Scripture: “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.'” Matthew 25:14-30 ESV
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Observation: Recapping yesterday’s Daily Focus, Jesus continues the theme of faithful readiness. Per a parable, he tells of ten virgins (bridesmaids) invited to a bridegroom’s wedding feast. Five wisely carry oil reserves in flasks to ensure their wicks burn all night. The others foolishly bring no extra oil for delays. As would have it, the bridegroom appears late (midnight), and the wise virgins are ready to meet him. The foolish beg the wise for oil but to no avail. So they scamper to the market and miss the window of opportunity to participate in the wedding feast. And despite pleas to the bridegroom upon their return, he dismisses them. And to make sure his disciples do not miss the point of his parable, Jesus tells them to be watchful, for they know not the day nor the hour (of his return).
In today’s seventh segment, Jesus continues to address the godly character qualities of those who patiently await his return. This time, he tells a parable about wisely investing our resources (talents) beyond being physically prepared to perform our duties. While Luke presents a similar parable in his Gospel, its variances and placement indicate that he either used Matthew’s Gospel as a resource or Jesus preached a similar message soon before his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
As portrayed in the two previous parables, a long interval separates the master’s departure and return (the now but not yet nature of this period we live in between Christ’s ascension and Parousia). Seeking to claim his assets, the master is pleased with the first two servants, who invest wisely, demonstrating their faithfulness. But the third proves unworthy, for he fails to act diligently and invest his master’s talents—not wanting to risk his master’s ire. Instead, he buries them, demonstrating mistrust and slothfulness. And he receives what he precisely hoped to avoid: a harsh judgment. He will join all the other unrepentant evildoers in the eternal place of suffering and darkness (hell). Meanwhile, the master gives the five-talent servant the one talent to demonstrate that those who faithfully invest their kingdom resources will receive even more.
Takeaway: It is essential to note the amount charged to each man did not reflect the master’s measure of favor toward them but their capacity/abilities. Thus, even though their reward varied according to their investment, both servants equally “entered into the joy” of their master. In contrast, the wicked servant’s mistrust and fear made him contemptuous toward his master. So rather than act out of love and do his best to please his lord, he blames his master for his sinful decision to waste his resource. The master contends that if the servant sees him in this harsh light, he should have at least loaned the talent to a Gentile (Gentile implied here since the law prohibited Jews from charging interest to one another, see Deuteronomy 23:19-20).
Jesus concludes his story with two outcomes that all humankind will face at the final judgment: reward or punishment. Using a maxim that parallels his earlier response to the disciples’ question regarding the purpose of his parables (13:12), he states, 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” (verse 29 above). Thus, this spiritual reality of “obedience leads to abundance” (see John 10:10) applies to our knowledge and understanding of God’s Word (13:12) and its application (25:29).
Our takeaway? We will either comprehend and invest or remain obtuse and waste. If we trust and love our Creator, his Holy Spirit will deepen our understanding of his grace and the good works he has prepared us to accomplish in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Hence, as we obey his will, he enlarges our spheres of influence in his kingdom. Conversely, if we harbor bitterness and resentment toward our Lord or fear his punishment, no matter how physically or intellectually talented we may be, such attitudes will lead us spiraling downward in disobedience and despair. And sadly, eternal separation and suffering await if we refuse to repent.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son who modeled love, trust, and obedience toward you. Still, we confess we struggle to follow in his ways and easily succumb to fear, anger, and resentment when life does not go our way. So would you please help us submit to the Holy Spirit’s sanctification process and learn to trust and obey you and your Son so that we might grow in our love and affection for the two of you and live an abundant life growing your kingdom and glorifying your name? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling