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It is easy to compare ourselves with others, which can make us feel bad. I have done this my whole life. When I played sports, I always compared myself to the guys who were better than me, and I was upset that I wasn’t as good. The same thing happened in school, dating, and my job. Maybe you find yourself playing the comparison game as well. But I don’t think that’s how Jesus wants us to live. He wants us to take the gifts we are given and do something with them, but I don’t think there is a lot of value in comparing our gifts with others. He told a parable that illustrated this point:

Again, it [kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to their ability.

The three servants in the story had different ability levels, just like us. The man in charge didn’t criticize the ‘one-bagger’ for having less ability than the other two servants. He didn’t play the comparison game. Instead, the man in charge gave each of the servants a task that fit the servant’s ability. In the same way, each of us has a different set of gifts and talents. It’s not a good use of time to complain about your gifts and talents. Instead, take your particular set of gifts and talents and do the best you can with what you are given.

Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hold in the ground and hid his master’s money.

There are two very different strategies here. The first two servants put their money to work, and ended up with more money than they started with. The third servant, on the other hand, just buried his money and didn’t do anything with it.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five bags of gold. 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 two bags of gold also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold; 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!”

One thing I think is interesting about this part of the story is that the first two servants each got the exact same response from the master. Even though the first servant came back with more than twice as much gold as the second servant, the response from the master was the same. I think this is because the master knew that the servants had a different set of gifts, talents, and abilities. Each of the servants put their talents to work and did the best they could, and that is what mattered to the master.

Then the man who had received one bag of gold 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 gold 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” (Matthew 25:14-27).

The message here is clear. The third servant was lazy and let his fear of failure get in the way of doing anything with his talents. The master is upset with him and rebukes him harshly.

I think there are two take-home lessons from this parable. First, don’t compare your gifts, talents, and abilities with others. Some people are given more athletic ability, intelligence, money, etc. It’s a waste of time to compare our situation with others. It doesn’t help us. Instead, do your absolute best with what you are given. Your best is enough.

Second, do something with your gifts, talents, and abilities. Be proactive—don’t be lazy. Be courageous—don’t let the fear of failure take you out of what God has called you to do with your life.

Discussion: Who do you identify with the most in this parable? Do you play the comparison game? What is one step you could take toward being okay with the number of bags you have been given? Is there a bag you have buried in the ground? What is one step you could take toward dropping your fear and using your gifts, talents, and abilities for good?

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