This parable is the third of four parables that we are looking in a series of four parables that Jesus taught back-to-back. They are all connected to each other, and they are all in relation to watching and being ready for the second coming of Jesus.
14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
Who is this man that is going into a far country?
- It represents Jesus.
- When did this man leave to go to this far country?
- Acts 1:9
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
- It was at Jesus’ ascension after He resurrected from the dead.
- So this parable is very much applicable to those that are living in these times. It is not about the Jews in the Old Testament. The timing that we are given is from ascension of Christ and onwards.
Who do the servants represent?
- John 12:26
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
- The servants are more than just the prophets or teachers or pastors. They represent any follower of Jesus. Any person who wishes to commit their life to Christ.
So before this man leaves into a far country, he delivers to his servants his own goods. What are these goods?
- They are talents.
- To one he gave five talents, to another he gave two and to another he gave one.
- Notice the Bible says that he gave it according to their ability. Meaning he gave to them what they could handle, what their capacity was.
- There was no advantage to get more talents. It does not mean that one was more blessed than the other. This word talent here does not mean the talent of singing or the talent of cooking. We can certainly apply that later. But with more talents also come more responsibility.
- However, the word talent here actually means money.
- So each servant had a different amount of money that was allotted to them.
So after the man leaves, what do the servants do with these talents?
- Matthew 25:16-18
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
- The first one that had five talents went and traded and made five more talents.
- The second one that had two talents also went and traded and gained two more talents.
- But the last one that only received one talent went and hid the talent in the earth.
- The first two doubled their talents, whereas the last one remained at the one talent that was given to him.
- How did they do it? They had to trade. They had to use the money that was given to them already to make more.
Let’s continue with the parable.
- Matthew 25:19-23
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 — His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 — He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
- So by and by the master would return and take an account of all that he had given to his servants.
- When the first one came and said he had doubled the money from five to ten talents, what did the master say?
- Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many thing: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
- He was commended! He had been faithful in a few things, now the lord was ready to make him ruler over more things.
- Then the second servant comes and with his two talents he had doubled it to four talents. What does the master say to him?
- He says the exact same words to him as he had said to the servant that had been entrusted five talents.
- Notice that there was no distinction between him that had five talents and him that had two talents. They both received the same rewards because they had both doubled what had been given to them.
- They both had been faithful in that which was least by making use of and trading the talents that had been entrusted to them and so they BOTH were made ruler over many things.
- The second servant was not rewarded less because he only had two talents. No. The master was looking at the fidelity of the servant, his faithfulness in using what had been entrusted to him. In terms of percentage wise, he was on the same level as the servant who had been given five talents.
- So we can see clearly here that there is no advantage to receiving more. In fact, if you receive more, you are required to produce more as well.
- Yes, in both cases they doubled the talents.
- But the first servant actually had to earn or produce five more, whereas the second servant only had to earn two more.
- So there is more responsibility if you are given more.
Now let’s have a look at the last servant.
- Matthew 25:24-25
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
- This is the servant that had received one talent. He returns only one talent back to the master. He didn’t double it like the other servants.
- What is the reason that this servant gives for only returning just one talent back and not doubling the talents like his fellow servants?
- He says that he knew that the lord was a hard man. What does that mean? That word hard there means tough and fierce.
- But why does he have this perception of the lord like that?
- He says that this lord reaps where he has not sown and he gathers where he has not strawed. That word strawed means scattered.
- So this servant thinks that the lord is unjust. He reaps and gathers the fruit from places where he actually has not scattered of sown seed.
- The servant actually has a negative view of the lord. And in fact, it is a false view. How do we know that it is false?
- First – the other servants don’t view him that way.
- Second – the lord’s reception of the first two servants were not unjust. They simply doubled what they had and that was enough for the master.
- Third – no where do we see the lord treating the servant in an unjust way.
- So what did the servant actually do? He said that he was afraid and went and hid the talent in the earth.
- If the parable stopped here we could gather some conclusions that would probably be different from what was written.
- Maybe the servant was really afraid of losing the money. He was being really careful.
- Maybe the servant didn’t know what to do with the money. But actually that is not possible because the first two servant knew.
What was the actual problem of this third servant? How did the lord reply?
- Matthew 25:26-27
26 — His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
- What does the lord call the servant? He calls him wicked and slothful. Another word for slothful would be lazy.
- You see, this servant was not scared of the lord at all. He was lazy. He procrastinated. He despised the responsibility that had been placed upon him. He kept pushing back his duties until it was too late.
- And when the lord came to reckon with him about his duties, instead of owning up to the problem of his laziness he made an excuse that he was afraid of the lord who seemed to be unjust – reaping where he had not sown and gathering where he had not strawed.
- He gave an unjust view of the lord when in fact the reality was his laziness that put him in that situation.
However, the lord does not stop there.
- He uses the servants words against him.
