The Parable of the Talents

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God has high expectations, but also provides the means of attaining them. It is not about earthly profit that Jesus is concerned with. It is risk-taking discipleship.

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The Parable of the Talents
(Matthew 25:14-30)

Introduction

The Parable of the Talents is one of a number of parables Jesus spoke at the end of His earthly ministry. He was about to be betrayed and arrested. From there, He would be judged, crucified and buried. He would arise on the third day. After showing himself alive to those whom He had chosen in various times and places, He ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us. He has promised to return and receive us unto Himself. In the meanwhile, we must be prepared for His return. As we are soon to enter into the season of Advent in which we remember that His Kingdom is coming in glory, we should also take the time to be sure to be ready. He has assigned us the task of being witnesses and proclaiming the Kingdom. So we need to continue to minister. Each of us has a part to do. The gifts of the Spirit are given in various measures to perform these tasks. So these parables tell us to be ready. There are rewards given to those who are doing as they were commanded. But there is also the threat of eternal punishment for those who are not. We must remember that Jesus is talking to His own Church. This is not a call for the world to prepare for the coming of the Lord directly, although we do warn the world about the Last Judgment of unbelievers and tell every person that there is an escape from this. The Good News is that all who believe the Gospel will be saved. But being saved means acting out and living one’s faith as well. Just because you are in the church building is not enough. We need to show our faith by what we do.
If this is what Jesus is illustrating, how then does the Parable of the Talents fit in? Parables are stories which are common to everyday life. Here, the parable talks about the conduct of business. It was common for the owner of an estate to entrust others to manage it. Some of these were freemen, and others were slaves. The owner gave some basic instructions of what he wanted done and the outcome he desired. He also provided the means by which this business could be transacted. In this case, the master provided his servants with an enormous amount of capital. A talent was about seventy pounds of either silver or gold. So even the slave who got one talent was entrusted with something of great value.
There are always risks involved in business. Bad investments can be made. Many businesses fail and end in bankruptcy. But the first two slaves assumed the risk and doubles the investment. However, the third slave was afraid and buried the talent. He was afraid that if he invested it that he might lose it and face the wrath of the master. He was even too afraid to put it in the bank to earn interest.

Exposition of the Text

Before we go further in explaining this parable, let us recognize that Jesus is not giving instructions on how to put money to work and more than He was giving a lesson on agriculture in the Parable of the Sower. The risk of conducting business for the Lord is not fiduciary. The risk actually is that of being arrested, beaten, or even losing one’s life for the Gospel. Jesus is perfectly clear about the risks of being a disciple. But we must also remember that Jesus said that He that loses His life for my sake shall find it. If we will be faithful, we cannot fail at the Lord’s business, even if it causes us much personal suffering. We need to remember this.
This makes the failure of the third slave more clear. He was afraid to share the Gospel because He feared personal harm even more than He feared the master. His master was indeed severe. After all, He represents God. God indeed has high expectations. He provided lavishly for our success. We must have faith that God desires our success and not our failure. He wishes far more to reward than to punish. Those who believe this do not fear the austerity of God. The unbeliever only sees God as an arbitrary judge who desires nothing more than to punish failure and sets an impossibly high bar for success. The unbeliever is terrified of God because of this.
The slave with the one talent dug up that talent to return to the master. He thought that at least he would not be punished as much for not losing it than if he had failed and lost it. He had been a good steward of the Lord’s money. He had kept it safe. How shocked he was when he was utterly condemned as an evil and slothful slave and sent into outer darkness. His own confession of the Lord’s austerity became the words of his own condemnation. He has heard how the other two slave had doubled their investment. He heard the words of commendation: “Well done! Enter into the Joy of the Lord.” Entering into the joy of the Lord has the connotation that they would sit at table with their master. This was never the case with slaves. They never ate at the table. After they had served the master and his guests, they could quietly eat the leftovers in a side room. This indicates a change of status, they were no longer slaves. They were the master’s honored guests at the table.
The evil slave did not expect this kind of treatment. But he thought he could at least remain a slave and eat the crumbs left from the master’s table. This is similar to those who don’t want to sit at table in the presence of God in heaven. They seem more interested in a cabin at the edge of glory land. The person who does not love God is afraid of God and desires to be as far away as possible. They want to just sneak into heaven as invisibly as possible and to stay that way. It is good enough to avoid hellfire, they think. But how many, like the slave here, have ended up in outer darkness?
We must always realize, of course, that we did not attain to the table of the Lord because of our good works. Even a faithful slave has no right to the Master’s table. It is entirely by the will of the master that these two faithful slaves attained this status. Even Jesus tells us not to boast of this. Did he not say that we should say that we have just done our bounden duty and are unprofitable servants? It is entirely by grace we have obtained the royal status. And our faith in Jesus Christ gets us there. We are saved by grace through faith, and not by our works, as Paul tells us in Ephesians.
But at the Master’s table we shall be on that day by God’s grace. It is this faith that elevates us as we minister in this life. The Lord has revealed His will to us, just as He did for the Apostles. A person who knows the Lord’s will is no longer a servant. Did not Jesus say so at the Last Supper. We have been elevated to being his friends. We know Jesus shall judge the living at the dead. But faith assures us that His saving grace will save us. He has proven the greatest love for us. No greater love has been demonstrated than by Jesus Christ by his atoning death on the cross. He laid down his own life for that of His friends. Such great love assures us that He will bring us to that table.

Conclusion

So let us examine ourselves as St. Peter tells us. Is our calling and election sure? Are we in the faith? One way we need to look at this is whether we fear God cringingly or whether we love God clingingly. Perfect love casts out all fear. But perfect fear casts out all love as well. If we are in the faith, we can boldly go about our ministry without fearing the dangers, toils, and snares. Grace will bring us home. A Christian has nothing of ultimate value to lose and everything to gain. God has lavished His resources on us by the Holy Spirit. How could we fail if we just act upon it?

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