The Parable of the Talents

Jesus’s disciples asked Him when the Temple would be destroyed. Jesus responded by giving them the signs in Matthew 24. Now, Jesus is telling two parables that depict the kingdom of heaven. The two parables paint a picture of the same spiritual reality, a reality that is not assigned a particular time but is true of the nature of the kingdom.

For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:14-30).

It, the kingdom of heaven, is–Jesus now uses the present tense instead of the future like He did in the previous parable–like a man who is about to go on a journey. So, the servants are currently with their master. The two parables begin in a different place. In the previous parable, the virgins were already awaiting the bridegroom. In this parable, the master is about to leave. I believe that master to represent Jesus.

The master will leave each servant with a portion of his wealth. When he returns, he wants to see a return on his investment. When Jesus leaves, he also wants to see a return on His investment. I believe the talents to represent the Gospel and the return to represent others entering the kingdom of heaven. From the moment of Christ’s ascension until He returns, His people are to be sowing the Gospel. The virgins were to be found ready. The slaves are to be found faithful with the gospel Christ has left. So, the kingdom of heaven is not merely comprised of people who live Spirit-filled lives but also those who live with the gospel as their purpose.

When we live lives with gospel purpose, there will always be a return. The only slave who did not see a return was the slave who buried his talent. Be encouraged. The gospel never returns void (cf. Isaiah 55:11).

Jesus only has two types of servants. In every “kingdom of heaven” parable, we see two types of people. None of the parables are exact allegories, but they are representative of spiritual truths. There are those who get to be with Jesus and those who are left outside the house or thrown into outer darkness. All are servants of Christ because He is the master. There are those who look like the others but are not ready when Christ returns. In this parable, the ones who take the gospel and sow it are praised by Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The one who does not take the gospel and sow it is chastised by Jesus. Consider the differences between the reward and curse.

Those who are faithful with the work of the gospel receive what is taken from the one who is not faithful with the work of the gospel. That is interesting to me. His gospel reward is taken from him and given to the others for their inheritance. He does not receive an inheritance. What he otherwise would have received is given to those who are faithful. To the one who has a return, more rewards will be given when the master returns.

The one who is not faithful with the work of the gospel has his rewards (merely what he was given to start with) stripped from him. He is thrown into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Notice the two parables. The unprepared virgins were locked outside the house. The unfaithful servant is thrown into outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Neither group ceases to exist. There is a final destination–described here as a place of weeping instead of reaping. It is a place of the gnashing of teeth, where one always feels the grimace of God’s face at them.

Jesus does not get into the depths of soteriological doctrine, here. He does not speak in terms of justification precedes faith precedes works. He does not speak about justification by grace or works. He speaks about what can be seen—the outpouring of a person’s heart. The point is, servants who are faithful to Christ will invest what He has given them to invest. People who do not invest what Christ has given them to invest are unfaithful to Him. Faithfulness is a matter of their hearts. From that, the purpose with which we live and speak comes forth. If we are faithful to Christ, we cannot help but preach the gospel. Every Christian is called to preach. If we are unfaithful, even if we are part of the visible church, we can hide it away out of fear that we will not see a return on the investment. Church, don’t sit on the gospel. Don’t horde it for yourself only. Don’t fear what the response of the world may be. Christ has promised a return. Go and invest. Whatever God has given you for the purpose of His gospel, go and invest. Be found ready when the master comes to evaluate our gospel work, the return on His investment in us.

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