(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
25th August 2008
The Parable of the Talents is found in Matthew 25v14-30. It starts with these words:
"Again, it will be like…”
A study of Matthew 24v36-25v13 shows us that this means “This is what the Kingdom of Heaven and the Day of Judgement will be like”. It will be like:
…a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them”.
Jesus Christ has left Earth and gone into Heaven. He has entrusted the ministry of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth to us, His church. What a responsibility we carry!
Do we see ourselves as Jesus’s servants?
Sometimes I fear we think of Jesus as our servant. We pray when we want something. We look to Him to make our lives comfortable. We expect Him to be there when we want Him. But do we ensure that we’re there when He wants us? He is our Lord.
We have each received huge resources from Jesus, to invest for Him
Verse 15 says:
To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
When Jesus told this parable, a talent (Greek talenton) was both a unit of weight and a coin (rather like a pound today). A talent of silver was about 6000 denarii, and a denarius was a day’s wages for an unskilled labourer. A talent of gold was about 180,000 days’ wages. If Jesus was referring to a silver talent, and if an unskilled labourer today earns, maybe, £10,000 a year and works maybe 250 days a year, then a talent is worth about £240,000 in today’s currency. It’s a lot of money! And that’s the least He gave to any of the servants! So the parable teaches us that Jesus gives each of His servants a huge amount of resources, but He gives more to some and less to others.
But we’re required to invest whatever Jesus has given us, for Him. Our abilities and resources are not just gifts for us to keep; they’re entrusted to us for His service.
What abilities has God given you? I think we can divide them into four categories:
Do we see our abilities as being for our own use, or as being entrusted to us by our master, to be invested for Him?
God requires us to invest what we have effectively. In verse 16, we read that:
The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.
The master’s confidence in this servant was well-founded. He was entrusted with five units of silver, he invested them and he made a profit of five more units. But in verse 17, we read:
So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.
The second servant, although less able and so entrusted with less, nevertheless made a profit of two units of silver from his investment of two units. He made 40% less profit than the servant with 5 talents, but he’d had only 40% of the resources. He made same percentage profit as the servant with five talents.
From this we learn that Jesus doesn’t want us all to achieve as much as each other. But He does require us to achieve as much in proportion to the abilities we’ve been given.
We must not judge each other.
Our abilities are not the same, and our circumstances are not the same. The person next to you may have been given fewer resources to invest, or may have more problems to deal with, than you. The fact that you are producing more absolute profit doesn’t necessarily mean you’re producing more percentage profit.
But some people bury their talents
Verse 18 tells us:
But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
Sometimes, a negative self image, a perception that we have less ability than others, can cause us to give up on the idea of achieving anything.
Some of us were told even in childhood they we’ll never amount to much, we’ll never lead worthwhile lives, we’re good-for-nothing. But this parable clearly states that all God’s servants have God-given ability. It’s true that some have more than others. But we all have enough to make a difference. If you have just £240,000 and your fellow-servant has £1.2M, you can still achieve as much, proportionally to what you’ve received, as he can!
We now turn to the return to Earth of Jesus Christ and the day of Judgement
In verses 19-21, we read:
After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The
man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five
talents. See, I have gained five more.’
At the second coming of Jesus Christ, He will judge the living and the dead. He will judge the non-Christians according to their sins, but He will judge the Christians according to their works (see, for example, the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46).
All Christians will be saved, but there’s also reward in Heaven, and it’s handed out in proportion to what’s happened in our lives on Earth:
But it’s interesting to note that at least part of our reward is responsibility. Jesus said “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things”. Heaven is NOT just about sitting on clouds playing the harp. There’s work and responsibility in heaven.
Verses 22-23 tell us:
The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two
talents; see, I have gained two more.’
This man was less capable of investing than the first. Consequently, the wise master had given him less to invest. God doesn’t give us more than we can manage. But what he was given, he invested. And he made the same percentage profit!
And God gave him precisely the same wonderful welcome: “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!”
God’s welcome and His reward to us are based on how we used what we were given.
We then read, in verses 24-25:
Then the man who had received the one talent 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. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you’.
This servant did not know his master’s character at all. Nor did he know his master’s authority. There’s nowhere that God did not sow. There’s no seed that God did not scatter. All good things are from God.
And all Christians can make a difference on Earth – God gives us all some resources. But this servant had hidden his talent and done nothing. Now, he was making excuses for His own failure. He was blaming God and not accepting responsibility for what had been entrusted to him.
Verses 26-27 say:
"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? 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.
The master accuses the servant not of being afraid, but of being lazy. Some of us claim to be servants of God, but can’t be bothered to serve Him. We don’t invest what He’s given us. Or, if we do, we invest it for ourselves and not for Him.
In verses 28-30, the master - Jesus Christ - pronounces judgement:
‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
There was something this servant did not have - faith. Remember, he had no idea of what God was like. He had no desire to serve Him. He just ignored what God had given and went on pleasing himself. This servant wasn’t really a servant at all. Every Christian has some concept of the goodness and mercy of God. Every Christian has some desire to serve Him. This man had none. And because he didn’t have faith, everything else was taken away from him on the Day of Judgement.
There’s a saying that “If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a duck”. But sometimes it isn’t a duck. There are people who look like a Christian, and walk like a Christian, and sound like a Christian. They go to church like a Christian, pray like a Christian, read their Bible like a Christian. They may even give like a Christian. But they’re not Christians! They’ve never surrendered to Jesus and asked Him to be their Lord and Saviour. They’ve never been born again. They may have repented of individual sins, but they’ve never repented of sinfulness, of wanting what they want rather that what God wants, of believing what they think, rather than what the Bible teaches.
Remember, Judas was numbered among the twelve. He was a disciple. But he wasn’t a man of faith.
And just as all Christians will ultimately be saved, so all non-Christians will ultimately be lost – even those who look like Christians. Every one of us needs the amazing mercy of God, to give us faith to believe in the redeeming blood of Jesus, to forgive our sins, and to give us Hs eternal life.
How can we know if we’re truly saved? The unworthy servant had been given a talent of silver – a large amount of resources. But even with all that money at his disposal, there was NO PROFIT AT ALL. If you have been born again, then the Holy Spirit of God WILL produce some profit, some fruit for God in your life. Look for fruit. All true believers will produce fruit. And false believers will not.