The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) shows that God makes investments in people (“talents”) and that He expects a return on His investment (ROI).
Not everyone is given the same quantity of investment capital. This might seem unfair to those given fewer talents, but receiving more comes with bigger expectations. To those who are given much, much will be demanded (Luke 12:48).
And we also see that He says that those who are faithful in small things will be put in charge of more. So the starting capital God entrusts us with is not necessarily the final amount. If we are faithful, He may well grant us more.
So every one of us had better be very concerned with his “spiritual ROI.” That doesn’t necessarily mean spiritual in the sense of quantity of souls saved (though it could mean that).
It does mean we have to take everything God has given us and using it to the max for the Kingdom of God. This could mean anything from raising faithful children to serving our neighbor to creating a thriving business that employs many people and spins off profits that can be given away generously.
It’s often the case that when we are young and hungry, we work hard, take risks, and do what it takes to succeed. Thus we generate big growth and returns.
But when we get successful, we shift to playing it safe. Rather than trying to build more, we try to protect what we have and are content with slow growth.
This can easily happen in ministry as someone goes from scrappy church planter to celebrity preacher.
I see in some of these big name ministries a sense that they’ve taken God’s word in the Parable of the Talents literally. That is, as long as they put their talents in the bank where they can earn some interest, then they are golden. So they don’t have to take big risks or engage in big conflict with culture now that they’ve made it.
I’m certainly not immune from this effect. The more subscribers I have, the greater the temptation to pull punches.
Just the other day someone told me that he thought it had been a while since I’d said anything that might really offend in the newsletter.
I don’t want to be gratuitously offensive, but I don’t want to grow more timid as I get bigger either.
Clearly the bigger you get, the more seriousness and more weight you have to put on your words and actions. But that can’t be an excuse for going on autopilot.
In short, God is going to expect us to deliver a return on the gifts and resources that He has entrusted us with. We had better be thinking about that in how we live our lives.
And we also need to be keenly aware that spiritual ROI is not static. As we achieve more – that is to say, as God gives us more success – that achievements represents a further investment by God in us. We need to be ratcheting up our expectations for what we are doing with that accordingly.