THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS
Key Verse: 25:21
“His master replied, ‘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.”
I give my sincere congratulations to all who graduated from their college works. Graduation is not the end but it is a new beginning to work in a real world. Today’s parable shows what Jesus expects us as his servants. Many communists criticized Jesus as the capitalist because this parable promoted that the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. But we have to understand this parable in the context of the basic business principle because the gospel work is also business work. Even Chinese communist party adopted the capitalism as their business principle. May God give us spiritual insight how to work and use God-given talents for the kingdom of God. I pray that we all may double our talents given by God.
PART I. THE NATURE AND NUMBER OF TALENTS
Look at verses 14,15. "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey." Here the wealthy man refers to Jesus Christ and his journey into the far country refers to his departure into heaven after his ascension. The servants refer to the twelve disciples and then in a broader sense all born-again believers. Jesus addresses to all of us here.
Here the talent refers to money. It is a sum of money equal to 6000 denarius. One denarius is a day’s wage for a laborer. It is a lot of money. The talent was given according to his ability. Here the word “ability” is “*Û<":4<” in Greek which means power, might, strength, ability, and capability. We learn that God has given each of us talents according to our own power or ability or capability. Talents and ability do not mean the same thing. God knows what we can do. God knows each of us. God will not ask us what we cannot do. Some Bible scholar says that “Goes does not attempt to put a lake in a bucket.” That’s the reason why we should not compare our talents to others. We should not complain to God by saying, “You gave him five talents. Why did you give me only one talent? You treat me unfairly.” This is a mistake. Here the number of talents is not the focus but using the talent is the main focus. If we have only one talent we must use it to gain one more. Doubling is more important than number of talent we received. Don’t envy other’s talents and don’t compare yours to others. Find your talents and put them to work and double them in the process. We should accept talents given by God according to our ability. It is a Biblical constant that the talent is given by God not our own making. Talent does not mean something we possess, but which God possesses and loans to his servants. We see God’s sovereignty in the unequal distribution of the talents. One talk show host always says in the beginning of his show, “Talent loaned from God.” Therefore, we must be humble and be thankful to God when we are powerful to do many things. If we cannot be a Moses, we can be as Aaron. If we cannot be a Paul, we can be as Barnabas. We are nothing but a steward of God-given talents
PART II. THE USE AND ABUSE OF THE TALENTS.
Let’s look at the first two successful servants in this parable. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more (16). Also, the one with two talents gained two more (17). One common thing in them was that both of them went out at once and put the money to work. They did not waste anytime and went out right away and began to put the money to work. They understood their master’s intention and they took the risk. They were very creative in putting their money to work. The one with five talents made other five-100%. The servant with two talents was just as successful for his gain, too, was 100%. But the tragedy of the story is that the man with only one talent failed to work with it and multiply it. Digging a hole in the earth, he wrapped the talent in a handkerchief and hid his master’s money. It was not his money but his master’s. Perhaps he dreaded losing the money, and so buried it for protection. We never lose what we use. If we teach Bible, we learn more and more. If we sing more and more, we become music servants. Fear factor might have influenced his decision. We see many cicadas these days. I saw them when we were in the old center in 1987. Cicadas hide under the ground for 17 years for protection. But we are not cicadas. We are God’s servants. We should not bury our talents under the ground. We have to use it for the glory of God. Of course, the first two servants denied their desires to enjoy an easy life in order to double the talents. They sacrificed many things to double their talents. Their success was the result of their labor for the master. They spent many sleepless nights to make sure that they did not lose their money. Self-denial and self-sacrifice are the key ingredients to gain more talents. All graduating seniors worked hard to pass their classes while others were playing video games. God rewarded their hard work to graduate. They got the diplomas.