- If I really was like what you had called me, someone who reaps where he has not sown, that fear should have driven you to put my money to the exchangers. At least there I would have gained some interest on it. It might not have doubled but at least it would have made something!
- So we can see clearly that the excuse that this wicked and slothful servant gave was simply that – an excuse at best!
So finally what does the lord do to this wicked and slothful servant?
- Matthew 25:28-30
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- The talent is taken from him and given to the other servant.
- But what does it mean that to him that has he shall be given more, and to him that does not have what he does have shall be taken away?
- It is not so much what you actually have, not the amount. But what do you do with what you have whether it be a little or a lot? And if we don’t use the talents entrusted to us, it will eventually be bestowed on someone else.
God has given to each and every one of us talents.
- That can be singing, it can be cooking. It can be the talent of working with our hands or speaking. Even the gift of money. Whatever you have in your bank account, that is all from God. We might be tempted to think that we earnt that money with our own abilities. But it was God that gave that strength to you. It was God that gave you the power of intellect for your studies or research or even to know what business decision to make.
- Everything that we have and what we own is all from God, whether you recognize it or not.
- Maybe some of us might think that we don’t have much so we don’t have to give much or be accountable to much. But we can clearly see from this parable that that is not the case.
- God doesn’t look at the amount that we have. He looks at how we make use of what we do have. And everyone has something.
- God has not left a single person on this earth without a talent. That much is obvious from this parable.
- Moreover, we are not born into situations without our own control. Clearly from the parable God has given us talents according to our ability. God knows how much we can handle. He knows what to bestow on us.
- So we need to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving and contentment. To be thankful for all that God has given without always focusing on what we don’t have.
Now, how do we go about trading? Why does the parable use this concept of trading to increase our talents?
- That word trading simply means to work, to be engaged, to toil, to commit.
- But you see, it is not just any work or commitment. All these talents were gained to give back to the lord.
- And in the same way, whatever God blesses us with, He will come one day and reckon with us, calculate with us, how we have multiplied and used those talents. Are we giving it back to Him, are we giving Him the glory? Or are we using it for selfish purposes?
- You see, it’s not enough to just USE your singing talent. Are you using that talent to give God the glory? Or are you just using it for selfish purposes to just earn money without any thought of the Lord who gave it to you?
- Many a good meaning Christian started off their singing careers in church. And when vaulted to fame, they all but forget God who gave it.
- But if we are to trade our talents, if we are to work, then it requires effort.
- Sometimes we hold the work that we do for the Lord to a low standard. We don’t put in as much effort when working for the Lord as when we do it for ourselves and for our own glory or even for our own survival.
- The person who cultivates their talents to earn millions will put in effort, will practice, will push, will study, will improve themselves to the best of their ability. But somehow when it comes to the Lord’s work, we are content to just do the bare minimum.
- Trading talents for God also requires the best of our efforts. God is not satisfied with a low standard. He wants His children to give their best, to try their very hardest. To plan with the best of intellect that we have so that we can double our talents! But in order to do that, we have to put in the hard yards, the hard work, the extra effort.
- God wants the best of the best! The best of our intellect and the best of our efforts! Whether that is waking up earlier to pray, or putting more effort in to study the Bible so that we can teach. Or even going to church early to help set up and prepare everything to be ready for others. Even practicing and doing our best in singing and leading. God also wants, and He DESERVES, our very best.
The lord in the parable left behind goods before he went away. What goods did Jesus actually leave behind when He ascended to heaven back in Acts 1?
- Ephesians 4:8
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
- What were these gifts?
- Ephesians 4:11
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
- It was gifts for the work of ministry, for saving souls, for being a blessing to man-kind.
- Jesus also left behind something else.
- John 16:7
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
- He left behind the Holy Spirit.
- John 16:7
- What are the gifts of the Spirit?
- 1 Corinthians 12:8-11
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 — To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 — To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
- 1 Corinthians 12:8-11
- These talents are more than just money or any literal talent that can be used in the worldly setting.
- There is the talent of preaching.
- The talent of faith.
- The talent of healing.
- The talent of tongues which is the talent of translating.
- We must use all these gifts and talents that God has given us for the upbuilding of His kingdom!
- Everyone has a place in ministry.
- Everyone has a work allotted to them that only they can fulfil.
- It is up to us to be faithful to that which God has called us.
Today God has not called you simply to come and listen to a sermon or to sit there and pay attention to someone teaching the Bible. God is calling you to be His representative, to be His minister, to be His apostle or teacher. And God has equipped you with enough talents to do His will.
Do you recognize all that God has equipped you with? Do you recognize His call in your life?
At the end of time when we come and stand before the judgment seat of Christ, all excuses will be swept away. He has blessed each of us with so much. What are we doing today to show how much we appreciate all these good gifts that He has bestowed on us? How are we using these talents that God has given us to glorify His name and be a blessing to everyone around us?
May we use all the blessings of God for its intended purpose at the beginning – to be a blessing. Let’s stop living for self and let’s start living for others.