Reading Time: 8 Minutes
This is the third parable that Jesus gave concerning his return to earth. It pictures the immense trust that God places in people like you and me to use the gifts he has given us for service.
Jesus said, “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away” (Matthew 25.14-15).
When people read the word, “talent,” they may think of the NBC program, “America’s Got Talent.” During the show, people display their singing, dancing, magic, and general entertainment talents and a panel of judges evaluates their performances.
The “talent” that Jesus mentioned in his parable was not like the one in “America’s Got Talent,” but was the largest weight or monetary value in Israel. If a person added up all of their earnings for their lifetime of work, it would possibly equal one talent.
The person who received one talent, was entrusted with a small fortune. The two and five talent persons were responsible for an enormous amount of money.
What did they do?
What did the servants do with the money they received? Jesus said, “The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents” (Matthew 25.16-17).
It is important to note that the people in this parable are servants. The money they received was not for their own use. While their master was absent, they were to use his money in such a way as to increase their master’s wealth.
Let’s not miss two more aspects of the parable. The servants were given responsibility based on their individual ability. In the “America’s Got Talent,” program the performers have innate talents that they have developed and put on display.
In Jesus’ parable these people are viewed as responsible. However, the talents are not something that they bring to the table. Rather, they received them from the master, but they were responsible for using them to great advantage.
Second, the servants were not told how to make more money. They had the choice of how to maximize the wealth of their master. Yet, they were still responsible for the failure or success of their enterprise.
The Failure of Non-Action
In contrast to the two diligent servants, Jesus said this about one who was not responsible with his master’s money. He said, “But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” (Matthew 25.18).
What are some possible reasons for this servant to do nothing with this very large sum of money? It could be that the servant was afraid failure and of losing the money that had been entrusted to him.
It also could have been that he reasoned with himself, “This isn’t my money. I’m not going to get anything out of it. I’ll just hide it and return it to my master. In the meanwhile, I’ll do what I want to do with my time.”
Whatever he was thinking, the master arrived and wanted an accounting for what his servants did with the business opportunity he had placed in their hands.
Jesus had this to say about the master’s arrival. He said, “After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
“Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
“And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master'” (Matthew 25.19-23).
Before we read about the third servant, let’s notice what happened to the two responsible servants. First, they received equal measures of applause of the master.
Even though God’s people don’t have the same abilities, what matters is not their ability but their availability. God judges people on the heart of their service and willingness to join him in his work.
Second, there is no “retirement” for God’s servants. Though they had made a significant profit with their master’s money, they still had more work to do. They were told, “You have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 24.21 and 23).
The Wicked and Lazy Servant
Jesus had this to say about the third servant, “Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours'” (Matthew 25.24-25).
The phrase, “I knew,” reflected the fact that the servant’s “own best thinking” was at work in his decision to bury the investment money of his master. When we bring to God our own best thinking and ask him to sign off on it, we are at risk of hearing God’s disapproval.
He said, “But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'” (Matthew 25.26-30).
I have made two guesses at why the third servant chose to bury what the master had given to him. We don’t know the actual motives for his behavior, but we do know the end result.
What condemned him was that he ultimately proved to be useless to his master. The master gained nothing from what he had entrusted to him.
We can learn a lot from these three individuals. Let’s apply the truth of this parable to our lives.
(1) God gives to everyone a spiritual gift, and expects us to use it.
Paul wrote, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12.7). Like the master in the parable, God has given all of us some expression of the life of the Holy Spirit to us and we are responsible to use it.
(2) Each of us has the opportunity to use the gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.4-6). We can use the different gifts God has given us to make maximum impact where we live, work and play.
(3) God rewards us with his approval based on our willingness to serve, not on the measure of the gift that we have received. Once again, it is not our ability, but our availability that counts.
(4) The surrender of our “own best thinking” is required. If we are living in the arrogance and pride of what we think separate from the leadership of the Spirit, we will certainly end up on the wrong side of this parable. We run the risk of being of no value to the work of God in the earth.
Dear Jesus, our prayer today is very simple. We desire to use the gifts you have given us. Please help us to do this, we pray.