None of this has been meant to discourage you from using your talents in this world; that was not the intent at all. Rather, I simply wanted to emphasize the nature of a true talent. A talent always requires an investment.
But by all means, make that investment!
The Bible is very clear on this. That's what the whole parable of the talents is about. It's about the sinfulness of not investing in God's creation the things that you've been entrusted with. The only guy who got in trouble was the one who put his talents in the ground, buried them, and recovered them later with nothing to show for it except the exact measure he'd been given. He hadn't done anything at all. That was the offense.
And the tragedy.
But this doesn't mean that all talents should be invested in the same way, or in the same place. There are some talents that are going to produce 10-fold because we put them in high-stakes markets. We put them in places where there's a huge risk that they could fail, and when we do this, this is the place where we reap great rewards. It's the person who has to work at it, who has to put in the time and the effort to make a talent fruitful, but who then rises to the top and becomes a voice for something greater of God.
There are some talents that are going to produce 5-fold because we put them in medium-stakes markets. We put them in places where there's a mild risk that they could fail, and when we do this, this is the place where we reap steady rewards. It's the person who works at it, who puts in the time and the effort, but maybe doesn't rise all the way to the top. Or maybe has a talent that's kind of obscure, that's not necessarily obvious to others who might be looking on, or maybe isn't such high-value in our world. Still, there are good rewards, and the effort is worth it.
The real lesson, though, comes from the last man, the man who buried his talents in the dirt. Clearly, we are not meant to bury our talents, but see what the master says to him. You could have at least put the money in the bank, and then you would have gotten at least the interest that the bank is paying right now.
Think about this for a second. When you put your money in a market, the market has access to that money. It gets to play with it. It gets to tangle with its worth. It gets to decide what you get back out of it. When you put your money in a bank, there's no such interplay. No one else gets to touch your money; it's just for you.
Sometimes, that's the investment we make. Sometimes, that's the best investment we can make. Your talent doesn't have to go into the market to be valuable. You can put it in the bank and make it a resource for yourself. And still be doing honor to the talent that God has given you.
A few years ago, my worship minister (and others) kept asking why I wouldn't join the praise band, why I wouldn't offer my talents as a musician to the ministry of worship. The answer, for me, is that this is one talent that I've put in the bank. What I mean is this: I pour myself out in ministry. I give all of the gift that God has given me to give. I do what God has called me to do. And then, when I come home empty at the end of a day, music is one of the ways that God fills me up again. It's a talent that isn't in the market; it's just in my bank. It's for my own personal use. If I take that talent and start playing a high-stakes game with it, if I put that investment elsewhere, then it may not be in my account when I need to make a withdraw. If I have to make the investment to make my music "good" or to make it "worthy" of being a part of the ministry of music, then it is one more way that I'm pouring myself out. It's one more thing I'm giving away. And you just can't give away everything you've got. You weren't supposed to.
Some things were meant just for you. Some things, you just have to keep in the bank.
But keep them in the bank. Because that's where you can use them. That's where you can make those withdraws. That's where you keep the interest growing, where you keep something steady coming into your talent.
So figure out what the market is for your talent. There is one. For some, it's going to be a high-stakes game, a very public investment with a measurable risk for success or failure. For some, it's going to be a quiet investment, a personal account for private use. For others, it's somewhere in the middle. But it's never in the dirt. It's never a hole in the ground. It's never in a place where you had to dig it up, dust it off, and clean it up before you can use it. On this, the Bible is quite clear.