Jesus' parable of the talents can be found in Matthew 25:14-30, which was what happened to play on my iPod today. Yes, the girl who wonders if prayer reminders via email are profitable also listens to a through-the-Bible-in-a-year podcast.
I'm not sure why this story hit me differently today (as opposed to the thousands of other times I've heard/read it) but it did. Maybe it's the New Living Translation. I got to thinking about that last servant guy who was entrusted with just one talent of his master's money. The servant buried the money and did nothing, which resulted in the master being pretty upset. And by pretty upset I mean calling him a "wicked, lazy, worthless servant" who was then thrown outside into the darkness where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Seems harsh but that's how a lot of the parables are - extreme. Extreme tends to drive the point home more effectively.
OK so God is the master, I am the servant, God has entrusted me with "talents" (literal talents, my personality, abilities, the money I earn using those abilities, etc.) and I am called to be a "good steward" of the things God has given me. It all came from Him and all belongs to Him anyhow (just as we see in the parable) so what am I choosing to do with it? Which of the servants am I most like?
Here's what hit me: the worst servant merely held onto the money and did nothing but sit on it. He was severely treated because of it. The master said even what he had would be taken away! What on earth would have happened if the master returned to discover that the servant had not only spent every last bit of the money but also had incurred three times the amount in debt?! OK, now how much debt am I in today? (I'm talking all financial right now.) How have I chosen to manage the resources that have been given to me? Is there ever a good enough cause or reason to spend money I don't have? I'm not talking about the home we own; I'm talking about my daily priorities, the choice for instant gratification vs. long term satisfaction.
I heard a quote a while back from someone whose name I don't remember, "if I don't have the cash for it, it's not meant for me." Very wise words.
From what I've seen from observing the people in my life, waiting for God to give me more money (as the master did to the servants who used their talents wisely) is always better than spending money I don't have "for a good cause" or finding other reasons that justify what I want to selfishly or self-righteously carry out.
Because, of course, "...the borrower is a servant to the lender." Proverbs 22:7
If I'm enslaved (payment is DUE!) to whoever lent me the money (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express) then the freedom I have to use my money for God and His glory is severely limited.
So, quite obviously, "No one can serve two masters... you cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24
Everything is so clear. Now to act.