchangers, and then, at my coming, I should have received mine own with interest. Take therefore, the talent from him, and give it unto him who 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 the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
We cannot mess with God, and He gives each of us an opportunity once we are born again either to be afraid of Him, or of life itself, and "hide our money in a hole." Or--we take what He gives and make interest on it but we don't keep it for ourselves. It belongs to GOD, and we are merely servants to do His will until we make our way into heaven where our works will be tried by fire, to "see what sort they were."
This means, then, that every one of us who claims Christ as Savior keeps nothing as our own, but keeps it "in trust."
One of the most precious gifts I ever received was one nickel.
I was ministering in a tiny country church way out in the woods in southern Mississippi. After the service was finished, a "love offering" was collected for me. I never asked for an offering, and if nothing came to me, I thanked God that I had still served Him without a return. This is the BEST kind of service.
But after everyone else had put their love gift into a hat, this tiny, little old lady came to me. She had the sweetest face you ever saw, and her hands were worn and wrinkled by hard work.
But she held her head high, and said to me, "Young Lady, this nickel is all I have to give, but I give it to you in our precious Lord Jesus' Name." And then she went away.
I don't remember how much I got that night, but I DO remember that nickel. And I asked God when I got home to use this five cent piece, and to break it and bless it like Jesus did with the loaves and fishes so long ago...and let me learn to give every gift back to Him, "with interest."
I believe that God heard my prayer, and He put me through such trials of my faith in His love for me that I knew every bit of my supply came from Him, to be used for Him, and to be multiplied.
Why else would I have answered His call to the ministry so long ago? I had already given up my beautiful home and property after being abandoned by my husband. I was left with a two year old boy, and one thousand dollars. I had no car, nothing. But I knew that somehow God would work all of this out for my good. I wasn't even born again, though I was considered a good Christian; but I longed to know God, and to be able to serve Him with all of my heart.
I moved to Chicago with my son and went to a Secretarial School to finish out college credits in Business Administration.
I learned to use short hand, and this gave me entrance into
the field of commerce. I became secretary to an executive out on South Water Market, where all the buying and selling of fruit and vegetables was done.
I loved it. My boss was a fine man, and the very first month I worked for him, he gave me a huge increase in salary. This enabled me to take care of my son--pay my parents for keeping him while I worked--plus all his medical, food, and clothing expenses.
But while I worked there, God dealt with me, saved me, called me out, and gave me a brand new life.
I didn't know one thing about tithing. My parents had raised me in a Methodist Church and the pastor never taught tithing. But once I was born again, I knew that the money I made was not mine.
It belonged to God, and so I began to give. I didn't want to stop at ten percent. In fact, I don't believe God wants a penny from anyone who doesn't recognize that money belongs to HIM, not us.
And so my joy was fulfilled in giving more and more, as I grew up in Christ.
But then God called me to minister in Mississippi and I was afraid. Daddy had told me I could have his old car; he rode the elevated train to work and didn't need it. But it was an absolute WRECK. The day I finally packed that ole Packard and began my journey, I was so scared that I threw up the first night that I stopped. It was raining hard, and I knew the car never started if it rained. So I learned to pray.
I said, "Father, You have told me to go to Mississippi. You KNOW the tires have blisters on them; the car won't start if it rains. I don't have money for repairs (I had one hundred dollars, and that is all). You have asked me to do a hard thing, and I will do it. But will you PLEASE stop the rain so my car will start in the morning?"
Even before I finished the prayer, the rain stopped. Sometimes God is well pleased with a prayer of urgency, even if we are scared to death. Anyhow, I drove on. I had a flat and again, I asked my Father in heaven to help me. I just sat there on the highway and in a few minutes a nice car loaded with black men came toward me; I guess God whispered my "plight" into their ears, because they threw on their brakes, turned around, and came back.
"You are in a fix, aren't you, Missy?" they asked me. "Yes, Sir," I replied." I don't have any idea of how to fix a flat."
"Well, don't you worry none. You just sit there, and we will get that tire fixed real quick. We have been in your shoes ourselves."
And in a very few minutes, they came to my window, smiled beautiful smiles, and drove on toward Chicago. They had talents to give---and they gave, not even knowing how very much God loved them for it, and took note of it.
I won't go into the things that happened in southern Mississippi. I was often hungry; but I ministered. Once when I was to minister on an Easter Sunday morning at a church about l00 miles away, a horrible rain storm came down. I saw a little filling station--the old fashioned kind, with a hand pump and a roof over the pumps--and I drove into that station and waited.
My son was only six years old, but he had learned to pray us out of such situations. He had seen God work. So we prayed. I will never forget how his little forehead went down upon the dash board, and as I prayed through to my Father in heaven to send help, Richard would say a hearty AMEN every few seconds.
All of a sudden we heard a pounding on the window; and guess what? A man stood there, smiling. "Can I give you any help?" he asked.
"Yes, Sir," I replied. "I am supposed to minister at a church near here, and my car won't start while it's raining. I was trying to wait for the rain to stop."
"OH, you're the one who is going to minister at my Church, he said. "Just you sit there and wait till I bring my pickup around, and I'll get under the roof and you won't even get wet!"
