Good morning. Our study through “The Parables of Jesus” continues today as we examine “The Parable of the Talents”. This story is also commonly referred to as “The Parable of the Minas”. It is the 27th parable in this series and is the first of a new category of parables titled “His Children”. This section includes stories and illustrations that describe specific behaviors or attitudes that we as God’s children should practice or possess.
Variations of this parable are found in Matthew and Luke. There are notable distinctions between these renditions of the story, but the primary message is the same in both. As we’ve seen several times throughout this series, Jesus often told the same basic parable in modified forms as appropriate for the particular setting or audience He was speaking to at the time. This is certainly the case with “The Parable of the Talents”.
Before delving into the major point of this story, let’s briefly consider a secondary lesson found especially in Luke’s version (verses 12,14-15a, 27). Generally speaking, the parable tells of a man who has gone on a journey and left his slaves in charge until he gets back. Luke further describes him as a nobleman who is leaving specifically to be crowned king, so that when he returns he will actually reign over the entire kingdom. Luke also mentions many citizens who do not want him to be their ruler and explains that when this newly crowned king returns these enemies will be destroyed. This portion of Luke’s presentation depicts the judgment of rebellious sinners following the return of Christ as King and fits more aptly into the end times chapter of parables which we’ve discussed over the last month.
The main teaching of this parable, however, is not about the man’s (or king’s) return or subsequent judgment but rather is about the actions of his servants while he is gone. The primary focus is on how God’s children should live their lives now, as they seek to serve the LORD each day.
I. GOD ENTRUSTS US - Matthew 25:14-18; Luke 19:12-13
As stated in the introduction, “The Parable of the Talents” in recorded in both Matthew and Luke. In Matthew, Jesus tells the story while speaking to His disciples on the Mount of Olives just a few days before His arrest. In Luke, the story is told to a crowd of followers as Jesus travels from Jericho toward Jerusalem for the Passover. We will try to observe slight differences between these renderings as we consider this parable.
The story opens with a man leaving home on a journey. He leaves his servants in charge while he is gone. Before his departure, the man gives each of his servants some money (measured in talents or minas) and instructs them to do business with it while he is away. He gives some servants differing amounts and others the exact same same amount (depending upon which version of the parable you read). In either case, the master entrusts his slaves with some portion of his money.
In this parable, the nobleman is Jesus and the servants are His followers. The LORD has entrusted to each of us certain gifts, talents, resources, and blessings. These were not given for our benefit necessarily, but rather for His glory. We as Christians have been commanded to use these gifts accordingly.
Not all of us have been entrusted with the same measure or degree of giftedness. Some have been called to more grandiose settings, given greater resources, and provided with greater influence. This disparity should not be a cause of jealousy or contention among believers, but sadly it often is. Rather, each one should be content with the portion that God has entrusted to them and not envious of other servants who may have been given more.
II. GOD EXPECTS US - Matthew 25:19-27; Luke 19:15-23
After having been gone for some time, the man returns home. One by one he calls his slaves before him to give an account of what they did with their master’s money while he was away. All of the good slaves have increased their original amount, some 10-fold, others 5-fold, and others doubled the money (depending upon which version of the parable you read). Though there were differing outcomes, the main point is that each good servant obeyed the master’s charge by using the money they’d been given to make a profit.
One of the servants - the bad servant - hid his money for fear that it would be lost. He did not make any effort at all to increase the amount and instead intended to return to the master exactly that which had been given to him. When the master heard this, he was furious at the servant for disobeying his instructions. The servants were told to use the money to produce increase, not hide it away and do nothing with it. The fear of loss should not have kept him from seeking gain.
In the same way, God expects His children to use the various gifts, talents, and resources He’s given them in order to expand His kingdom, achieve His purposes, and produce His desired results. He knows that not all will reach the same level of fruitfulness, but that’s okay. For those who choose not to obey, and instead waste God’s blessings due to idleness, laziness, or fear, the LORD will be rightfully upset with their blatant disobedience.
Though neither version of the parable addresses this, I’ve often thought that even if the servant had lost the money in a bad business deal the master would still have been more satisfied with him than he was with the one who did nothing. At least he would have obeyed the master and tried, right? But just as the Word of God never returns void, so also the faithful use of God’s gifts will always result in some measure of godly increase (even if we don’t see it).
III. GOD EVALUATES US - Matthew 25:28-30; Luke 19:24-26
As and/or after addressing each of his servants, the man evaluates their dealings and judges them accordingly. Those who have acted obediently by doing business with his money are rewarded, while the disobedient slave who did nothing is punished. Even the original talent that was given to the lazy slave is taken away and given to the most productive slave. The lesson is this - those who have proven to be trustworthy stewards will be given even more responsibility, while those who have shown to be poor stewards will lose everything.
Because we already have spent ample time in this series dealing with the judgment, there is no need to belabor this point. This greater issue here is not the judgment itself, but rather our behavior prior to it that will determine its outcome. Are we being good stewards of the blessings that God has granted to us?
There are several lessons we can derive from “The Parable of the Talents”. Some are related to the second coming of Jesus and the judgment that will follow. But the main emphasis of this parable is stewardship. God has entrusted each of His children with certain gifts, talents, and resources. He has called each of us to certain tasks and ministries. He has equipped each us of individually and uniquely to meet the challenges before us.
We do not all start with the same amount, but we all start with the right amount for our particular calling. Likewise, we are not all expected to end with the same amount. The objective is not to attain equal results, but rather positive results. We are called to simply move the ball forward. The goal is to make the most of what God has given to us individually. He has entrusted each of us with a portion of His riches, and we are each expected to use them for His glory. So, are you being a good and faithful steward of God’s blessings?