The two successful servants were willing to take risk to put the money to work. Life is like an adventure. They believed that their investment would bring them more money. They were able to do so because they understood their master’s mind. They had strong desire to please their master. They were not too cautious in doing their business but very progressive and forward-looking in their works. They were positive and optimistic in everything they did. They were not afraid of their failures. Maybe they lost money several times but they learned valuable lessons and tried again and again. Finally, they succeeded in making the profits. They also were faithful with a few things. Some people only wants to do big things but neglect small things. But remember that big things start from small things. A thousand miles starts from one step. If anyone wants to do great things, he or she must learn how to be faithful with a few things first. Don’t condemn yourself for not doubling but trust God to double. To God fruit is not everything but our attitude is important. Raising up 12 disciples begins with feeding one sheep very faithfully. The world salvation was possible when God took care of one old sheep Abraham for 25 years. Jesus began his gospel work by loving big-mouthed and impulsive Simon Peter to the end. There is no overnight miracle in God’s work. If we take care of one person well, God gives us more. M. Elijah Park goes out campus everyday in spite of his age. God rewarded his faithfulness with many sheep and his fellowship is growing. God’s work in M. Sarah Yun began when she took care of S. Belsie Chang faithfully. Then God granted her to meet Shannon near the restroom in the Stamp Union. God granted her Omy Rodriguez who became an VIP in Baltimore YDJ and again granted another sheep Jen Slingland. Surely, God will continue to give her more and more fruits as she works diligently to use her talents. God’s blessing never ends when we are faithful with few things.
PART III. THE RETURN AND REWARD OF THE TALENTS.
What happened to them when they were faithful with a few things? They experienced the joy that comes from success and achievement. They experienced the joy that comes from faithfulness. Look at verse 19. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.” This means that we will settle our accounts with Jesus one to one. We all will appear before the judgment seat of Jesus to settle our accounts with him. When the master returned, the first two servants were very happy to see him because they managed their talents very well. So, with great joy, they exclaimed, "Master, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more" (20). "Master, you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more" (22). It was the greatest moment of their lives. This tells us that God gives great joy along with the crown of life to those who are faithful to God.
What did the master say? Look at verse 21. "His master replied, '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!'"
First of all, faithful servants receive God's recognition. To all mankind, the problem of recognition is not a small matter. Whenever I say to little Marianna, “You did a good job”, she is full of happy smiles from ear to ear. Many young people want recognition. Children want recognition from their fathers. Sheep want recognition from their shepherds. It is a great honor to be recognized by our Lord Jesus. The first two successful servants were recognized as good and faithful servants by their master. What a joy they had! When we are faithful to God, there is another reward. Look at verse 21b. "I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" When we are faithful to God to the point of death, God does not give us a vacation to Florida. God exalts us with greater tasks and greater responsibilities. This is not necessarily translated to more work. This is a kind of promotion. In other words, God makes us great. God also makes us happy. Happiness does not come from the things of the world. It comes from God. When God makes us happy we are indeed happy.
Let's see what happened to the man who had received the one talent. He said, "You are a hard and able man. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you" (24, 25). When the servant who had received the one talent thought about his master, that he was a hard man, he was afraid. He dug a hole in the ground and hid his talent. If he had time to dig the ground, he should have gone out and put the money to work. But he did not do that. He looked humble recognizing his inability outwardly but inwardly he was proud and disobedient. He misunderstood his master’s mind. He did nothing for his master. He lived in fear and despair. He probably complained that he only received one talent. He was a man of excuse and became useless in the sight of God. At least he should have opened a saving account in the bank and gained some profit for his master. He was a man of complete failure.
What did the master do with him? Look at verse 26. "His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?'" His master rebuked him, saying, "Wicked and lazy servant!" His one talent was taken away because he did not use it. In the Bible we can scarcely find synonyms repeated in order to emphasize something. But Jesus rebukes wicked people, saying, "You wicked, lazy servant!" Here we learn that lazy people are wicked people. Still they say to themselves, "Hmm, I am the smartest guy in the world." But verse 30 says, "And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Finally, lazy people receive great punishment. What are the talents God gave it to you? Many people bury their talents. Have you buried your talents? Discover your talents and use them for the glory of God. Some people have music talents and others fishing talents. Some people have cooking talents or leadership talents and other teaching talents. When we double our talents, we can taste true happiness comes from participating in master’s business. May God bless your talent abundantly in this summer. Let’s read the key verse 21.