The Intimidating Parable of the Talents

The words of the Savior’s parables are few, and simple, but their lessons are profound. The lessons apply quite easily to mortals in general, but I get so much more out of them when I take them personally.

It’s always easy to see how they apply to others, but the lessons become very pointed when I consider how they apply in my own life.

The parable of the talents is one of these. (See Matthew 25:14–30). We could take it to mean that we all should use the talents and resources our Heavenly Father has given us to do good among our fellow men and women. That is a universal admonition.

But when I consider the parable of the talents at a personal level, it becomes intimidating—and inspiring.

Whatever gifts I have been given personally are a trust to be honored. They are part of my inheritance from a divine parent, never to be squandered or ignored.

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The amazing, intricate structure of a leaf.

And yet, what can I, a very flawed mortal and a comparative babe, hope to offer to the Master by exercising those talents in the very basic ways of which I am capable?

I have asked many times for the Lord to show me how to use the talents He has given me in service to others, for His purposes. I have asked for direction to avoid using them in any other way—in any way that might be simply self-aggrandizing or somehow damaging to another of His children.

Sometime after the end of my life, somewhere far in the future, I expect there will be an accounting for my stewardship on the earth—perhaps an interview of some kind. What will I tell Him then? What shall I show Him to indicate how I increased the talents He gave to me before He sent me to earth? Would I seriously say, “Well, I wrote a lot of articles and a handful of novels”? Would I seriously show my photos of beautiful lilies to the Great Creator—to Him who dressed the lilies so much more magnificently than the dress of any earthly ruler? (See Matthew 6:28–29.)

I hope my photos praise His magnificent works. I meant those articles and books to help others see eternal truths as they apply in this life. Still, my works are insignificant compared to His.


Grass, early morning.

It is best to avoid the comparison. The risk of comparing is that I will always come out the loser, and then I might be tempted to do as the slothful servant did and hide my very small talents in shame.

The only wise course is to try to develop them, and to try at this stage of life as never before. Then someday I will show Him the best that I have to offer and plead for forgiveness for those times when I did less than my best. I hope He will be merciful and kind.

It seems likely the only things that will really count in that stewardship report are the things that have brought good into the lives of others—my wife, my children, people I have had the chance to touch in daily life. I don’t think articles and books and photographs are going to count for much, unless they have strengthened or uplifted or inspired someone else.

In other words, I believe the things that will count—the things He might see as an increase of my talents—are the things He would have asked me to do for someone else.

That realization is breathtaking.

I hardly dare ask Him, as flawed as I am, and yet more and more at the beginning of each day I do: Please show me someone to serve today, and how I can help.


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