"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" (Matt.25:14-30)
In this parable, Jesus tells of a man who was "traveling to a far country." Before he left, he called his servants and delivered unto them his "goods." The man represents Jesus, the servants represent the disciples of the Lord, and the far country represents heaven. The Greek word here for "servant" means slave. Followers of Jesus are to be His slaves (i.e., bondservants, not hired servants). He has a claim on our time and labor; in fact, He owns us (cf. I Cor. 6:19,20).
In that day, a "talent" was a monetary unit worth a large sum of money. The weight of a talent was approximately 75 pounds (about 34 kg). In gold, the value of a talent in modern figures may be around $1,000,000, which is a lot of money! However, the scope of this parable is certainly much broader than merely showing the need for good financial stewardship as a follower of Jesus. It is true that such would be included, but Jesus undoubtedly also intended this parable to be a lesson on stewardship of time, opportunities, physical and spiritual abilities, and other resources. In general, the "talents" in this parable represent the sum of the responsibilities that God has entrusted us with.
"Each according to his own ability" - This is how the talents were distributed; they were not given out haphazardly. To this day God still entrusts us with responsibilities in various amounts depending upon our ability. In this parable, five talents were entrusted to one servant, two to another, and one to a third. After distributing his goods, the master immediately left for the far country. Let it be noted that even the servant who only received one talent was entrusted with quite a responsibility. One million dollars is no trifle sum!
The servant who received five talents worked diligently and doubled his resources through perseverance. The servant who received two talents worked diligently and also doubled his resources through perseverance. However, the one-talent servant buried his talent in the ground. Today, the servants of God will either use and further develop the abilities that God has blessed them with, or they will fail to do so. The choice is ours!
"After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them" - This seems to suggest the likelihood that Jesus would not return soon (cf. Matt. 25:5). When the master did return, there would be a time to "settle accounts." Since God has entrusted us with "talents" of various sorts, and since there is great value to that which He has put into our care, certainly we would expect Him not to forget His "talents," but to ask for an accounting of them someday. Thus, when Jesus comes again, there will be a judgment (cf. II Cor. 5:10; Eccl. 12:13,14), but in the meantime He has left us work to do. May we strive to be actively engaged in the Lord's work to the best of our ability during His "absence" and not be one who fails to fulfill the responsibilities that have been entrusted.
After the first servant reports on his activity, the master replies - "Well done, good and faithful servant." The master was pleased with this servant and commended him (cf. I Cor. 4:2). "Enter into the joy of your lord" - This represents entering heaven. This verse indicates that the faithful will have even greater opportunities for service in heaven. The point here is not that one must double his "talents" in order to please God; the point is that God demands all that we are capable of doing in service to Him.
This parable is similar to the parable of the minas, yet unique in several ways (cf. Luke 19:12ff). In that parable, the same amount was entrusted to each one, but the returns were different and the rewards were different. In this parable, different amounts were entrusted, but the returns were in proportion to the individual's ability and the rewards were all the same.
The second servant then reports on his activity, and the praise he receives is identical to that given in Matthew 25:21. It should be noted that the praise was not given regarding the number of talents presented but for the quality of service rendered. The number of "talents" we present to God on Judgment Day is irrelevant in regards to comparing the quantity to others. We will all be judged individually based on whether or not we have achieved according to our ability (cf. II Cor. 8:12). Had the first servant presented only five talents to the master, he would have been found to be unfaithful, even though the second servant was found faithful in presenting only four. The difference is that the five-talent servant was capable of much more than the two-talent servant was, and thus, the Lord expected more of him.
It should be stressed that the two-talent servant should not feel inferior in any way, even though he had fewer entrusted responsibilities. The fact is that he developed his talents in a way that pleased the Lord, just like the first servant. May we never be tempted to compare our spiritual achievements or abilities to others and thereby feel confident or inadequate. God knows what our abilities are, and as long as we are serving Him to the best of our ability, it matters not what others are doing in comparison, whether it be more or less. It is foolish for one to compare his level of service to another and find contentment in knowing that he is doing as much as the other servant. Although two servants may be identical in their amount of service, it may be that only one is living up to his potential. Likewise, it is also foolish for one to compare his level of service to another and feel insignificant (or useless) in knowing that the other servant is doing so much more than him. If you are a one-talent servant, do not bury your abilities or ignore your responsibilities, but serve faithfully to God's glory without worrying about the accomplishments of a five-talent servant.
In Jesus' parable, the one-talent servant represents those who make the labors and difficulties of the Christian life an excuse for doing nothing. He labeled his master as being one who reaped all the gain after others had done all the work. By hiding his master's money in the ground, he was essentially digging a hole for himself! Had he really feared his master, he would have been afraid of being punished for his slothfulness and would have used the money wisely.
Notice how much time and energy this servant used trying to justify his laziness! One might say that he worked hard trying not to use his talent. Some today act likewise when they spend much time trying to think up excuses as to why they cannot help in a particular way. They go to great lengths to avoid serving as they can and should. Sadly, many today falsely view God as so hard and tough that it is impossible to faithfully serve Him.
One who spends his time, abilities, and money only on the advancement of himself, and does almost nothing for the kingdom of God, is destined to share the same end as this "servant." Are you burying your talents and abilities or are you striving to do everything you can for your Master and His kingdom (cf. Matt. 6:33)?
The master labels the servant as "wicked and lazy." His laziness is obvious, but how was this man wicked? After all, he did not steal or embezzle the entrusted talent. He was wicked because he failed to do what he could; he did not fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to him (cf. James 4:17; Rev. 3:15,16).
The master's comment about putting the money in the bank to earn interest simply means that even a small act of faithfulness is better than nothing at all. There is no excuse for doing nothing!
"Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents" - Essentially, use it or lose it! This principle is true physically and spiritually. Those who labor diligently will be known as trustworthy and capable. Hence, they will be entrusted with more responsibilities (since they can adequately handle them). Those who fail to labor as they should will be known as incapable and unreliable. Thus, their current responsibilities will be removed (since they have not adequately handled them). It is undeniable that ability and opportunity create responsibility. It is also true that God knows the limits of our capabilities and whether we are living up to them or only using them in a small way.
"And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" - The third servant, because he was wicked and lazy, was also unprofitable for his master. It is true that those who commit sins such as adultery, murder, and lying will go to hell (if they do not obey the gospel and repent), but so will one who will not use his talents (cf. Rev. 21:8)! Friends, are you a profitable servant for the Lord? Are you using your talents to the best of your ability for Almighty God?
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.