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Using our spiritual talents

From the July 2020 issue of The Christian Science Journal

A healing gave me a new and unexpected understanding of Christ Jesus’ parable of the talents, of its deep relevance and great importance to our lives, including our spiritual growth and progress. 

In this parable (see Matthew 25:14–30) a man gives his servants talents—five to one, two to another, and a single talent to a third servant. The man then takes a journey to a far country. When he returns, he checks in with each of the servants to see what use they have made of their talents in his absence. 

The servant to whom he had given five talents had doubled the value of what he was given and had gained five more talents. His master commends him, saying: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

Similarly, the one to whom two talents were given had used his talents profitably in his master’s absence, and gained two more talents. He too receives the commendation of his master. Because he was faithful over a few things, he too is promised to be made ruler over many things, and enter into the joy of his lord.

By contrast, the servant to whom only one talent was given did not profitably use his talent, but instead buried it in the ground. His master took away that one talent, giving it to the servant who had ten talents.

At one point a very challenging circumstance presented itself to me that prompted me to think more about that parable. An important and signal step of progress that had been worked out through prayer was suddenly taken away. I was at first devastated and almost paralyzed with fear and a feeling of inevitability. The circumstances argued that the issue was already settled, and it was too late to restore what had apparently been lost. However, the courage came to me to stand up prayerfully to this situation. I realized it was a clear imposition of mortal mind thinking—mortal mind being the supposed intelligence and activity of evil, the belief of life and intelligence in matter, of a power and presence apart from God, good, that would appear to work in opposition to God’s purpose for good, for progress, and for the growth of all His children.

I prayed for two days straight, even during the nighttime when I would wake up from time to time, to see and affirm that only God’s will could be done and to strongly rebuke the suggestion that mortal mind could give me anything or rob me of anything that was God-endowed and God-ordained. I was not trying to use human will to change circumstances, but instead recognizing God’s supreme power and goodness, which had ordained all good and which could not be overruled by a supposed presence and power apart from God, the one divine Mind. As I prayed this way, new ideas and inspiration came, and with them came increased courage and certainty of God’s government and control, in spite of circumstances to the contrary. 

The outcome was not only the restoration of the step of progress that had been worked out before, on a stronger and firmer basis, but also two additional important steps immediately opened up without effort, much to my surprise and delight. It was stunning to me! Taking a stand—beginning with the spiritual truths I knew, and opening my thought to new truths—ended up completely defeating the challenge of reversal. Not only that; it opened the way for wonderful further progress.

I realized this healing seemed a confirmation and explanation of the talent parable. Every challenge that presents itself in our experience could be viewed as an opportunity—or perhaps even a demand—to draw upon, to use and develop, the talents that God has already given us. 

In biblical times, a talent was a weight of silver or gold worth a substantial amount of money. The meaning of the English word talent today has come to mean a gift or a particular ability one might have. Interestingly, the Bible likens silver (from which some coins were made in biblical times) to wisdom, the wisdom and knowledge of God (see, for example, Proverbs 2:1–6 and Psalms 12:6). 

Could it be said that this wisdom and knowledge we gain through our study of the Bible and Christian Science—of God’s goodness and allness, of His great love for us, of our identity as His spiritual reflection, and of our ability, through reflection, to express His goodness and power in our lives to bring healing to adverse conditions—are “talents” that God gives us? Talents that are more valuable than much silver? Talents that we are to use and develop, including in adverse circumstances, thereby increasing our knowledge of God and our ability to demonstrate this knowledge in healing?

Every challenge that presents itself could be viewed as an opportunity to use and develop the talents that God has already given us.

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy uses talents in just this way, equating talents with the wisdom that comes from God. She says: “God is not separate from the wisdom He bestows. The talents He gives we must improve” (p. 6). In another place in the textbook she speaks of spiritual healing as a “talent” (see pp. 366–367). 

Viewed in this light, the parable comes alive with meaning and instruction deeply relevant to our lives today, to our spiritual growth and progress. When we utilize spiritual talents, we “improve” them with increased spiritual understanding and demonstration. Science and Health teaches in this regard: “In order to apprehend more, we must put into practice what we already know. We must recollect that Truth is demonstrable when understood, and that good is not understood until demonstrated. If ‘faithful over a few things,’ we shall be made rulers over many; but the one unused talent decays and is lost” (p. 323).

The master in the parable might be thought of as Christ. Disciples and apostles of Christ Jesus in the New Testament describe themselves as “servants” of Christ (for example, Romans 1:1; James 1:1; II Peter 1:1). The Greek word for “servant” is doulos, and it means “slave” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). To be a “slave” of Christ may mean to serve the Christ-idea and the knowledge of Christ in our thoughts and lives without other allegiances—through the understanding Christian Science gives us; to accept and serve only the omnipotence of God, His goodness and love, which Jesus so clearly lived, demonstrated, and taught. As Science and Health states: “Let us accept Science, relinquish all theories based on sense-testimony, give up imperfect models and illusive ideals; and so let us have one God, one Mind, and that one perfect, producing His own models of excellence” (p. 249). 

In Jesus’ parable, the master leaves his servants for a while for a far country and then comes back to see how the talents he has given them have been used. Could this symbolize times when we may feel that God and His Christ seem to be absent in our lives? When fear, discouragement, evil seem to predominate? But these are precisely the times to put to use the talents God has already given us and the spiritual teaching and inspiration that will restore our certainty and consequent demonstration that man (including each of us) is never separate from God, never for an instant in a place where God’s goodness and love are not supreme in our lives.

Even in the midst of doubt and discouragement, in untoward circumstances, we are to have no other “masters.” There are many other supposed “masters” that might try to claim our attention, such as discouragement, fear, self-doubt, and the false suggestion that evil is more powerful than good and can overmaster good. But this is a time to be faithful and loyal to our highest understanding of God and His Christ, coming through Christian Science; to draw on the spiritual inspiration and understanding that we already have made our own, rather than burying these talents in the ground—the ground perhaps symbolizing the earthward gravitation of disappointment, fear, doubt, discouragement. 

Giving in to such earthward tendencies could allow talents we have to be hidden or lost. But on the other hand, using even one spiritual talent, even simple truths that we have made our own—putting into practice the spiritual ideas, the love of God that is always with us—will bring healing and an increased ability to prove and demonstrate divine Truth. Mary Baker Eddy teaches: “A danger besets thy path?—a spiritual behest, in reversion, awaits you” (Message to The Mother Church for 1902, p. 19).

As we open our thought to receive more of our God-given talents—including deeper understanding and increased faith—we are made “rulers” over many things, over the false perceptions of a mind and power apart from God, and we enter into the joy of our Lord! We receive the rewards that always come from faithfulness: increased ability to prove and understand more of God’s goodness and love. Spiritual progress, more grounded happiness, health, success, come from serving God and His Christ, solely, particularly in times of trial. 

Mary Baker Eddy states: “The good cannot lose their God, their help in times of trouble.… The best lesson of their lives is gained by crossing swords with temptation, with fear and the besetments of evil; insomuch as they thereby have tried their strength and proven it; insomuch as they have found their strength made perfect in weakness, and their fear is self-immolated” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 10). 

Let us not lose our talents in times of challenge, but instead let adverse circumstances move us to rise to a higher level of spiritual understanding and demonstration, establishing us more firmly in the Truth, bringing out God’s purpose of good for us all.

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