Jesus on Using Gifts and Fighting Fear of Failure

Jesus on Using Gifts and Fighting Fear of Failure February 21, 2024

Jesus speaks on using gifts and fear of failure.
Jesus speaks on using gifts and fear of failure, photo by the author

Did you know Jesus spoke of using your gifts to serve the Lord and fighting fear of failure? It’s true. It’s all found in a passage that I will no doubt quote often in this column. (I already quoted two verses from it in a previous article.) It’s Jesus, the Master Storyteller telling a masterful story. It’s found in Matthew 25. It’s called the Parable of the Talents. 

What is a Parable?

Parables are stories, that, according to Scripture, hold a two fold purpose. We only have time to cover the first purpose today, which is, a parable is a simple story Jesus used to help believers to understand something complicated. This parable is part of what is called Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, in which Jesus was privately teaching His disciples important lessons, just days before He went to the cross. This parable is one of several that Jesus used to show these future leaders of the church what the Kingdom of God looks like. Characters and elements in these parables often represent other things and people and this is one such parable. 

Each According to His Ability

In the parable of the talents, Jesus tells the story of a master who is about to go away on a journey, but before he goes, there is business to be done. He calls his servants to himself to distribute some of his wealth to them, for the purpose of putting that wealth to work for the good of the master, and his “estate.” This wealth is given in the form of something called talents, and it’s not an even distribution. Instead the master has intimate knowledge of his servants’ abilities and distributes the talents to them, “each according to his ability.” 

The Symbolism 

To really understand this parable, it is helpful to know what the various items in the parable represent. The master represents God. The estate is his kingdom. The servants represent us, and but now let’s take a moment to look at this thing they call talents. 

The Talents

I did a year long study on the parables a few years back, and one of the things I wanted to know is what a talent was when Jesus was telling this story. It turns out a talent was a unit of measure, often used in weighing gold. I did further research on what the value of a talent was, and it turns out, after much careful research, I still have no idea. Different sources said different things—anywhere from a thousand dollars, to a year’s wages, to 20 years’ wages. While I don’t know the exact value of a talent, I know it had a great value and I think its providential to the meaning of talent today. 

Think about it, the master, who represents God in the parable, entrusted something of great value, that belonged to him, to his servants for them to use to advance his estate.  Similarly, our talents are something of great value that God has entrusted to us, for the good of His Kingdom. It’s incredible when you think about it. As a pastor, I feel like I spend a fair amount of time trying to help people to believe in God, but this parable seems to say that God believes in us. He took something of great value, something of His, a talent (at least one) and invested it in you, trusting you to do something good with it.  

Death to Comparison

The uneven distribution of the talents is not a sign that the master is unfair. Rather the master gives each servant what he can handle, based on some sort of prior knowledge. This is huge, and it’s meaning will put to death one of the most crippling things for people who desire to use their gifts and talents to serve the Lord, i.e., comparison. If the master, who represents God entrusts these talents to his servants (us), according to our ability. 

This is immensely liberating, because it removes comparison. You’re not called to be better than me and I am not called to be better than you. This is huge, because comparison is deadly in the church. It either leads to pride (“I’m so much better than them that I don’t know why they would try.”) or discouragement (“They’re so much better than me, I don’t know why I would try.”) Instead of comparison and competition, we are responsible for the only thing that is really in our control. We are responsible for faithfulness. 

Let’s Look at the Servants

We’ve looked at the master. We looked at the talents, but now it’s time to look at the servants. This is immensely important because the servants represent us. The master gave the talents to the servants each according to his ability. One servant received five talents, another two talents, and to another one. What can we know about these servants? Well, first we need to remember this is not a true story, it’s an illustration, a simple story Jesus used to help believers to understand something complicated. These are not real people, but I like to think about them as people I’ve met. 

The Five Talent Guy  

You all know the five talent guy. He’s the guy you went to high school with, who was good at everything. Everything he touched turned to gold—captain of every team, leader of every club. The guy girls love to date, the guy guys love to hate—he’s the five talent guy and the master invested heavily in him. 

The Two Talent Guy

You know him too. He is not as naturally talented as the five talent guy, but we just did that whole thing about comparison, so let’s not go there. Everything he loses in natural ability, he makes up for in hard work and the master invested a good deal in him as well.

The One Talent Guy

He’s not the greatest go-getter. He’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but the master invested in him as well and I think that’s the key to this. As I’ve traveled the country, sharing this presentation, I frequently have people who come up to me and say they don’t have a talent. Respectfully, I don’t think that’s true. Remember, the master represents God and we are the servants. If the master invested one talent in this guy, then surely God has invested at least one talent in you. 

