‘The parable of the ten virgins’ stresses the duty of constant alertness and ‘The parable of the talents’ stresses the duty of faithful service.
And when we place them together as they should be, they both teach the Christian that as he watches, he must not be idle. So in short the best way to be ready for Jesus’ return is to be busy in the Master’s business.
In many ways, Jesus tells us in this parable that He entrusted His property and His money to His servants. Now there is a similar parable that Jesus shares in Luke 19:11-27 and we need to keep that in mind because some people see ‘The unprofitable servant’ in Matthew’s account as the main character.
They believe that the unprofitable servant represents the Scribes and the Pharisees and the other Jews who wouldn’t run the risk of giving full-pledged allegiance to Christ.
There’s possibly some truth to this view, but what we need to ask ourselves is to whom was Jesus speaking to in Matthew’s account? If we go back to Matthew 24:3 we find the answer.
Matthew tells us quite clearly that the only people present with Jesus were His disciples. In Luke’s account, Jesus is speaking with the Scribes, Pharisees and other Jews who are listening but not in Matthew’s account.
What’s the point? The point is simply that Jesus is speaking to His disciples and the focus of attention isn’t on the Scribes and Pharisees and the Jews but on three scenes.
1. The gifts.
Jesus says before the master went on his journey, he called all his servants in and gave each of them a definite sum of money, Matthew 25:14-15.
The first thing we notice is the amount of money varied. It varied not because of favouritism but because of ability, but in each case, the kind of money involved was a talent.
As we know a talent in Biblical times was no small sum of money. It wasn’t £5 to go and buy fish and chips with, in the time of Jesus a talent was worth around £500.
And remember that these servants were actually slaves. So not only were they placed in charge of their master’s money, but they were also in charge of their master’s property.
But the point is that each man received something. Not a single servant was left out, each one left their master’s property with something in their pockets.
God still works that way today, not a single person responsible to God is left out in the divine distribution of gifts. Every one of us receives something, in fact, every one of us receives much, even the one talent man received the large sum of £500.
Remember when we looked at ‘The parable of the two sons’? What did Jesus call the two sons to do? Matthew 21:28-30 tells us that Jesus said, “’ Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’” He called them to work, why? Because there’s work to be done.
God has work for us all to do and God gives us enough capital to accomplish the work which He intends for every one of us to do. Peter tells us that we have everything we need, and not just for life but for godliness too, 2 Peter 1:3. And like I mentioned earlier each man was given a different amount of gift according to their abilities, 1 Corinthians 12:14-21.
What’s the point? The point is that God knows we are not all the foot, or the eye, or the ears. He gave us different gifts and He doesn’t expect us to use a gift which we don’t possess.
Even in our natural abilities, we’re different. Some people are born with strong and active bodies, while others enter into the world in poor health. A few people are gifted with superior intellect and others are not so intellectual and it’s the exact same with our spiritual gifts.
There are always opportunities to serve and I understand that the opportunities may not be as many as others. Not all fields at one moment are glowing with a golden harvest. In other words, there are some fields where the ground needs preparation, there are some fields that are waiting for the sowing.
Remember when Jesus taught ‘The parable of the Sower.’ He says in Matthew 13:8 “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” We need to realise that not all fields when sown are capable of producing the same crop.
Let’s look at the way the talents were used in the parable.
What was the result of the master’s confidence in His servants? To what use did they put His money while He was away?
The servants who received the larger amounts of money went to work immediately, Matthew 25:16-18. They invested their money in profitable enterprises and succeeded in doubling their fortunes.
And I think we would be mistaken to assume that these men weren’t tempted to do something else with their talents. A little significant incident may cause our downfall simply because we are not looking for it.
I guess that many times they probably thought of spending their master’s money recklessly. They probably toiled and teased themselves with the idea of just sitting back and playing it safe.
Temptation came to the 5 talent man as well as the 1 talent man. Temptation came to the 2 talent man as well as the 1 talent man and so forth.
And we can’t put their success down to just pure luck, they were successful because they worked, but they didn’t just work, they worked hard.
Let’s look at the third man in the parable.
Now we know that he failed his duty, Matthew 25:18. I don’t think he deliberately set out to fail, he probably left his master’s presence with the firm intention to justify the confidence that had been placed in him.
So why then did the third man fail? Well, there are a few possibilities.
1. He failed because he didn’t have faith in himself.
Maybe the one talent man was unsure of his abilities and when he compared his gift with the larger gifts, he was afraid that he couldn’t do as much as them, 1 Corinthians 12:22-25. And so in not wanting to do the least, he did nothing.
