The Journal of Biblical Accuracy
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The parable of the talents

The parable of the ten virgins is immediately followed by another parable with the same subject: that we ought to be watchful, serving the Lord and be focused on Him. The matter is very important, critical, and the whole of Matthew 25 is devoted to it. The second parable in this chapter and the third in the row is the parable of the talents. Let’s read it, starting from the conclusion of the parable of the ten virgins.

Matthew 25:13-15
"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. "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."

The word "for" that I have emphasized in bold, clearly links the parable of the talents to the parable of the ten virgins and especially to the conclusion of it i.e. that we should be watchful, because we know neither the day nor the hour of the Lord’s coming. Then the Lord goes on to tell us that different talents were given to the different servants and the criterion was their ability. What we can say from this is that ALL the servants of the Lord, all those who have made Him Lord, have received gifts from Him, talents to be used for His purposes. They are His talents and they were given for His purposes. We can also see that not everyone received the same. One received five, one received two and one received one talent. The determining factor of how much each one received was, according to the passage, his ability, his capacity to increase what he received. Let’s see now what the servants did with what they received:

Matthew 25:16-18
"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."

The first and the second servant did what was expected of them: they went out and increased what was given to them, making it in fact double. But the third servant went on and hid what was given to him. Pay attention here: he did not consume it. He did not lose it. Instead he did nothing with it. He was in other words, fruitless for his master. Let’s now see the reaction of the Lord:

Matthew 25:19-30
"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.'"

The first and second servant got their reward for the multiplication of what the Lord had given to them. But the third servant? The Lord calls him a slothful, lazy servant. This servant did nothing. He did not harm but he did not do any good either. He was completely useless. What was finally the end of this fruitless servant? The last verse of the parable tells us:

"cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"

I was watching a children’s cartoon recently and its subject was this very parable. Once the film came to the last servant and his fate, they changed what the Lord said and instead of what we just read, they showed the two other servants giving from what they had earned to the slothful servant, so that at the end "everybody was happy". It is obvious that some feel uncomfortable with some of the things the Lord said. So they change it. Let us not follow them. In contrast let us take these passages at heart and answer to the call of alertness they are offering.

Doing – with whatever mistakes and failures - the will of God, bearing fruit for the Lord, is not optional, something that a Christian could opt to do, if he would like to, but if he does not do it, never mind: he may only miss some rewards but still make it into the Kingdom, because of that confession of faith he made once upon a time. It is not really like this. Instead, striving, with whatever failures and shortcomings, to do the will of God, doing and not just hearing the Word of God is what the Word asks us to do. As James tells us:

James 1:22-25
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. "

And as the Lord plainly said in Matthew 7:21-27:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven". Could it be any plainer? I repeat that this does not mean that we are faultless not it means that we are walking perfectly. What it does mean though is that we are running with patience the race of faith, looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). It means that we are on the move following Jesus, trying, yes with mistakes but with the power of Christ that is greater than everything, to do the will of God, thus bringing, as we move united with Him, the desired fruit. For some this may be five talents and for others two. The Lord does not criticize the one who made two, instead of five, additional talents. In contrast He congratulates him. He brought fruit for his Lord according to what was given to him. The one who is condemned is the one who was fruitless. The one who instead of working His Lord worked other lords (we always serve a lord). His behavior had indeed consequences and in fact very heavy ones:

"cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"

Next section: For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink

 

Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou