“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”Matthew 25:29 (NLT)
Have you ever heard someone say that delightfully prodding phrase: “Use it or lose it?” Maybe you were the one saying it, or perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of that remark. Well, for me, I was the one being told that if I don’t use it, I’ll lose it. And, you know what, I really didn’t like hearing that truth!
As a child, I began to sing and take piano lessons at the age of five-years-old. At the same time, I became involved in various sports. Truth be told, I enjoyed the idea of kicking around a soccer ball, swinging a bat, or making three-point baskets, much more than practicing scales, arpeggios, and learning to sight-read sheet music. In fact, it was my parents’ steadfast encouragement and persistence that kept me on the musical path forward. At the time, I didn’t know the Lord had gifted me and purposed music as the path for my life.
I remember dreading performances, recitals, and especially those times when friends of my parents came over to our house because, without fail, I would have to provide the musical entertainment. Yes, my mom and dad took pride in “showing off” their son, my progress in piano proficiency, and in the musical talent the Lord had given me. However, I never looked forward to it and usually obliged with reluctance. I’d rather be outside shooting hoops with my friends. Why did I have to be stuck inside learning to play Mozart sonatas and Bach fugues? I didn’t understand, and in my teenage years, I came to a crossroads where I considered abandoning the very gift of music the Lord had instilled within me. My mind would replay that phrase often repeated to me: “Son, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”
I’m reminded of the account in Matthew 25:14-30, where Jesus teaches his disciples an important lesson about the kingdom of God through what is known as “The Parable of the Talents.” In summary, the parable describes a master who gave a considerable amount of money (“talents”) to three various servants, in keeping with their respective abilities. Although each servant was given a different amount, they were given the same task: invest the treasure with which they’d been entrusted. The first two servants were faithful in caring for their master’s money and were rewarded accordingly. The third servant lacked faith and hid his “talent.” The master saw this as worthlessness. Thus, the servant lost what he had and was punished.
Today, when we speak of a “talented” musician or artist, we are actually harkening back to this parable. A “talent” in Jesus’ time was a large sum of money and estimated to be worth as much as 20 years of income for an average laborer. Because of this parable, the word acquired new meaning. Each of us has been given a certain number of gifts and opportunities (“talents”) by which to serve God with our lives. They are not ours to keep, hoard, or use for selfish purposes. Whatever level of abilities Jesus has given, we are responsible for faithfully utilizing them to bless others, further God’s kingdom, and, ultimately, bring glory and honor to His name. One day we will all be held accountable for what we do for God with what we have been given.
So, you may be wondering what happened following my life’s crossroads moment mentioned earlier. Well, at the age of fifteen-years-old, I finally listened and submitted to God’s will, decided to drop all competitive sports, and accepted the call of God on my life to pursue ministry through the medium of music. I kept singing, and yes, I kept practicing that piano. . . all for the glory of God! Use it or lose it? By his grace, I’ve been actively utilizing the musical talent God gave me ever since that turning point in my adolescence. Today, I praise the Lord for His great faithfulness in my life, for He has blessed “exceedingly abundantly” above all that I could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).