It’s all about recognising the different talents that each of us has. We all have different talents, and there is no shame in recognising that you can’t do certain jobs for the Lord, but there is shame if you know you have a talent and you don’t use it and so just bury it in the ground.
3. The man failed because he didn’t have the courage to work.
Jesus calls him in Matthew 25:26, “A wicked, lazy servant!” He was afraid to work and isn’t this the cause of most failures in life? If a person doesn’t work, if a person isn’t willing to pay the price in hard labour, they will never be crowned with success, Proverbs 10:4.
Just as this is true in the physical sense, it’s also true in the spiritual sense, Hebrews 6:10-12. God has got no room for laziness because He has given each of us a gift to use in His kingdom. And if we just bury those gifts in our hearts then God’s work won’t get done as His will wants it done.
3. He failed because he didn’t have enough faith in his master.
Maybe he thought he just had a bad deal. Matthew 25:24 tells us that this guy “Knew that his master was a hard man.” And don’t many people have a picture of God as a hard man in their minds?
It amazes me how many people see God as this stern power that is either making unreasonable demands or someone who is pushing people around to get His own way.
Now if this were true that would be all the more reason why we should all strive to use the talents He has given us. But as we know this is not true because that’s not a clear picture of God.
He loves us and pities us and extends His arms to us all in mercy because when He gives us a task, He gives us the means to accomplish the task.
We have more power than we can ever measure available to us to do a task for God, all we need to do is ask Him for it, Ephesians 3:20. Because according to Paul that power is already at work within us.
4. The consequences of using and not using our talents.
When the master came home there was a time of reckoning. Jesus says the exact same thing to the man with the 5 talents and the man with the 2 talents and for them their reward was to be two-fold, Matthew 25:19-23.
They were admitted into the joy of their Lord. This meant they were granted the right to sit at their Lord’s banquet table. This was a privilege that slaves never received but at the same time one which perhaps automatically gave them their freedom.
Did you know that an inheritance awaits all Christians who work and do His will? 1 Peter 1:3-5. And did you know that is the very reason why we keep going even though we go through all kinds of trials in our lives? 1 Peter 1:6-9.
That’s why these guys worked hard because they had a goal and because of their faith in their Lord, they reached that goal.
And what was that goal? Well not just an inheritance which will never fade or spoil, they received the most important thing of all, the salvation of their souls. Ultimately that’s why you’re a Christian, you want to go to heaven.
And please remember that they didn’t work hard for their reward, they worked hard because of their reward. In other words, we don’t work for our salvation, we work because of our salvation, Ephesians 2:8-9.
Let’s look at the one talent man in the parable.
He was forbidden to come in and take part in his master’s happiness and everything he had, was taken from him, Matthew 25:24-28. Let me ask you, is this a picture of a harsh master?
I don’t think it is, I think it’s the inevitable consequence of doing nothing. Too many people question God about the way He deals with people.
In Romans 9 when Paul is describing how God does things the way He wants to do things and people are questioning this. Paul says that the creator of human life has the right to take human life and use it for His purpose, Romans 9:21.
You’ve all heard the saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” It is a law of life that we will lose what we fail to use. And in the spiritual realms, every gift given by God must be put to work or else it will be taken from us, Matthew 25:29.
What was the difference between the servants? Why were two profitable and one unprofitable? The answer lies not in the fact that the two from the beginning were more gifted. With all their ability they still could have been lazy and buried their talents.
It wasn’t because they were brilliant or because they had a knack for business that they were commended. They were commended simply because they had been faithful in the service of their absent Lord. Each man with the ability they possessed had done his best.
And we too when the day of reckoning comes and we turn to our eternal home, it may well be that some will come with an arm full of trophies. It may well be that some will come with only a few trophies, but you need to come with something, nobody can come empty-handed.
This is a stern warning for us all because He’s speaking about people who profess to follow His ways here. And we need to choose today what God is going to say to you on Judgement Day.
He told the foolish virgins “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Matthew 25:12. He told the goats on His left “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,’ Matthew 25:41.
He told the wicked, lazy servant “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:30.
I don’t know about you but for me, I don’t want to hear those words coming from the Father’s lips.
I would rather hear the words He spoke to these servants who used their talents well, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Matthew 25:21.
And remember it’s not a talent contest, it’s about reaching our goal, the salvation of our souls.
It’s about using the talents which God has blessed us with to reach others until the day He returns to take us home.