Our theme for this year has been the word faithfulness. So far, we have looked at what faithfulness is and how God, who is ever faithful, is our perfect example of faithfulness. Thus far, we have dealt mainly with theory. This morning we want to turn our Bibles to Matthew 25:14-30 to look at a case study of faithfulness in action.
The Parable’s Place:
The parable of the talents is the last of a trio of parables that Jesus taught days before the last Passover. The parable of the Fig Tree (Matthew 25:32-41), the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) each teach a lesson about being ready for Jesus’s return. The parable of the talents teaches us the need to be faithful to the trust that God has given each one of us.
The Parable Itself:
- vv.14-18 – Here, we have the setup of the parable. The Master entrusts his wealth to his servants and what they did in response to this trust. Two of the three immediately got to work and made a profit on their amount of wealth. The one talent man buries his talent without even considering the possibility of using it.
- vv.19-23 – The Master returns to settle accounts (v.19). He calls his servants to him and begins with the one to whom he gave much. This slave had doubled his Master’s money, and so did the slave who received two talents. Note that both the five and two talent slaves received the same reward for their faithfulness. They were praised, rewarded with more, and “enter[ed] into the joy of [their] master” (vv.21, 23).
- vv.24-27 – Now we come to the one talent slave. Before we go into too much detail, I want to note that the Master did not give this man an impossible or unreasonable task. The Master gave to each “according to his own ability” (v.15). Each chose to do it their talent(s) that the Master is judging them on.
So, we come to the one talent man who has done nothing except bury his talent into the ground (v.18). When the Master comes to settle accounts, this man begins to make excuses (v.24-25). The Master concedes the point (true or not) and says that at the very least, this slave should have stored the talent in the bank so he could receive at least the interest (v.27).
- vv.28-30 – Here is the judgment upon the one talent man. All that he has is taken from him (v.28), and he is completely cast away from the presence of the Master (v.30).
What Do We Make of It?
As we noted earlier, this parable teaches us a lesson about the Lord’s coming. That we all need to be faithful in our service to Him while we await His Son’s return; in this parable, God is represented by the Master, and the slaves represent all of us. Which slave we are, depends on what we are doing in the here and now. So, what lessons do we learn from this parable for us and our faithfulness to God?
Something Has Already Been Entrusted to Us
I think the first lesson is that each of us has been given “talents” by God. The “talents” in the parable are our natural skills and abilities. Like in the parable, God has not given everyone the same talents Romans 12:4-8, nor has He given us the same amount of talents Romans 12:6a. God has given to each of us as He as purpose, and we are to use those talents for His glory.
Determining Our Talents
Another lesson is that we have a responsibility to determine our talents to use them for the glory of God. Now, while I cannot presume to know each and everyone sufficiently enough to say what precisely your talents are, I can offer two pieces of advice to determine your talents.
- Trial and Error – This is the only way to figure out what comes naturally and what does not. Try different areas of service, and do not be afraid of trying them again and again because certain talents take time to develop.
- Seek counsel from others – Solomon said in Proverbs 19:20 to “listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” Often, it is others who can see our strengths and weaknesses better than ourselves. This is where Elders, friends, and family can help you find out where you fit in the body of Christ.
We can determine our talents and how to use them best for God’s kingdom through diligence and humility.
Need to Be Faithful in Little or Much
A third lesson is that no matter what talents I have, I need to have the attitude that the five and two talent men did. Once they had their talent, they immediately went to work. The parable’s main lesson is that no matter what we have been entrusted with by God, we need to faithful to that trust.
In the parable, we read of the five and two talent men that they were “faithful with a few things” (Matthew 25:21, 23). They were trustworthy, dependable, and ethical in their handling of the Master’s wealth. And note how both the five and the two were viewed to oversee “a few things.” Again, it matters not how much we have been given but what we do with the talents God has given us. I like what William Hendrickson had to say about this point. He said:
“The Lord grants us opportunities for service in accordance with our ability to make use of them. Accordingly, since not all men have the same ability, therefore not all have the same, or an equal number of, opportunities. In the day of judgement, the number (of opportunities for service, “talents”) will not matter, the question is only, “Have we been faithful in their use?” (Hendriksen, The Gospel of Matthew. Pg.884)
We Are Judge Against Ourselves Not Others
And a final lesson for this morning that We want to end with. When it comes time for us to give an account to God, we will not be judged by how well we did or didn’t do, compared to others. The two-talent man was not chastised for not earning five talents like the five-talent man. He was judged based on what he was given and what he did with it. We will be judged by ourselves. What we were given and how did we use it. It is like Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.”
I want to end with a formula that has been incredibly helpful to me to be faithful in what God has given me. It goes,
“ability + opportunity = my responsibility.”
If we know what our abilities/talents are and we are given the opportunity to use them, then it is my responsibility to do so. The one talent man was still given a talent. He had the ability to put in the bank and the opportunity to do so. He chose not to. In comparison, the five and two talent men were given a great trust, the opportunity to use that trust, and understood it was their responsibility, rather, their privilege to do so.
It is our great privilege to use our God-given talents/ blessings to the glory of God and His kingdom.