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The Parables of Jesus Part 19
Matthew 25:14-30 - Work for Him to hear those wonderful words: Well done, good and faithful servant.
““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 NASB1995
This parable in Matthew 25 immediately follows the parable of the ten virgins. Jesus is preaching to His disciples on the Mount of Olives during Holy Week. The message of this parable is similar in many respects to the parable of the ten minas in Luke 19. Jesus has talked extensively about His return and how to be ready, so He tells His disciples this parable. A master is leaving on a long journey and calls his trusted slaves to him and gives them talents, according to their abilities. To the first, he gives five talents. To the second, he gives two talents. To the third, he gives one talent. So what are these talents? This Explanation from Enduring Word is good, although I found other commenters who did not agree with the possible explanation that talents are abilities, but only that it is a monetary measure. I think it could be both, personally:
To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one: A talent was not an ability (though this parable has application to our abilities), but a unit of money worth at least $1,200 in modern terms, and likely much more.
“The talent was not a coin, it was a weight; and therefore its value obviously depended on whether the coinage involved was copper, gold, or silver.” (William Barclay)
“The English use of ‘talent’ for a natural (or supernatural) aptitude derives from this parable…But of course the Greek talanton is simply a sum of money…it was generally regarded as equal to 6,000 denarii.” (R.T. France)
“If a talent were worth six thousand denarii, then it would take a day laborer twenty years to earn so much.” (D.A. Carson)
In the application of this parable it is appropriate to see these talents as life resources – such as time, money, abilities, and authority.
So the master returns “after a long time” and wants to settle accounts with his slaves. The first slave, with five talents, has successfully traded and come up with five more talents. The second slave, similarly, has traded and added two talents to the two he was given. Both have doubled the amounts the master entrusted to them. He says the same thing to both of them: 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. Here’s more from Enduring Word (same link) for these two who have earned the good words from the master:
Well done, good and faithful servant: This shows that the master looked for goodness and faithfulness in His servants. Whatever financial success these servants enjoyed came because they were good and faithful. The master looked first for these character qualities, not for a specific amount of money.
“It is not ‘Well done, thou good and brilliant servant;’ for perhaps the man never shone at all in the eyes of those who appreciate glare and glitter. It is not, ‘Well done, thou great and distinguished servant;’ for it is possible that he was never known beyond his native village.” (Charles Spurgeon)
“It is better to be faithful in the infant-school than to be unfaithful in a noble class of young men. Better to be faithful in a hamlet over two or three score of people, than to be unfaithful in a great-city parish, with thousands perishing in consequence. Better to be faithful in a cottage meeting, speaking of Christ crucified to half-a hundred villagers, than to be unfaithful in a great building where thousands congregate.” (Charles Spurgeon)
Enter into the joy of your lord: This has the echo of heaven in it. The idea is that there is a place of joy belonging to the master of these servants, and they are invited to join the master in that place. There is a sense of heaven about this destiny for the two faithful servants.
“This is not the servant’s portion, but the Master’s portion shared with his faithful servants…not so much that we shall have a joy of our own as that we shall enter into the joy of our Lord.” (Charles Spurgeon)
We can say of the reward for the first two servants:
They received praise from their master.
They received a promise of future blessing.
They received glory, “the joy of your lord.”
Now let’s turn to the the third slave who comes forward. The slave says to the master that he knew the master to be a hard man, reaping and gathering where he had not sown. This slave was afraid of his master’s power and hid the talent in the ground; he didn’t even try to add to the amount through banking or work or trading. He tells that master that he has his talent to give back, thinking that this seems like a good strategy. The reaction is stunning: ‘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.’ Whoa! The first slave gains another talent, adding to his abundance, but this slave is also consigned to the outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Is Jesus saying that we can’t enter into His joy if we do not do works? Of course not! Our confession of faith in Him is our justification. However, no believer is worth their talents (so to speak) if they say they believe and then do absolutely nothing in working for the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God. In fact, work is guaranteed for us in the next life (although it will be joyful and not a drudgery), producing more and more for His glory. I found a very interesting sermon by Bob Deffinbaugh (Community Bible Chapel in Richardson, Texas) from a link on Precept Austin on this passage (in Bible.org.). Pastor Deffinbaugh talks about the traps of retirement, something that I have been enjoying now for almost six years. Here are a few relevant passages from that sermon, which are definitely worth contemplating:
I realize that I am going to pull some whiskers by what I am about to say, but I think that I am being true to our text, and to the Bible as a whole. I fear that for all too many Christians (not all!) retirement has become a socially acceptable form of burying one’s talent.
“Heaven is not to be thought of as me laying beside the pool, sipping a tall, cool one,” as one of my fellow elders commented this past week. Heaven is described in terms of work, not play, of activity, not passivity. The one who has been faithful on earth with a little thing like money will be given greater work to do in heaven. Heaven is not a hammock; it is not a glorified vacation. Heaven involves work, but it is profitable work. Christians will spend all eternity at work, and this work will include ruling with our Lord and praising Him.
When our Lord talks about the kingdom of heaven in our text and elsewhere, He speaks of it in terms of work, not of relaxation or of play. Heaven can hardly be described in terms of retirement. Faithful saints are given even greater responsibilities, and even more work. But this work is joyful. Such labor is, to a large degree, entering into the joy of our Master. It is the end of the curse, and thus the end of futile labor. It is the continuation of fruitful, profitable labor.
I wonder how many have given serious thought to what might be called “the theology of retirement.” I would like to challenge every Christian to rethink the subject of retirement. For example, if work is toil, a part of the curse, then is retirement just an excuse to try and escape from the consequences of sin God has decreed? Is retirement a denial, in effect, of the curse?
It is clear that our Lord Jesus intended for us to be found “at work” when He returns:
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions” (Matthew 24:45-47).
If this is the case, and we are to be at work until He comes, then why do we think that reaching a certain age entitles us to cease our labors for Him?
I am not arguing against retirement in the economic sense. I’m not saying that one should never cease their employment nor end their career. I am saying that our labors for the kingdom have no point of termination except for our Lord’s return, and even then fruitful labor will continue in heaven. I am suggesting that we have come to view retirement as that time in life when we can greatly reduce or terminate our giving, and when we can cease our service. Retirement is thought of more in terms of the golf course than “finishing our course” in the Pauline sense (2 Timothy 4:7).
Retirement is that period in life when one no longer has the distraction of having to work for a livelihood. It is a time when one should have the wisdom of age, financial freedom, and flexibility. Retirement is like the second stage of a rocket booster. Speed and thrust increase. Our labors for the Master should increase, not diminish, if we are kingdom minded.
Steve and I have been writing these daily devotionals for over 600 days now, because we feel that these deep-dives into scripture and sharing what we learn is important. We don’t skip writing and analyzing Scripture when we travel or are super busy with “retirement” tasks. We also have increased our prayer times. Hopefully, we have earned a few tiny pennies of interest on the talents that God has given us. Life can have nice rewards and comfort after service to secular (corporate) masters, but our Heavenly master expects us to up the gain with meaningful work using that wisdom, financial freedom and flexibility that we have.
There are three more parables in this devotional series, with two being unique to the Gospel of Mark and one more from Matthew (and Luke). The next devotional examines the parable of the growing seed, from Mark 4:26-29. After the parables are completed, I am planning to jump into a lengthy series on the Paulian epistle of Galatians.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please help me to continue working harder and harder for Your Kingdom, so that I can joyfully enter into Your presence. Amen!
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
Bob Deffinbaugh, The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:14-28), Copyright ©2005 Bible.org