Day 38

Use It or Lose It

Wisdom Psalm 18:43-50
New Testament Matthew 25:14-46
Old Testament Job 40:3-42:17


Myra Hindley was one of the most notorious murderers of the twentieth century. Her crimes were almost unbelievably horrific. Yet, one person took it upon himself to visit her regularly while she was in prison.

Lord Longford (1905–2001) was a controversial figure who spent much of his life visiting prisoners, including Myra Hindley. Yet, no one can doubt his compassion and his faithfulness, both to God and to those he visited.

When he died, former prisoners joined hundreds of mourners to say farewell to the man who had spent his life faithfully fighting for society’s outcasts.

He found inspiration in the words of Jesus from today’s passage. On his deathbed he asked his wife, ‘You know what the most important quotation from the Bible is?’ He spoke his last words by answering his own question, quoting the words of Jesus: ‘I was in prison and you came to visit me’ (Matthew 25:36).

Life is not a competition that you have to win. It is not supposed to be a rat race. Life is a huge privilege and an opportunity. God has trusted you with gifts and abilities, which he wants you to use. Use them or lose them. He is faithful to us and he expects us to be faithful to him.


Psalm 18:43-50

43 You have delivered me from the attacks of the people;
   you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
   44 foreigners cower before me;
   as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
45 They all lose heart;
   they come trembling from their strongholds.

46 The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
   Exalted be God my Saviour!
47 He is the God who avenges me,
   who subdues nations under me,
   48 who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
   from a violent man you rescued me.
49 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
   I will sing the praises of your name.

50 He gives his king great victories;
   he shows unfailing love to his anointed,
   to David and to his descendants forever.


God’s faithfulness

‘Be kind,’ said the philosopher Plato, ‘for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’ The Bible gives us an even stronger reason to always be kind. God is always kind to us. In his faithfulness, he shows us ‘unfailing kindness’ (v.50).

David is able to look back at his life and see how God has shown ‘unfailing kindness’ to him and his children and grandchildren, (‘his descendants’, v.50). God had delivered him from all ‘the attacks of the people’ around (v.43a). He had put him in a position of leadership with great responsibility (v.43b).

He had given David ‘great victories’ (v.50a) and had saved him and exalted him (v.48). David responded in worship (‘I will sing praises to your name’, v.49b), thanking God for his faithfulness to his ‘anointed’ (v.50b).

You also are ‘anointed’ (2 Corinthians 1:21–22; 1 John 2:20). God will show you his ‘unfailing kindness’ (Psalm 18:50). He is kind all the time. And, if you want to be like him, make kindness your ambition.


Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness to me, that you show me unfailing kindness. Help me to be kind to everyone I meet.

New Testament

Matthew 25:14-46

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was ill and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or ill or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ”


A life of faithfulness

How can you be ‘faithful’ (vv.21,23)?

  1. Use it or lose it

God is generous and kind. He gives us so much. In the parable, the ‘bag of gold‘ (or ‘talent’, as is used in some translations and is the origin of the English word ‘talent’) represents not only your money but your gifts, skills, time, energy, education, intellect, strength, influence and opportunities.

Be faithful with whatever you have been given. It is no good wishing that you had been given more. You are simply called to do the best you can with what you have.

To be faithful means to use the gifts and abilities that God has given you. I am sometimes tempted to be like the third servant who said, ‘I was afraid’ (v.25). We hide our talents because we are afraid of failure and what others may think of us, or of the hard work and responsibility that may be involved.

It has been said that ‘The greatest mistake you could make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.’

The servant who received five talents and the one who received two talents must both have had to risk losing it all. Step out in faith, use your gifts and risk failure.

Jesus said, in effect, ‘use them or lose them’ (vv.28–30). If you do the very best with what you have, God will give you more and say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (vv.21,23).

  1. See the least and the last as Jesus in disguise

Jesus said, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (v.40). He tells us that faithfulness to him is shown in what we do for the most vulnerable and most needy in our world (vv.35–36,42–43):

  • The hungry
    Millions of people are dying of starvation. Every time you feed the hungry, you encounter Jesus. Mother Teresa said, ‘The dying, the unwanted, the unloved – they are Jesus in disguise.’

  • The stranger
    To be homeless, a refugee or an asylum seeker must be one of the most painful experiences of life. When you encounter people who are ‘strangers’ and when you look after the homeless, provide them with shelter and invite them into the heart of your community, you encounter Jesus (vv.35b,38).

  • The sick
    Another way in which you can meet Jesus is through ministering to those who are sick, whether they are in hospital, at home or at church. Every time you pray for the sick you have the opportunity to encounter Jesus.

  • The prisoners
    Those in prison often come from the category of ‘the last and the least’ of our society. Jesus challenges us to imitate his grace and acceptance of ‘sinners’. We need to remember that we too are forgiven sinners.

    It is a huge privilege to go into the prisons or to care for and mentor prison-leavers. I remember the chaplain general to the prison service saying that when he first went into the prisons, he thought he would take Jesus in with him. He soon realised that Jesus was already there. He said that from then on he went into the prisons in order to encounter Jesus.

In all these areas Jesus says, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (v.40). Jesus tells us that when he comes again in glory there will be a judgment (vv.31–33), and it will involve a separation that will surprise people (v.37,44). How we respond to Jesus has eternal consequences (vv.30,46).


Lord, thank you that when I reach out to the least and the last, I encounter you.

Old Testament

Job 40:3-42:17

3 Then Job answered the Lord:

   4 “I am unworthy —how can I reply to you?
     I put my hand over my mouth.
   5 I spoke once, but I have no answer —
     twice, but I will say no more.”

