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It’s Okay To Be a Two-Talent Christian

a One-Talent Christian

It is for good reason that we have both the concept and the word average. To be average is to be typical, to be—when measured against points of comparison—rather unremarkable. It’s a truism that most of us are, in most ways, average. The average one of us is of average ability, has average looks, will live an average lifespan, and will leave an average mark on the world. That’s just the way averages work.

Maybe it’s something about being well into middle age that has given me greater freedom to admit all the ways in which I am average or below average. As a young man, I may have harbored dreams of excelling at everything I attempted and of achieving each of my dreams. I assumed I had all it would take to succeed in every way, that I was far beyond average and far more than ordinary. But as a not-so-young man, I have a more realistic assessment of myself—an assessment that accounts for the ways in which I am average or less-than-average. And there are many.

In this vein, I often find myself thinking of the parable of the talents and the way the main character in the story distributes his wealth to his servants. “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”

This man knew his servants and had realistically assessed their capabilities. He knew that some were more able than others, and he distributed his wealth accordingly. To the most able he gave much and to the least able he gave less. And crucially, he passed no judgment on the varying abilities, as if the two-talent servant was lazy and needed to work harder or the one-talent servant was apathetic and ought to expect himself to enlarge his capacity. He distributed to each what he knew they were capable of handling, whether by nature, nurture, or some combination of the two.

From the parable we learn that God distributes opportunity according to ability, for “talents” are all that God distributes among his people—gifts, passions, abilities, influence, education, money, and anything else that can be used to honor (or dishonor) the Lord and carry out (or fail to carry out) his purposes. And while we may all like to think that we are the five-talent servant, the law of averages, not to mention an honest look within, assures us that most of us are not. Many of us are three- or two- or one-talent people. Though to some God has given extraordinary minds, abilities, opportunities, and responsibilities, to most he has not. In most ways and for most of the time, most of us are hovering around average. You are probably hovering around average, and so am I.

Though to some God has given extraordinary minds, abilities, opportunities, and responsibilities, to most he has not.

And that is okay. It is okay because this reflects the way God himself has made you. There is no shame in being a one-talent servant when God gave you one-talent ability. There is no need to compare yourself unfavorably to those who have achieved more success on the basis of their greater gifts. And that’s because God’s assessment of you is made on the basis of what you did with what he gave you. Even though the five-talent servant and the two-talent servant generated different results (a gain of five for the first and a gain of two for the second), they received the same reward. Why? Because they had been equally faithful with what God had entrusted to them so that their results were proportionally identical. God had five-talent expectations of the five-talent man and two-talent expectations of the two-talent man. Faithfulness did not look like five from the two or two from the five.

A sweet application of the parable is that the person of little ability can be every bit as successful in the eyes of God as the person of outsized ability. And that’s because you are responsible before the Lord for what he has given to you, not what he has given to another. Your task is not to display the same results of faithfulness as the person with a bounty of gifts but the results of faithfulness that go along with your sparse gifts. I am quite certain that heaven does not cheer louder for the five-talent servant who earns another five than it does for the two-talent servant who earns another two. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the greatest cheers rise for the one-talent servant who is simply and joyfully faithful.

The upshot is that you don’t need to dream of pastoring a bigger church, leading a greater ministry, writing bigger checks, or influencing a larger crowd, as if this is what it means to succeed in the eyes of God. Of course, neither should you allow yourself to be apathetic and fail to discover and maximize what God has given you. But you can faithfully, diligently, and confidently steward your one talent or two and know that God is well pleased, for you are most truly stewarding his one talent or two—the full sum of what he entrusted to you.

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