Theme: Faith without works is dead.
This weeks lessons teach us that laziness and evil behavior must not characterize Gods people
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The second, somewhat surprising lesson of this parable (and the next as well) is the emphasis on works, indeed, on a judgment by works. That sometimes troubles Protestants, because we have been taught that salvation is by grace alone, through faith apart from works, and here the judgment is on the basis of what God’s servants have done or not done. In the parable of the talents it is the use or disuse of the talents. In the second, it is the care of or neglect of those who were hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, or imprisoned.
We must not forget at this point that there has been an earlier story in which the emphasis has been on the readiness of the five wise virgins to meet the bridegroom. Their readiness corresponds to the new birth and to faith. So we cannot take these accompanying stories as teaching that faith in Christ is unnecessary. Christians must have faith. Still, these stories do round out the picture by showing what kind of faith it is that actually waits for the bridegroom. It is not a dead faith. A dead faith saves no one. It is a living faith. In this teaching Jesus is one with the apostle James, who said,
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
Usually James is contrasted with Paul at this point. But we remember that Paul also said,
“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, [God] will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:7-11).
Does that mean we are saved by works after all? Were the reformers wrong? No, but it is a statement of the necessity of works following faith—if we are truly born again. There is an unbreakable connection between what we believe and what we do. We believe the gospel because we have been born again, and those who have been born again will always and inevitably begin to live out the superior moral life of Christ within them. The new nature does not manifest itself fully all at once. But if we are justified, we will have it; and it will increasingly and inevitably express itself in faithful and loving service to our Master Jesus Christ.
We are not justified by works. But if we do not have works, we are not justified. We are not Christians.
There is an additional warning here. When Jesus spoke of the men who were given talents by their master and who used them either wisely or not at all, he said that one was given more than the other and that one was given less. One had five talents; he used them to gain five more. The second had two talents; he used those to gain two more. The last servant was given one. He was judged, but his judgment was not for having failed to gain as much as the two who had been given more. He was judged for failing to use what he had, for hiding his valuable talent in the ground.
We need to remember that when we find ourselves making comparisons between Christians. It is true, as this story teaches, that the people of God will work. They will use the talents God has given. But they will not all do it in the same way or to the same observable degree. Thus, although we know that God will judge the performance or nonperformance of those deeds, it is not our prerogative to do so. We are not all-knowing, as God is, and we are certainly not as wise as he is. Who are we to say that someone else is insufficiently serving or even hiding his talent in the ground? He may not be doing what we are doing, but he may be doing something far greater, which only our own sin blinds us from observing.
Remember how Paul said, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls, And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).
How does Paul’s statement in Romans chapter 2 corroborate with Jesus’ parable here?
What lesson does this parable teach about comparing ourselves to others?
Is your work for the kingdom of God evident?
How have you unrighteously judged someone? Confess your sin and ask God to make your heart sensitive to times when you tend to judge pridefully