6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:

   7 “Brace yourself like a man;
     I will question you,
     and you shall answer me.

   8 “Would you discredit my justice?
     Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
   9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
     and can your voice thunder like his?
   10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendour,
     and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
   11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
     look at all who are proud and bring them low,
   12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
     crush the wicked where they stand.
   13 Bury them all in the dust together;
     shroud their faces in the grave.
   14 Then I myself will admit to you
     that your own right hand can save you.

   15 “Look at Behemoth,
     which I made along with you
     and which feeds on grass like an ox.
   16 What strength it has in its loins,
     what power in the muscles of its belly!
   17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
     the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
   18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
     its limbs like rods of iron.
   19 It ranks first among the works of God,
     yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
   20 The hills bring it their produce,
     and all the wild animals play nearby.
   21 Under the lotus plants it lies,
     hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
   22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
     the poplars by the stream surround it.
   23 A raging river does not alarm it;
     it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
   24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
     or trap it and pierce its nose?

41 “Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
     or tie down its tongue with a rope?
   2 Can you put a cord through its nose
     or pierce its jaw with a hook?
   3 Will it keep begging you for mercy?
     Will it speak to you with gentle words?
   4 Will it make an agreement with you
     for you to take it as your slave for life?
   5 Can you make a pet of it like a bird
     or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
   6 Will traders barter for it?
     Will they divide it up among the merchants?
   7 Can you fill its hide with harpoons
     or its head with fishing spears?
   8 If you lay a hand on it,
     you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
   9 Any hope of subduing it is false;
     the mere sight of it is overpowering.
   10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
     Who then is able to stand against me?
   11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
     Everything under heaven belongs to me.

   12 “I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs,
     its strength and its graceful form.
   13 Who can strip off its outer coat?
     Who can penetrate its double coat of armour?
   14 Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
     ringed about with fearsome teeth?
   15 Its back has rows of shields
     tightly sealed together;
   16 each is so close to the next
     that no air can pass between.
   17 They are joined fast to one another;
     they cling together and cannot be parted.
   18 Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
     its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
   19 Flames stream from its mouth;
     sparks of fire shoot out.
   20 Smoke pours from its nostrils
     as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
   21 Its breath sets coals ablaze,
     and flames dart from its mouth.
   22 Strength resides in its neck;
     dismay goes before it.
   23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
     they are firm and immovable.
   24 Its chest is hard as rock,
     hard as a lower millstone.
   25 When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
     they retreat before its thrashing.
   26 The sword that reaches it has no effect,
     nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
   27 Iron it treats like straw
     and bronze like rotten wood.
   28 Arrows do not make it flee;
     slingstones are like chaff to it.
   29 A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
     it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
   30 Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
     leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
   31 It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
     and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
   32 It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
     one would think the deep had white hair.
   33 Nothing on earth is its equal —
     a creature without fear.
   34 It looks down on all that are haughty;
     it is king over all that are proud. ”


42 Then Job replied to the Lord:

   2 “I know that you can do all things;
     no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
   3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
     Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
     things too wonderful for me to know.

   4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
     I will question you,
     and you shall answer me.’
   5 My ears had heard of you
     but now my eyes have seen you.
   6 Therefore I despise myself
     and repent in dust and ashes.”


7 After the Lord had said these things to Job , he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.


Job’s faithfulness

God has had a good plan for you from the moment you were conceived. He also had a good plan for Job. Right from the start he had planned Job’s restoration and blessing.

Job is remembered throughout history for his faithfulness. The apostle James says, ‘You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about’ (James 5:11).

Once again God fires questions at Job making him realise that there are simply some things ‘too wonderful for [Job] to know’ (Job 42:3b). Job holds on to the God's faithfulness, ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted’ (v.2). This is a wonderful promise to hold on to when things in your life are not going according to your plans. God has a good plan for you and it will not be thwarted.

God does not give us trouble-free lives. He does not answer all our questions. But he does reassure us that he is with us in our troubles.

God tells Job to pray for his friends who had hurt him, let him down, wrongly accused him, judged him and criticised him (vv.7–8). Job forgave them and showed his total forgiveness by praying for them. As he interceded for them, God not only accepted Job’s prayer for his friends but also, ‘The Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before’ (v.10).

Joyce Meyer writes, ‘If you do things God’s way, he will give you double for your trouble.’ ‘The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first’ (v.12). As with David, God showed his kindness to him and his descendants (v.16).

Job is commended for his perseverance in the face of suffering (James 5:10–11). Satan believed that suffering would cause Job to turn away from God. Job’s perseverance demonstrated that Satan was wrong. With brutal honesty at times, Job was nonetheless able to maintain his worship of God in good times and times of great trial.

His perseverance is an example to us of how to respond to suffering. When you respond with faithful perseverance, Satan is defeated. Job is a ‘type’ of Christ. Through Jesus’ faithful perseverance in response to his suffering on the cross, Satan has been totally defeated, once and for all.


Lord, help me to be faithful with my talents, in praying for my friends and to persevere like Job.

Pippa adds

Matthew 25:14-30

In the story of the talents in Matthew 25, at first glance it does not seem at all fair, giving more to a person who already has a lot. I feel sorry for the man who was too frightened to use his talent. I can relate to him. Sometimes fearing to fail or not wanting to look a fool can hold us back. But God has made us the way we are for a purpose that only we can fulfil.



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Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible, (Faithwords, 2018) p.812

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

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