by David Sisler

The president of a Fortune 500 company called three mangers who had demonstrated leadership potential in for a meeting. He reassigned them to brand new stores, each according to the capacity for achievement which he already possessed. One manager received $10,000,000 for inventory, payroll and budgeted expenses. The second went to a store with $5,000,000 and the third to a store with $2,000,000. Then he told them they had everything they needed to be successful, and dismissed the meeting.

At the next annual meeting, the first manager produced his balance sheet which showed a bottom line profit of $20,000,000. "You trusted me," the manager said, "and I responded with my best performance."

The president was ecstatic and promoted the manager to his top region.

The second manager's balance sheet showed a profit of $10,000,000. "You trusted me," the manager said, "and I responded with my best performance." Again, the president was overjoyed and gave that manager an excellent region.

The third manager said, "I knew it was going to be a hard year, what with the current inflation and interest rates. And I knew that you were a demanding boss, expecting the best. At least I maintained last year's business. I kept expenses enough in line, controlled inventory sufficiently, and made enough sales that we were flat against last year."

He was released on the spot without even the hope of drawing unemployment.

That is not exactly the way Matthew related Jesus' "Parable of the Talents," but if sufficiently illustrates the trust which was placed in three men. The stewardship of a company was placed into their hands, and using what they had been given, two men doubled their businesses.

In the original version of the story, each man was given a certain amount of "talents." Talent is a unit of money equal to the annual salary of a working man for twenty years. If you gross $50,000 in one year, that multiplies out to $1,000,000. No matter how you figure it, each man was placed in trust of a sum of money, far greater than he could immediately hope to possess, and the appropriation was based entirely on his own personal abilities. Each man had the tools to be a successful trustee of his master's money.

And that is what this story is about, not equality of gifts, but the individual faithfulness with which we develop our individual capabilities. Or to use a modern idiom: use it or lose it.

The managers who used their abilities to increase the size of their master's holdings did not treat the money as if it belonged to them. Each understood that they had been placed in trust and trust demands an accounting.

Growth, in whatever realm, is possible only if there is room to receive. Faithfulness is rewarded by enlarged capacity. When the psalmist said, "My cup is running over," most of us think of a large cup. A small cup may overflow as well as a large one.

Grandad Bittinger, my Mom's father, had a folksy way of demonstrating the results of overflowing capacity. Day after day I watched him pour coffee into a cup, fill it right to the rim, and then tip the cup so that coffee poured into the saucer which sat beneath it. Eventually curiosity prevailed and I asked about the strange custom. He smiled at me from behind a bushy mustache, a big toothless smile (his "store-bought teeth" were usually reserved for Sundays), and said, "Mr. David, that way the saucer gets a blessing, too."

Grandad was right. The only way we bless each other is when our lives overflow. And it is when we overflow into the lives of others that our own lives grow.

Why was the third manager condemned? Because he failed to do proper market research and put it all into a stock that was collapsing? Because he foolishly invested in junk bonds and lost it all? Because he embezzled the money and used it for himself? To have been guilty of any of those things, the man would have had to have done something. His fault, his failure, was because he had done nothing. Wilful neglect. That's all. But because of it, the man's loss was total.

"There are four things which are little upon the earth," the writer of Proverbs said, "but they are exceeding wise. The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer. The conies are a feeble folk, yet they make their houses in the rocks. The locusts have no kings, yet they go forth all of them by bands. The spider takes hold with her hands and lives in kings' palaces."

One talent each, only one. But used wisely and well.

Rush Limbaugh is right. To a point. His line, "With talent on loan from God," describes each one of us, not merely Mr. Limbaugh. The Apostle Paul reminds each of us, "It is required of a steward that a man be found faithful."


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 11/30/96

Copyright 1996 by David Sisler

Your comment is welcome. Write to me at:

Back to David Sisler's Home Page