The Average Man

From Short Sermons for Daily Life by Stephen M. Paulson. Grit Publishing Co., Williamsport, PA, 1907.

The Average Man

He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, Thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold I have gained two other talents besides them. – Matt 25:22.

Rev. Stephen M. Paulson

Though we have often read the parable of the talents, we have scarcely noticed the middle character – the man with the two talents. Our minds have been occupied with the five-talent man who gained other five talents, and the one-talent man who buried his talent in the ground. The two-talent man has seemed to be placed there just to round out the parable. Yet I am inclined to think that this seemingly unimportant personage is the most important for consideration, because he represents the average individual. There are few persons of exceptionally brilliant endowments. Most of us are two-talent men.

Here in America the “average man” is in the majority, and some day it flashes upon us that you and I belong to that vast majority. That may be a critical moment in our careers. Up to that moment we have been so full of ambition, mixed, possibly, with a little conceit, that we believed our powers unlimited, and everything possible. We have made all sorts of excuses to ourselves for being still in a minor position. “Wait,” we said, “our time will come; we are not yet old enough; we have not had our opportunity. When it does come we shall astonish the world.”

Then one day something happens – our failure in a great attempt, the promotion over us of a younger man, the quiet ignoring of our person – and it comes upon us with stunning force that the whole world rates us only as fair to average.

Now, it is just at this critical point that the average man needs encouragement, and is least likely to get it. If he confides to someone his ambition to achieve great things, he will probably be laughed at. Sympathy for his early ambitions and dreams he must not look for. And now it rests with him whether he shall rise above or fall below that undistinguished plane of the average man. Let him read over the Parable of the Pounds and see in the two-talent man who made a success of his life, a possible picture of himself.

First I notice that the man in the parable did not sit down and enviously complain because he was given less than one-half as much as his fellow servant. He did not talk of “equality,” and “common ownership,” and “unfair discrimination,” and raise an agitation to compel his master to give him as much. No; he simply went to work with his two talents and he accomplished with them proportionately as much as the five-talent man – that is, he doubled them.

The work of the world is being done by the average man. Master minds and great leaders of men are few. The world needs them occasionally and then they appear. But the work of the world must be done day after day through all the ages, and it is being done by the faithful two-talent man. As has been truthfully said, “there is not today a more inspiring sight, than to see a man start in life with ordinary capacity, and see his powers grow under his faithful use.”

How shall I make the most of what I have? How shall I double my mental, moral or spiritual stock? Plainly, according to Jesus, by use. Paradoxical as it may sound, the more we expend, the more we have; the more we give, the more we receive.

Gibbon was considered an average writer – a two talent man. He worked twenty years on one book, and his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” will live as long as literature lasts. Noah Webster was not considered an extraordinary man by his fellow townsmen. He gave 36 years to one book and he will ever be known as a great lexicographer. Newton was not considered a genius when he lived; and we might extend the list infinitely, of persons whom we remember because they used to the utmost their moderate capacities.

“Thou hast been faithful over a few things,” said the master to his servant. After all, it is faithfulness in little things that counts in life. Who will trust you with great matters if you have been found unfaithful in small ones? Who will make you a master if you have been an unfaithful apprentice? Who will set you a ruler over cities if you cannot rule your own temper?

Oh, my friends! let us not blame Providence for bestowing few talents, or environment and circumstances, and assert that we cannot rise to anything better and nobler than we are now. The man who uses aright his talents rises superior to circumstances. We generally think that the city man has many advantages over others, yet attention has been called to the fact that the majority of our cities are being ruled by men whose childhood and youth were spent in the country. A recent canvass of prominent men in New York city shows that eighty-five per cent, were reared in the villages and rural districts. Nineteen of our twenty-six presidents came from the country. A census of the colleges and seminaries in and about Chicago showed that the country is supplying eighty per cent, of our college students.

Let us realize as we have never done before, our possibilities. You and I may be only two-talent men, but our lives pass out of the commonplace and take on added dignity and value in the light of the things we may accomplish if we are faithful.

Jesus in His work did not pick out the men of brilliant parts, the five-talent men. His work was done indiscriminately among the wise and foolish. He set Himself as the pattern to one as well as to the other, showing thereby that He believed in the possibility of higher manhood for every being to whom God has given a soul.

Jesus was always encouraging men to make the best use of their lives. “Be faithful in that which is least. Attain a worthy and noble manhood with the materials in hand, and greater things shall be entrusted to you.” With that determination go forth to tomorrow’s toil and cares, to its joys and sorrows, and they shall all weave themselves into the texture of your finer and nobler manhood. And when the end of the day is come the great commendation shall be yours:

“Well done, good and faithful servant. Because thou hast been faithful over a few things I will make thee ruler over many things.”

From Short Sermons for Daily Life by Stephen M. Paulson. Grit Publishing Co., Williamsport, PA, 1907.

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