“You are given those gifts, those talents if you will, to invest in others, not to invest in yourself.”
As I was reading through the Parable of the talents the other day I had a random thought pop into my mind when I came across this part about the wicked and lazy servant: And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ Mat 25:25
What came to my mind was this; “I play for an audience of one.”
That’s an old worship leader adage. As someone who led worship for many years myself I had heard that many times. I think I have even had a shirt that said that once, but suddenly it dawned on me that that may be wrong, that playing, using your talent, with no consideration for anyone else, just playing or singing solely to impress or bless God, to just use it as a vehicle to bring yourself into his presence where, of course, you’ll expect to be blessed, is perhaps, selfish.
You are just giving back what the Lord gave you, no more, no less.
Now, don’t start throwing rocks at me here, I might be all wet, but we have to pay attention to these random thoughts while we’re reading scripture because it is often the Spirit showing us things through his word.
Why does God give someone the gift of music? Why does God give someone a voice that others want to hear and try to emulate and sing along with and them give them an opportunity to use it to lead worship?— I’m talking about believers here—He gives you that gift to lead others into his presence, to give others the opportunity to worship and be blessed by coming into the presence of the Lord through that worship music.
Or, to encourage a group of people, people whom the Lord loves, to lift up their voices together, or to play their instruments together, to bless the Lord God Almighty the maker of heaven and earth.
You are given those gifts, those talents if you will, to invest in others, not to invest in yourself. God invested in you when he gave you those talents. Hiding your talent for fear of using it because you might be embarrassed, is the same as burying it in the back yard for safe keeping.
Or, if you are using your talents with no thought to how others are responding as long as you are being blessed, that is selfishness and may well warrant that—Jesus’ words not mine—wicked and lazy servant title.
My worship leading, all the years I spend playing guitar, learning new chords, learning and practicing song after song, many hours each week—none of that was for me, (at least it was not supposed to be, pride is another battle) that was all an investment into the lives of others. If you are a worship leader, you are someone who had been entrusted with a huge bag of gold, (What a biblical talent really is) so invest wisely.
The Master does not just want his money back interest free. “Here’s what you gave me, isn’t it beautiful?” So no, do not play for an audience of one. Do not preach or teach for an audience of one, do not witness for an audience of one, do not sacrifice and give all that you have for no other purpose than to try to impress God.
Don’t just live in your underground caverns with your precious gift like Smeagol and his ring uncaring about anyone else.
You can do it for God, because you love him and want to share his love with others, but he is not your audience, He is your Lord, your inspiration and your power and he asks us to advance his kingdom, not our own. We advance the Kingdom, we always advance the Kingdom, by witnessing, blessing and encouraging others.
We do that with the gifts He gave us.
Invest in people
If you want to just keep your talents between you and the Lord then you might as well join a monastery, go live high on a mountain with no contact with the outside world in your own little holy bubble and make sure you don’t lose or desecrate your talent, keeping it safe and sound, no challenges to it, no stretching it, no wearing it out—nothing ventured nothing gained—or lost.
At least not until the master returns to see how you invested his investment in you. “What? No fruit, no interest, you could have at least put it in the bank where they could have done something with it and payed you a few bucks in return! ‘Take what he has and give it to someone who I know will invest it.’”
Give it to someone who will at least try to make a return.
You see, it wasn’t that this, the third servant in our parable, did anything wrong, it was simply that he did nothing.
So, if you are going to say I play for an audience of one, that audience of one needs to be a person who needs you to play for them, who needs you to invest what the Lord has given you into them.
So, a better adage might be, I would play for an audience of one.
Would you? –Would you play for an audience of one? Would you preach or teach for an audience of one? Would you use any of the things the Lord has given you, time, energy, wisdom, money—even give all of it—just to invest into three, two, even just one person? Will you be faithful over just a few?
The church has been dying off in the last couple of decades because too many people answer no to that question.
Be the one who says yes!