Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

The Signs of the Times (11) Matthew 24 and 25

Written by Rev. J.W. Wullschleger
Read: Matthew 25: 1-14

In His sermon on the Last Things Christ is telling four parables. Three of them we studied already, the Parable of the Householder, the Parable of the Good and the Evil Servant, and the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In this installment we look at the last one, the Parable of the Talents.

The Parable of the Talents
The subject of this parable is much like that of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Again it speaks about someone who is absent and returning. Again a separation takes place in the end. The emphasis in this parable, however, does not lie on watchfulness but on activity. The ten virgins were supposed to be waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. Nothing else was expected from them. The Parable of the Talents shows us that the waiting Christians also works. He has a task in this world. The last two parables complement each other.

Jesus gives us in this parable a picture of a man who is going to a foreign country. Before leaving he calls his servants, and entrusts them with his belongings. This arrangement between masters and servants was not uncommon in ancient times. What these belongings are is specified in the next verse. He gives one or more talents to each servant. A talent represents a certain weight of silver or gold, worth about fourteen hundred dollars. This master is not only rich, but also wise. He does not divide the money equally among his servants. He gives to each servant according to his ability. The one would be more able to trade with it than the other. Thus he gives to the first servant five talents, to the second two talents, and to the third servant one talent. Immediately after this the master departs.

The man travelling into a far country is Jesus. After His resurrection He went up to heaven and is now there until His return. This description is a correction of the disciplesÕ misplaced belief that Jesus was about to establish His kingdom in Israel. In reality, the journey of the master spans many centuries! Jesus has not returned yet. He is still in heaven. One day He will return.

The servants are those who profess Christ as their Lord and Saviour. They make up the visible church on earth. This parable teaches us that all professing Christians have received something from God. We all have ÒtalentsÓ entrusted to our charge. The word talent is generally applied to people with remarkable abilities or gifts. ÒThat is a talented person,Ó we say. We should, however, take the talents in this parable in a broader sense. They apply to all baptized persons without distinction. We are all talented people! Our mind, our affections, our will, our memory are included in this, but also our money, our time, our gifts, our influence, our health. Calvin says about the talents: ÒBy this term Christ does not distinguish between natural gifts and the gifts of the Spirit; for we have neither power nor skill which ought not to be acknowledged as having been received from God.Ó Matthew Poole remarks, ÒI see no reason to restrain these gifts to such as flow from Christ as Mediator, but rather choose to interpret it generally of all the gifts of God, whether of providence or grace.Ó Anything by which we may glorify God is a talent

Let us notice that God gives to each man as He pleases. Not everyone has the same gifts and in the same measure. Life would be quite monotonous if that were so. One has intellectual abilities; the other has social or leadership skills. Someone else may have an artistic talent. Again, another person is gifted with a strong memory. That does not mean that one person is inferior to the other. If you have received five talents, donÕt be proud, for Òwhat hast thou that thou didst not receive?Ó (I Cor.4:7). To show off our knowledge or artistic talent is adorning self with Òborrowed plumes.Ó If you have received only one talent, donÕt be jealous of the person with two or five. Rather, look at the one you have received! The Lord has had a wise reason for giving you the gift you have. Let us glorify God in the fact that He has distributed a diversity of gifts among men. This goes for our natural life as well as our spiritual life. Read, for example, Ephesians 4:7 and I Corinthians 12: 11.

The purpose for which the master gives these talents is that his servants trade with them during his absence. This is what we read next. Each servant does something with it. But what a difference there is among them! The first servant with five talents traded with them and thus added five talents to them. The second servant gained two more talents. Both doubled their money. Not the number of talents is the important thing, but the effort of the servants to gain others. Not the amount of abilities is what counts, but what we do with them. In the parable, the first two servants increased their sum 100%!

Some make great use of their gifts for the profit of their Master. Others make no use at all of them to that end. They neglect all opportunities of glorifying God.

In our parable the third person does nothing with his talent. The only thing he does is to dig a hole in the ground and hide his talent in it. He might have thought to himself, ÒAlthough this is not the proper use of my talent, my master cannot complain that he has lost it. In the ground no one will find it!Ó

It would be wrong to conclude that the person with the most ÒtalentsÓ will automatically make the best use of them. It happens often that people with one talent gain another one, and that people with five talents bury them in the ground. The reason why precisely the servant with one talent hid it in the ground may be to teach us that we are equally responsible, even if we have few gifts.

Why does this servant hide his talent? Is he afraid that he will lose it? Is there some noble motive behind it? He himself will say in the end, ÒLord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawedÓ (verse 24). He blames his master for not using his gift! That this is a poor excuse appears from his masterÕs response. He calls him Òa wicked and slothful [lazy] servantÓ!

Why was it so bad what he did? Because it was Òhis lordÕs moneyÓ (verse 18). If it had been his own, it would have been OK. But it was not his own! All that is entrusted to us is Òthe LordÕs money,Ó it is His gift. Many people live as if their life, their gifts, their belongings are their own. They act as sovereign masters. ÒThe baptized Bible-despiser, the prayer-neglecter, and the Sabbath-breaker; the unbelieving, the sensual, and the earthly-minded; the trifler, the thoughtless and the pleasure-seeker; the money-lover, the covetous, and the self-indulgent--all, all are alike burying their LordÕs money in the groundÓ (J. C. Ryle). God has lent them much, but they make Him no return. The words of Daniel to Belshazzar apply to each unconverted person, ÒThe God in Whose hand thy breath is, and Whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorifiedÓ (Dan. 5: 23).

Hoe does this apply to you? What do you do with the talents God has given to you? Do you use them to His honour? Or do you employ them for your own glory? Or, perhaps, do you not use them at all?

1. Christ is now absent from us. But has He not said that He will be with His church always (Matth.28: 20)? How do you explain this difference?
2. Read Ephesians 4:7 and I Corinthians 12:11. What gifts of the Spirit are meant here?
3. Socialism teaches equality between all men. Is this a Biblical principle? When does inequality go too far?
4. Have you discovered which talent(s) the Lord has given to you? What are your talent(s)?
5. Give some examples of persons from the Bible who made good use of their gifts. Give also some examples of the opposite.
6. This parable is not so often preached on as, for instance, the Parable of the Ten Virgins. What could be a reason for that?

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