I think most of us are familiar with Yeshua’s words in Luke chapter twelve:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).
Well, to whom anything is given, something will be required! Our dear brother of blessed memory, Jhan Moskowitz, would always end a sermon or Bible study by saying, “So what… big deal… what are the applications?” The question is, how do we apply what we’ve learned to our lives? My job this morning is to drive home the truth that, since each of has been gifted, each given various talents, something will be required of us. We need to give back. When God blesses us with abilities and talents, it isn’t for our sake alone, but so that we can use those gifts to benefit others.
Consider the example of B’tzalel and Oholiav (Exodus 31:1-7):
Then Adonai said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts – to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also, I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you: the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent…
These men were gifted by God, and they employed their gifts. Yesterday I was thinking about Nehemiah, and the great endeavor of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, and how so many families each having a part in something greater than themselves. Now, a wall may not be a beautiful thing, but the wall of Jerusalem was truly a beautiful thing, because this was the city of God, and it was for the protection of the people in that the city.
I. Your first responsibility: identify your gifting
Art takes many forms. And even what is not typically thought of as art, can be done with excellence, and result in something beautiful. Here are a few examples.
- Art (paint, sculpture, calligraphy, jewelry)
- Education/Instruction (class/one-to-one/writing curricula)
- Music (instrumental, vocal, original, ensemble)
- Literature (incl. prose/poetry/fiction/non-fiction/journalism)
- Oral interpretation (live/recorded)
- Creating mechanical devices that make our lives easier
- Marketing and creativity
- Hospitality (truly an art form, and much needed)
- Gardening or landscaping
This is, of course, an abbreviated list. There are so many more than these. The point is that everybody has been given one or more talents and abilities. Yours may not fall into the category of what we define as the arts. But your responsibility is to find out where your natural, God-given abilities lie.
Please don’t fall into the trap of comparing your talents with those of other people. You’ll save yourself, and others, a lot of grief and resentment, if you’ll be content to identify your strengths or abilities, and then work on developing them. In other words, “mind your own art!” Trust me, you’ll be a lot happier for it.
II. Your second responsibility: honing/refining your skill
(if you’ve dropped the ball along the way, pick it up again and run with it)
In 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul nudged his young protégé Timothy to “kindle afresh” the gift of God he had received when Paul commissioned him. It is all too easy for those gifts to wane and our skills to diminish simply through disuse.
Some of you may remember Don Carey, the former safety and special teams player for the Detroit Lions. He just retired from the NFL this year and, along with his wife Lakeisha is already busy giving back to the community through their foundation called REECH, focusing on helping inner city youth to realize academic and career achievement. Don and LK are a dear and godly couple.
Don wrote a book two years ago, entitled It’s Not Because I’m Better Than You. By his own admission, Don recounted that there were college players who were bigger, faster and more naturally talented than he. But many of them were passed up in the NFL draft, whereas he was chosen. The problem is that many of these extraordinarily talented athletes were content to rest on the laurels of their college careers, and didn’t make the effort to improve their conditioning and their skills. So you see, it isn’t always about how much ability you have, but how much determination you have to hone and improve those gifts!
… break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.
III. Your third responsibility: produce something beneficial and/or beautiful and make sure that whatever you do, or produce, glorifies the God who invested you with that ability
Rabbi Paul gave these tandem exhortations to the believers in Colossae:
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:17)
Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people (Colossians 3:23).
Twice he writes, “Whatever you do…” Faithfulness to the Lord doesn’t usually occur in the spotlight, but rather in the trenches. It’s often unseen. Being faithful to be on time and to put in an honest day’s work falls into the category of Avodah (worship) every bit as much as does the singing of songs and giving of donations, when you do it with the intent to please Adonai. Every aspect of your life can be an offering to Him.
Not everything we do is going to be artistic or visually impressive. In his first letter to the believers in Corinth, Rabbi Paul used the analogy of human anatomy to make the point that often the most important functions are carried out by the less impressive members. Feet are decidedly unimpressive. But try living life without them! And Scripture doesn’t say, “How lovely on the mountain is the mouth of the one who brings good news.”
IV. Your fourth responsibility: encourage your brothers and sisters (frequently!) to employ their gifts as well.
I thank God for everybody in my life, who have at times exhorted me to get off my tuchus, and do the things that I could be doing; to do more of it; or to do it better. Your responsibility isn’t just to yourself. It isn’t enough merely to identify your own gifts and talents and employ them. We need to exhort one another, encourage one another. And why wouldn’t we do that anyway? We’re a family!
Sometimes, though, one sibling resents another sibling for having more talent. We need to really be careful not to become envious of others’ giftings. Learn to be content with what God has entrusted to you. Encourage those around you to aim high, and refine their talents in order to produce something that glorifies God.
As we do that, God will be glorified! As we do these things, the world is paying attention; the world is watching! I am grateful for the Shema Festival of the Arts. It represents an opportunity for others to come and see who we are, and get an idea of what we believe and Who it is we serve.
Let me conclude by reading Yeshua’s parable of the talents (Matthew 25:15-30).
Messiah Yeshua said that His return would be like:
“…a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time, the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.
The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned, I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.”
That’s a convicting parable. Not everyone is necessarily creative, at least in the way we think of the arts. Not everyone is the ‘fiver’. Some are ‘two-ers’. Some have just the one. Each of us is unique; God didn’t create us using a cookie cutter. But everyone has been invested by God with some giftings and talents. So, in closing, let me reiterate your responsibilities with the talent God has given you. They are:
- Identify that ability
- Develop/hone that ability
- Use that ability to produce something beautiful, useful and God-honoring
- Encourage others to develop and utilize their gifts and talents as well, so that they may glorify God