A Test of Faithfulness

Having given the servants their investment, the master goes away on his journey and the reaction of each servant is telling. The five talent guy and the two talent guy went to work at once, and Jesus makes his illustration easy, both of them double what the master invested in them. By way of comparison, the one talent guy takes what the master has invested in him and buries it. I think this demonstrates that old nemesis of creativity, fear of failure. 

Fear of Failure

I can picture this servant imagining the consequences of losing the master’s investment, rather than seeing the amazing possibilities the master’s investment provides. That is the essence of fear of failure. Do you suffer from fear of failure? If you do, you are going to be so glad you came to The Imaginative Church today, because I am going to tell you two ways to overcome fear of failure. The first one is with three words you will want to memorize. Are you ready?


It’s true. Sooner of later, you will fail. It’s nothing to fear. It’s a part of life. There are only two people who never fail. The first is God. People say God can do anything. Actually there are two things God can’t do. God can’t sin, and God can’t fail. The only other person who never fails is nowhere near as honorable. The only other person who never fails is the person who never tries anything new. The old cliche rings true here. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. 

The way to solve problems, the very essence of creativity, is to try new things, but understand if you try new things, sometimes you will fail. We can’t fear failure. We need to learn to fail forward, learning from our mistakes, and moving forward until we succeed. Remember this is a parable that is designed to show what God’s kingdom is like. In God’s Kingdom success and failure is not measured numerically, so much as it is measured in faithfulness. We who love the Lord, need to use our God-given gifts to serve the Lord in faithfulness, trusting God with the outcome. In Matthew 24:46 (the chapter just before our text) Jesus reminds us, Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing (serving out of his/her giftedness) when he comes. Remember the Master is coming back and we are supposed to be preparing the way.

The Master Returns

One day the master returned from his journey and called his servants to him. The five talent guy comes up and says, essentially, “Master,  look! You entrusted me with five talents. I gained five more. I have ten now.” The Master’s response is telling. “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21 ESV) 

Emboldened, the two talent guy steps up and says almost the same thing. Only the amounts change. “Master, look! You entrusted me with two talents. I gained two more. I have four now.” Notice what the master doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “Well four is great, but he has ten. Why can’t you be more like him?” The master knows this guy’s abilities and how much he invested in the servant and he is so equally pleased that Jesus has his master character say the exact same words to this servant. “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23 ESV)  

But What About the One Talent Guy?

The one talent guy must be dealing with regret by this point. He sees his fellow servants standing behind large piles of gold, and in his hand is a dirty bag. He’s afraid. I get that. I have let fear of failure hold me back too. What I don’t get is what He did to the master as a result. He looks the master in the eye and says, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping

where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ (Matthew 25:24-25 ESV) He threw the master’s investment back in his face. 

The Third Servant’s Advocate

Reading that, I know many people want to advocate for this servant. You might want to say, “Wait, I’ve had bosses like that—unethical, dishonest and more. I get why he was afraid.” Respectfully, you’re forgetting this is a parable—a simple story Jesus used to help believers to understand something complicated. The master in this story represents God. God can’t fail and He also can’t sin. He doesn’t do any of the things in the servant’s accusation. The problem is not with the master. The problem is with the servant. 

The Second Way to Overcome Fear of Failure

Why was the master angry with the third servant but pleased with the first two? After all the money they were given was not theirs. Jesus makes the story simple, and so they doubled the money. Of course that is not always how investing works. One could argue they gambled with money that belonged to the master. They won but they could have lost. The third servant played it safe. Why is He the subject of the master’s anger? 

This brings us to the other way to overcome fear of failure. The first two servants trusted the master to be good whether they won or lost, and the third servant didn’t. The way to overcome fear of failure is to trust the master enough to step forward in faithfulness and put your gift to work for the good of the Kingdom. Will you fail from time to time? Yes, but don’t fear failure. Learn from it. Trust God and move forward in faithfulness. God is completely trustworthy. Trust Him to be bigger than your fears, serve faithfully and trust Him with the results. If you do that, there is a very good chance that one day you will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”

If I had to pick one of my art ministry presentations that represents my passion for ministry, this would be it. If I had my way, I would do this presentation everywhere I go. I delight in helping people find and use their gifts to the glory of God. During the pandemic, I recorded the presentation for a church, complete with a speeded up painting. I call it “Hurried, Buried, and Worried.” You can see it here. 

About Dave Weiss
Dave Weiss is a pastor and a traveling speaker. He has written and/or illustrated many self-published books and has his MDIV and DMIN, both with a concentration in Creative Arts Ministry. He is married to his wife Dawn and has two adult sons and a grandson named David. You can see more about his ministry at You can read more about the author here.

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