We tend to think of blessing as something we receive. But when we bless God, it’s something we give. We give God honor. We give him glory. When we make good use of the resources God puts into our lives, we’re blessing him by honoring his purposes.
By contrast, when we fail to use God’s gifts according to his priorities, we dishonor him and rob him of blessing. What that means is we must measure success in our own lives by asking, “How have I used the gifts, talents, and resources God has put in my life to honor him?”
When gifted musicians make music, that honors God.
When farmers diligently prepare their harvest, that honors God.
When businesspeople maximize shareholder value according to biblical priorities, that honors God.
When engineers move earth or open the skies to our travel, endeavor, health, or understanding, that honors God.
When teachers share information, and most particularly when they brighten futures, that honors God.
When parents nurture the gifts of their children, that honors God.
In Ephesians 2:10 Paul writes, “We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” As we use the gifts God has given us, we are fulfilling his mission and his purposes—and blessing God!
Multiplying Our Gifts
But we don’t bless God best by merely using gifts. He expects us to maximize the gifts that he has given and multiply the blessings they provide. Deuteronomy 8:12–13 describes a time when the people of Israel will “have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when [their] herds and flocks multiply and [their] silver and gold is multiplied and all that [they] have is multiplied.” By using God’s gifts and resources in obedience to his will, God’s people were to experience a multiplication of his blessings. So also, we properly use the gifts of God by employing them in ways that multiply his blessings.
In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30, Jesus talks about a master who gives to his servants several talents—five to one, two to another, one to another—and then leaves on a journey. When the master returns, he discovers that the one who had received five talents had made five talents more, and the master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Likewise, when the master learns that the one who had received two talents had made two more, he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Clearly, the master believes that the total amount is not as important as the effort to multiply his provision. The only servant who does not receive praise from the master is the one who was given one talent. Instead of investing and multiplying that talent, he buried it. He failed to make good use of what the master had given him and received a rebuke.
The parable of the talents is really a wonderful message of God’s grace. God doesn’t measure our value by whether we have many talents or just one. His level of care is not determined by whether we are rich or have modest means. His favor is not determined by whether we do white- or blue-collar work. The Lord does not value us for our accumulation; he simply gives us the responsibility of using the resources he provides to multiply his blessings. When we so bless his purposes, that’s biblical success.
In Tim Keller’s book Every Good Endeavor, he talks about an estate planner who wondered, How does my job of helping people disperse their wealth after they’re dead honor God? At that time, he was helping a Christian woman who wanted to bless Christ’s mission with her resources after she passed on. She had an eternal perspective for what could be done with what God had provided during her life. Her perspective enabled the estate planner to realize that his work had an eternal dimension that could make it an act of worship.
I have read other accounts recently of people who are using the resources God provides, in the opportunities God provides, for the purposes he designs.
Bethany Jenkins, who has worked for The Gospel Coalition, described a bus driver in Alabama who had been on the same route for seventeen years. During that time, the bus driver had touched over three hundred students because she realized that her job was her opportunity to witness and show the hand and heart of Christ day after day. One of the students was a special-needs girl who was often agitated when she got on the bus. The bus driver noticed that the young woman was agitated on the days that her father’s car was in the driveway, and the bus driver began to suspect that things were not right. She reported the situation to the authorities, and as a result she changed the future of that child. The bus driver was not wealthy or famous, but she took the resources God had given her and used them for God’s purposes. And that was success.
There is a wise and respected cardiologist in my congregation named Don McRaven. Many in our community owe their lives to his wisdom and skills. Now, because of his age, Dr. McRaven is more often in the hospital as a patient instead of caring for patients. When our minister of pastoral care visits him, the minister sings with his guitar. That’s to be expected. But to the surprise of patients and staff alike, the respected doctor also joins in the songs. Like Paul and Silas in prison long ago, the minister and the doctor belt out hymns that echo down the hallway so other patients can hear of God’s abiding love. Dr. McRaven can no longer practice medicine, but he can still sing. So he uses the voice that God provides to care for patients. He is still using God’s resources in God’s opportunities according to God’s design.
It does not matter how young or old you are. What matters is that you are faithfully doing what God is calling you to do. That’s the ultimate mark of success—not fat paychecks or professional accolades but using God’s resources in God’s opportunities for God’s design. That’s what blesses the Lord and his people.