Theme: Faith without works is dead.
This weeks lessons teach us that laziness and evil behavior must not characterize Gods people
Matthew 25: 14-30
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 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.”
I said in our study of the story of the wise and foolish virgins that two good answers to the question, “How do I know I am ready for the Lord’s return?” are: 1) Am I serving the Lord? and 2) Am I serving others because I love him? These answers are provided by the next two parables, the parable of the talents and the parable of the sheep and the goats. They carry Jesus’ warning to watch and be ready a step beyond the first story. It is to the first of these two additional parables that we turn now.
All three are parables of judgment, and each makes similar points. Thus, the cumulative effect is strong. Jesus is about to go to the cross. His disciples will see him no more. But he reminds them that the day is coming when he will return as judge of all men and that they must be ready to face him in that judgment.
In this parable Jesus tells of a rich man who was about to go off on a journey and who called three of his servants together and gave them money to be used while he was gone. He gave three talents to the first, two talents to the second, and one talent to the third.1 In Palestine a talent was not a coin. It was a measure of weight. But because coins could be of copper, silver, or gold and Jesus does not specify the kind of coinage in his story, it is impossible to calculate how valuable this would be. It is sufficient to say that each was a large amount.
If a talent is 6,000 denarii, it would have taken a worker twenty years to earn that much money. So we are thinking here of hundreds of thousands of dollars at least. The footnote in the New International Version specifying “more than a thousand dollars” is too low.
But the amount is unimportant. And so is the fact that this is money. Money is one thing that is entrusted to God’s servants, which we often badly use. But so are many other endowments. J. C. Ryle says rightly, “Anything whereby we may glorify God is a ‘talent.’ Our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ’s Church, our advantages as possessors of the Bible all, all are talents.”2 The point of the story is that waiting for Christ’s return and being ready for it is not a passive matter. It means working faithfully and energetically for him as our master.
William Hendriksen has tried to capture the tone of these conversations, and I think he is right since the decisive matter is the way in which the two good servants and the one bad servant related to the master. It shows that the faithful servants served well because they loved him and wanted to please him, while the wicked servant failed to serve well because he actually hated and resented his master.
1 A similar story occurs in Luke 19:11-27, but it has a different setting und varics in important details. There is no reason to suppose that Matthew derived his story from Luke or vice versa. Jesus must have told similar stories on many occasions.
2 John Charles Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Matthew (Cambridge, James Clark & Co, 1974), pp. 336,337
What questions can we ask of ourselves to be sure we are ready for Jesus’ return?
What, besides death, must we be ready to face?
Waiting for Christ’s return and being ready for it is not a passive matter.
Pray that those who only act like Christians but who really are not will see their offense.