Jesus says in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
This echoes His longer parable of the talents, in which a master gave three servants different amounts of money to invest during his absence. “To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his own ability.” When the master returned, he judged the servants based on how they used what they had been given, not in comparison to what the others had been given (Matt. 25:14-30).
Is there any doubt that we are the five-talent generation? Is there any doubt that we are the ones who have been given much? Consider:
We live in a place and time of remarkable wealth. Most of those who live below the official poverty line have flat screen televisions, smart phones, medical care, and cars. Those in the middle class have comfortable homes, plenty to eat, and plenty of toys. The wealthy ... well, I won’t even go there.
We live in a place and time of unsurpassed health and safety. Sure, there are still dangers and diseases. But, for most of the last two-thousand years, life expectancy remained below the age of 50. In America in 1900, it finally hit 49. A baby born in America today is expected to reach age 80.
We live in a place and time of leisurely relaxation. It takes so little of our time and energy to supply our needs that a whole industry has cropped up to fill the hours of boredom. Many of us still work hard—and we should—but it has more to do with pursuing a certain standard of living and satisfying debt collectors than putting food on the table. Modern conveniences have made many aspects of housework (though not all of them) basically obsolete.
We live in a place and time of political freedom. We can say practically anything without fear of the seizure of property or physical violence. We can speak boldly in the name of Jesus.
We have been given a rare window of opportunity, and it won’t stay open forever. The historian and commentator Mark Steyn observes, “the life we’ve led since 1945 in the Western World is very rare in human history.” He goes on to say, “our children are unlikely to enjoy anything so placid... The United States has the most powerful government with the longest reach of any nation in history. It is also the brokest nation in history. Resolving that contradiction is unlikely to be pretty.”
Truly, those of us alive today have been given a unique situation in this prosperous, free, relaxed America.
Are we making the most of the opportunity while it lasts? “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:15-17).
Previous generations accomplished so much for the Lord with so much less going for them. Churches grew by leaps and bounds because preachers, elders, and members all made an effort to spread the word, spending hours a week in “cottage studies.” Evangelists brought the gospel into new areas, and sacrificed to strengthen small churches in out-of-the-way places. And of course, the first generation of Christians provided “so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,” with their example. They boldly converted multitudes while risking life and limb.
They flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:40-42).
It’s almost as if their souls shout forth, “Look at what we accomplished, through the grace of God, without any of the advantages that you have, and with many obstacles against us. What’s your excuse!” (Heb. 12:37, Rev. 2:10, 2 Cor. 11:23-29).
Perhaps the church needs less teaching and more doing. We listen, and listen, and listen some more, but when does the listening translate into action? When do we become “effectual doers” (James 1:22-25) of the message we have heard? When do we transform the lessons of the pew to the action of the street?
We are the ones who have been given much. We are the ones of whom much is required. We are the ones who will answer to a higher threshold of opportunity. Opportunity can be squandered and never regained, such as it was with Felix (Acts 24:24-27) and the Jews of Antioch (Acts 13:42-49). Squandered opportunity soon becomes judgment.
A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard keeper, “Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?” And he answered and said to him, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9).
Remember, the master was not angry at the wicked slave for spending or losing his money—he was angry at the wicked slave for doing nothing with it. He took it from him and gave it to the faithful slave who made an investment. If on the Judgment Day we have nothing to show for this golden opportunity, “from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away” (Matt. 25:29).