Sunday, August 19, 2012


Matthew 25:14-30

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

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 onetalent 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 noseed. 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.
In Jesus' day, a "talent" was a fairly large amount of money.  Of course, like all of Jesus' parables, this one is symbolic, and it doesn't take much imagination to guess that the "talents" in the story represent the resources God has given us - not only our talents, but our time, spiritual gifts, material possessions, and all the resources we have at our disposal.  You might say that the moral of the story is "use it or lose it."  We're supposed to use our gifts for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

So, for starters, you might ask yourself, "Am I using my gifts for God?"

And immediately, some of us come back with the response, "What gifts?"

Maybe you're one of those who feel like you have nothing substantial to offer - few if any material possessions, no real talents to speak of, nothing unique to contribute.  Interestingly, this passage doesn't try to claim that all of us are equal in that regard.  Some people do have more "talents" to offer than others.  But that's not really the point, is it?  Even the servant with only one talent is held accountable for his actions.  His master doesn't expect him to earn the same amount as the guy with five talents, but he does expect something.  Maybe you don't have the resources that the person sitting next to you has, but you do have something, and that's what you have to use - whatever you've got.

Now here's where the passage gets a bit tricky.  Because I've heard some people say that this parable is teaching us to be "good stewards" of what we have; in other words, don't waste what God has given you.

But if Jesus had wanted to make this parable about not wasting your resources, it would have been very easy to do so.  The guy with the one talent could have wasted it, squandering the wealth like the prodigal son.  But he didn't.  Notice, even the "wicked, lazy servant" didn't waste his talent; he saved it, protecting his master's money by burying it in the ground until his return.  And yet the master was angry with him, because he wanted his servant to do something with the talent and earn more.

The point isn't just "don't waste your talents."  If you're living your life just trying to avoid sin, you've only gotten half of the message.  Are you expecting a reward just because you didn't spend your talent on something for yourself?  Don't count on it.  God demands more!  God wants you to use what He's given you and invest it in the Kingdom.

In a sense, when you invest your talents in this world, you're burying them in the ground.  From an eternal perspective, that kind of investment counts for nothing, and earns no spiritual wealth.  There's nothing wrong with using your talent of persuasion, for instance, to make a living in advertising, but if that's all you've done with it, you're burying it.  That same talent could be used to help share the gospel or make a difference in the church.  Do you have financial gifts?  You could spend them to buy a more impressive car and a bigger DVD collection, or you could put them to use in your church or find other ways to make them work for the Kingdom.

The band Sixpence None the Richer took their name from a quote by C.S. Lewis:
Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given to you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to his father and saying, 'Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.' Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child's present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction.
Jesus' parable makes the same point.  The talents in the question do not belong to the servants; they are the master's, given to them for their use for a short while.

Our talents and resources are God's.  But unlike the child in Lewis' story, we take our sixpence and divide it up - spending some of it on ourselves, wasting some of it on sin, leaving some of it lying around unused.  After we've almost used it up, we find some little bit left over and we use that to buy God's birthday present, proudly presenting Him with five minutes out of our day or a few dollars in the collection plate.  The rest of it is wasted, or at best, buried in the ground somewhere.  Even then, I think, God blesses our efforts, but that says a lot more about God's grace than it does about our own goodness.

So what are you doing with what God has given you?  Even if it's only sixpence, God has given you something to invest, and He's expecting a return on that investment.  How are you using your time, your money, and your gifts?  Are you wasting them?  Are you investing them in this world?  Or are you putting them to work for the Kingdom, gaining more for God so that upon His return, you'll hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"?

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