Last week we looked at The Parable of the Ten Virgins. That parable and the one we are looking at today was told in the midst of a discussion concerning the return of Jesus Christ. The disciples specifically asked him the following question, “Tell us, when this will happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”
Just as Jesus begins telling the first parable, He gives this response, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Jesus simple answer was, I do not know.
He then began to share a couple of parables to discuss what He considered to be more important than knowing the time of His coming. In the first parable, Jesus communicated the importance of being ready. Given that no one knows the day and time that Jesus will return, we should live each day as if today is that day. We should be ready at all times. If we do not, we will surely be caught off guard one day.
He then shares the following parable to help us understand that we are expected to do more than sit back and relax.
The Parable of the Talents
14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
– Matthew 25:14-30 (NASB)
Trust And Responsibility
In this parable, Jesus tells the story of three different servants, that were given three different sums of money. Each one was responsible for what they were given. The only caveat to their accepting the money is that they would one day be accountable for how they managed the money.
They were not given any specific instructions on how they should spend the money. They were not given a list of approved and unapproved purchases. They were not given any expectations of how much they should have when the master would return. They were trusted to be responsible and given the freedom to figure the rest out on their own.
More Than Your Money
We must keep in mind that the people and elements of this story are not literal. Jesus told simple stories to communicate deep spiritual truths.
The money in this story, symbolizes everything that we have been entrusted with while we await Jesus’ return. Too many of us want to compartmentalize our lives and withhold certain areas from accountability. We might be faithful to attend church but never consider how we speak to others when we are not at church.
Here is a short list of things for you to consider. All of us are responsible for how we manage our:
Time. This is the most valuable resource we have. Once it is gone, we will never get it back. We never get a do-over with our time. In addition to that, we all have a predetermined amount of time, but only God knows the number of those days. We may have 50 years in front of us and we may only have two hours. For this reason, all of us could do a better job of managing our priorities so that we get the most out of the time we have.
Talents. These are the things that we have learned in life. Playing the piano, speaking another language, carpentry skills, being a leader, etc. These are things that you have put in hours and hours to learn. Many of us never consider that God has allowed us to develop these skills and therefore, never consider how they might be managed well. We can assume, that if we do these things and they provide us an income that we are using them as we should. We can also assume, that if we do these things and they provide us joy, even if we do not get paid, that we are using them as we should. Perhaps this is true. If you have a clear conscience then be at peace. But, have you ever considered that you might be able to invest in someone else; or that your learned skill or talent could be used in your local congregation; or that by using your talent to help others might open doors to build a relationship?
Gifts. These are the gifts granted to you by the Holy Spirit so that you fill a place in the body of Christ. Even if you have never learned anything that sets you apart from others, God gifts you so that you fit into the body of Christ, just like a hand or foot fits into the physical body. In Romans we are given this short list of possible gifts: prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy. To a certain degree, we can develop each of these gifts on our own. But God, through the Holy Spirit, gives us a bent towards one or more of these gifts. These gifts can manifest themselves for the rest of your life or at different seasons of life. You are gifted as God sees fit, so that you can participate in His work, in a local church.
Influence. All of us have influence. Some to a greater degree than others and some with more people than others. But, nonetheless, all of us have at least a small measure of influence on a few people. Most of us would never consider that we will one day give an account for the way we used our influence. Many of us, use our influence for personal gain. Now there isn’t anything wrong with that from time to time, but if that is all we leverage our influence for, we may consider what God would think.
Words. We all know that words are powerful. We have all felt great joy, as well as, great sorrow because of the words that have been spoken to us. We have also made others feel the same way by what we have spoken. Many of us will guard our words with some people and in some situations, and then do the opposite with other people and other situations. We are told that we will one day give an account for every idle word that was spoken.
We are expected to be responsible for all the components that make up our lives. We are not given rigid guidelines but we are given the responsibility to use them wisely and are left with the understanding that we will one day give an account for the way we have managed our life as a whole. But we must understand that the individual areas of our life cannot be compartmentalized. We cannot give parts of our lives to God, parts of our life to leisure, parts of our lives to our boss, parts of our life to our kids, etc. The totality of our life is given to the master. There may be certain areas where we are given more and some areas less. One that is retired may have more discretionary time than discretionary income. But no matter what we are given, the master wants us to invest it wisely.
The Key Character In The Story
The man with the one talent is the key character in the story. It is said about the other two that they did what they were supposed to do and the Master was pleased with them.
The man with the one talent was criticized as being wicked and lazy. So the question begs to be asked, What did he do wrong?
You may be able to identify something different, but I see two character flaws with the man that was given the one talent.
The first is selfishness and self-centeredness. When he was called upon to give account for what he had been given, he was only concerned with how he might be affected by the outcome. The master challenged this in the man as he pushed back against the excuse that he made.
After the man made excuses, the master basically said, you were not really concerned about me or whether or not I would be pleased. If you had been, you would have at least put my money on account at the bank and let it draw interest. The man acted in his own best interest and not the best interest of the master.
The second was his unwillingness to be under authority. The man felt no responsibility for what he was given. While it was not discussed in the beginning of the parable, there was an expectation of accountability communicated at the end. Being under authority means that there is someone that holds the right to make us accountable. The man in this story did not invest what he was given. He hid the money and returned it just as it was given to him. The expectation was not to return what was given, but to invest what was given and bring the balance when the master returned. This person changed the rules. He exercised power he did not have. He usurped the person with the real power.
Being a good steward means that you understand that you are assuming responsibility for something that is not yours. You will one day have to give account for how it was used.
It also means that you will not misuse or defile what you have been entrusted with.
Jesus has gone away and will return one day. On that day we will have to give account for how we managed our life. We would be wise to invest the totality of our lives loving and serving others that we might produce other followers of Christ.
God considers us to be wicked and lazy if we are not actively engaged in the process of investing what we have been entrusted with. These are not my words but His from the parable above. There is no such thing as a passive Christian. This parable comes as a stern warning to those that would hope to be remain idle and slide by not assuming any responsibility for their life.
Faith without works is dead. You will not stand before God and hear the words, “well done my good and faithful servant,” simply because you made a profession of faith. You will hear those words because the life you live provides the necessary evidence for faith in Christ.
If your life does not bear the evidence of faith, then you would be wise to evaluate your priorities. You need to wrestle with what you truly have faith in. Your faith should recognize the authority of God; be others focused, for the hope of making disciples; and produce Godly character identified by the fruit of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”