Richard grinned at me and away we went--just a few miles down the road and safe within the sanctuary of that tiny church. God answered my prayer, blessed the service, and when I got back to my car, it started without hesitation. The man who took such care to help us had NOT "hidden his talent in a hole in the ground." And he will be rewarded. God says so.
I fear that the Church today has forsaken God's Word according to what He asks of us in the Parable of the Talents. True, people will say, "This means that if we give God money, He will send it back to us up to one hundred fold." But He won't. If He did, I'd be mighty rich by now.
The truth is, money is given to us to give away. The "Our Father" prayer tells us plainly that we are to expect ONLY our daily needs." It takes a lot of faith in God's Word when we do this. We watch what we spend; we use what we must for daily needs (which of course includes putting back for all the needs of the little band of believers here, for auto payments, property payments, utility payments, etc. etc. etc.)
But once we know these expenses are paid for, the rest belongs to God. We are told by God's Word not to brag on what we give. God even says "our right hand must not know what our left hand is doing." This Word is given to us, to avoid the demon of Pride to creep in.
Of course we know what we give. We must keep books and a budget and stay out of gross debt. But we have no right to "store up" what God sends for ourselves, where thieves break through and steal and moths and rust corrupts it, we have only the right to take care of our daily needs.
This is a harsh Truth, but it is nonetheless TRUTH. If I had never lived this Word for some 45 years or more, then how could I tell you, under the anointing of God's Holy Spirit, that this kind of life WORKS? And such faith is a gift of God, it is one of His most wonderful gifts. He says in the "Love" chapter in Corinthians, (I Corinthians:l3-l3). For God says, "Now abideth faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
These gifts are God's talents given to us in trust, with the expectation that we will share the gifts and bring in a "return with interest" to Him. We must account for everything we give, and when we gave out of pure loving obedience for Jesus' sake, then we will hear the words when we stand before the Master, "For unto everyone who hath, shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." (Matthew 25:29)
What the Church today has done is fall victim to the world's lust for money. If we have money, so they say, we have power. But what kind of power? It is not power from God. I am grieved in spirit when I listen to every religious TV broadcast, where the speaker without hesitation gets around to using Scripture verses to "prove" that if their listeners send in a sum of money to them, God will give it all back.
He does not give it all back. He gives us peace, and joy and hope, and the assurance that no matter WHAT happens, He is enough.
I remember once, learning to love those who hate me. I have kept a journal for years and years, and once someone close to me had been vicious, and cruel. I WANTED to hate back; I was human, and that is our normal response to such a thing. But I recalled clearly the word of Jesus who tells us to love our enemies, and not to fight back, but to pray for them, and bless them.
I wrote in my journal, "No matter what happens, I WILL NOT THROW AWAY THIS GIFT OF LOVE WHICH MY FATHER HAS GIVEN TO ME."
The joy of such a decision was worth any pain or sorrow, and I was able to pray for all those who have hated me. I will receive God's Love back, with interest. And I do, not only from those to whom I give His Love now, but throughout eternity.
Many of you have never thought of giving. When God first asked me to give all that I had, and to "leave all to follow Him," I was of course frightened. What would I do? How would He care for me? He has "tough love" and put me through those seven long years in a one room basement where I had nothing. But those seven years will always be my most "prosperous of insight and victory." I could never have ministered to my brothers in prison had I not done without, been treated badly for no cause, and loved anyhow.
But if we LIVE the Life, then individuals know that we truly are sent of God to give that kind of faith in God to them.
I believe that our world will come to an end (as we know it) in the near future. I don't pretend to know when. But it's going to happen; believers have thrown in the towel and bowed down to the world and as R.W. Tozer said, "the great god ENTERTAINMENT."
The Apostle Paul would not recognize a Christian Assembly today and I suspect he would not be welcome in one. He would not find "His Gospel" concerning the Mystery of the Church and so he would shake the dust off his feet, and go to the ones who would listen. He would probably find them in some prison, waiting out what life a man has left, hoping to find the way.
When we covet gifts, and keep them for ourselves and only share a part of them, we lose out. God's Word says so, and He cannot lie. I often tell my brothers in prison that they are never alone. God's guardian elect angel watches over them. And they DO have something to give: respect for guards who ridicule or harass them; love for one another, knowing how hard life is in prison; sharing what little they have--if God sends them money for draw down, some of that money MUST be shared with another brother in prison. It's God's way of showing that YES--He can change hard hearts, and give a man who has nothing a glimpse of His Father Heart's Love.
My Mama was very, very wrong. I do not accept her assessment of my life. I have not "stored up." I do not have a "life insurance policy," or a "burial insurance." I do not own property personally, nor do I consider anything mine. Since I belong to the God who created the heavens and the earth, I consider that my life, since it was breathed into me by HIM--belongs to Him. And I dare not keep it all for myself.
My prayer is, that in my own way, under the instruction and anointing and fellowship of the Holy Spirit, you will see clearly that God is real, His Son really DID set you free from bondage to sin and death, and one day--maybe much sooner than we think--we will all gather 'round His Throne and sing praises unto His Name.
If you hide your talent in a hole in the ground, forget it.
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