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Today, I would like to talk about a very famous parable: The Parable of the Talents. Talents are a measure of gold worth more than a thousand dollars. When Jesus told this parable, He was telling the disciples what it would be like when He came back to judge the world. He told them that no one could know the exact time He would return, but that we should always be ready. He told them the parable of the Ten Virgins, where five wise virgins kept prepared for the coming of the bridegroom, while the five foolish virgins didn’t prepare and weren’t ready for the bridegroom’s coming. The theme here is that we need to always be ready to meet our Maker. Your stay here is temporary, and none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Who here is concerned about eternity? Some people are concerned, and some simply don’t care. Some Christians are concerned, and some Christians act as though they don’t care. Many people who are not Christian are concerned when they think about it, but don’t know what to do. They may think they need to do good things in order to get into heaven—in case there is a heaven. So, who here is concerned about eternity? I tell you the same thing Jesus did in these parables: Please, please be thinking about eternity. That was His message. We need to be thinking about eternity when we are here on earth. We need to be faithful. Matthew 25:14-30 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. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 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 in your master’s happiness!’ The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 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 in your master’s happiness!’ Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 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? Well then, you
should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ This is a very difficult parable to read, especially when it comes from Jesus! So what did Jesus mean when He told this parable? It doesn’t help that this parable has a misleading name. “The Parable of the Talents” puts the emphasis on the talents, or a quantitative aspect. However, I think the real emphasis should be on the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of the servants! The parable should be called, “The Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants.” This puts the emphasis not on the quantity of money they produced, but on the quality of their attitude. Many times, when we read this parable, we might feel like God is very demanding. We might think God will punish us if we don’t produce some obvious results. However, I want to remind you the reason the faithful servants were rewarded was because they were faithful, not because they produced a certain amount. And the reason the unfaithful servant was punished was because he was negligent and unfaithful, not because he didn’t produce obvious results. So, remember, Jesus is looking for quality, not quantity. God doesn’t just want you to do so-called good things, but He wants you to have a heart that loves Him. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:23-24) So if we want to produce the good works that God desires, we need to love Him. But more than that, we need to make sure we allow the Holy Spirit to lead our lives, and not be led by our flesh. There are three main components to this parable; three things that we need to consider. 1. The master who distributes the talents v14-15 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. The master in this parable is wise and just. His servants have nothing except what is given them. It is their duty to do whatever he wants, and their lives are in his hands. But he doesn’t require anything beyond their abilities. Instead, he wisely gives each one talents according to his ability. In the same way, we cannot demand anything from God. God is totally good, and his standard is perfection. If we live like Mother Theresa, we still fall short of God’s standard. Yet, God gives us grace. Without His grace, we cannot please Him. But God gives us grace so that we can do good works. And we cannot complain that God demands more from us than we are capable of doing.
What are the talents that God has given us? They are the opportunities we have to serve Him as a servant. It is our opportunity to become a slave to righteousness, instead of a slave to sin. We need to understand what it means to be a slave to righteousness before we can really understand this parable. A slave to righteousness means you accept Jesus Christ as both your Master and also your Savior—that He died to pay the penalty for your sin. Therefore, whatever good works you do, they are for your benefit. The end result is the gift of eternal life, bought by Jesus. The other option is to be a slave to sin, which is what all of us are without Jesus. Without Jesus to redeem us, it is impossible for us to escape sin. Sin becomes our master. When we are without Jesus, everything we do is without grace and tainted with sin— even the things we do with good intentions are not acceptable to God. We need to accept Jesus as our Lord in order to serve Him as a slave. Only once we are slaves to righteousness can we do good in God’s sight. 2. The faithful servants v16-17 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. The second thing we need to notice in this parable is the faithfulness of the good servants. Jesus says these servants went at once and put their master’s money to work. They didn’t waste any time in obeying their master, and they continued working a long time until their master returned. So, the big question here is what does it mean when these servants gained five more or two more? What does this mean we should do? Is it only doing good things? I don’t think it is simply doing good works. Remember, this parable is about the quality of faithfulness, not about the quantity of the result. What we need to focus on is the attitude of the faithful servants, and then we can see the result of that attitude: • Their attitude made them obey their master immediately and persevere even when they didn’t see him around. In the same way, we need faith to obey an unseen God. These servants in Jesus’ parable obeyed faithfully, even when their master was not around. In our lives, it is very easy to just slip back and ignore God. It is very hard sometimes to keep going when we don’t know when we will be called to account. Really, can we all say that we are living as though Jesus were coming back tomorrow? And how would that affect how you live your life? Are you a faithful servant and a wise virgin? • These servants did realize a big return on their efforts. When we obey God, our efforts will produce spiritual fruit, if not the fruit that we can see. Remember the focus is not on the quantitative aspect, but on quality. That is why Galatians 5 says the fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those are fruit, but they are qualitative, not quantitative. And remember Matthew 6 where Jesus responded to those who said they prophesied and drove out demons in His name: “Away from me, you evildoers, I never knew you!” Jesus said those people did evil! • Their reward. These servants received praise and reward from God. One thing that really keeps me going is to remember that God is totally and completely just. There is nothing you lose in this world for the sake of God that you will not
receive back one-hundredfold in this life or in heaven. You simply cannot lose out because God promised He will reward His faithful servants, and He is able to do it. 3. The unfaithful servant v18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. But how did this servant act? He buried his talent! Why? We don’t know exactly, but one thing is certain: this servant didn’t have a good relationship with his master. He distrusted and feared his master, who had given him an opportunity to be blessed and share in his happiness. His master was not greedy and ruthless, like he imagined, but was generous and more than willing to bless his servants who loved him. Basically, because of the bad attitude of this servant, he ignored the blessing that should have been his. Instead of even putting the money into the bank, he hid the talent in the ground. You could even say that this unfaithful servant put more effort into hiding the talent than it would have been to simply deposit it with the bank. Can it be that we are same way many times? How many times do we go out of our way to ignore God and choose our own way? Remember, this servant was not punished because he tried and failed, he was punished because he didn’t try and even went out of his way to not try. Many times, we say to God, “Oh Lord, I’m not going to obey you in this area, but I’ll make it up to you in some other area.” Basically, we try to bribe God into letting us earn our own salvation. We try to serve two masters: our own sinful desires and God. But God says, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” I tell you, we often go out of our way to sacrifice many things to God so that we can avoid obeying Him. We think that if we keep up our religious duties, then we compensate for our hidden sin. We think that because we do many good things in church, we are alright. But when we are our own master, we are a slave to sin and cannot produce anything that will please God. Instead, we need to become a slave to righteousness, which means that we do not attribute our good works to our own goodness, but to God’s grace. Being a slave to sin means ignoring the opportunity of God’s grace, while being a slave to righteousness means accepting and acting on the gift of God’s grace. Remember Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” And also, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. … He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:23-24) I hope that these verses are clear to you today. Does everyone understand what it means to be a slave to sin and a slave to righteousness? Do you understand the necessity of thinking about eternity now, and putting our faith in an unseen God so that we can produce the good works that will be rewarded? Matthew 7 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Don’t focus on the fruit—that is just an indicator of what type of tree it is. Jesus said you cannot produce good fruit if you a bad tree. A bad tree is someone who rejects
the grace of God—even when they try to do good things, they cannot please God because they are bound by sin. But a good tree is someone who accepts the grace of God and is free from the penalty of sin—that person is able to produce good works that God will accept. Are you making your own sacrifices to pay for your sin, or have you accepted the sacrifice of God for your sin—Jesus Christ?
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