Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons



Matthew

The parable of the talents. 25:14-30

[Seed logo] Introduction
      In chapters 24 and 25 Matthew gathers together Jesus' teachings on his "coming and the end of the age." In the parable before us we are reminded that in the days before Christ's return we are to use our resources wisely and well.
 
The passage
      v14. The NIV, "again it will be like", is probably a shorthand way of saying "for the kingdom of heaven will be like (can be compared to the situation where) a man, going on a journey", leaves his assets with three associates, expecting to return and share in the profits.
      v15. A talent is a variable, but worth something like six thousand denarii ($300,000). Numerous meanings are suggested for the "talent", eg. God-given resources, the gifts of the Spirit, etc. The trouble is, this parable is not an allegory and should not be interpreted like one.
      v16-18. The faithful associates put the money to work, in the sense of using it in a business enterprise. The faithless associate buried it out of fear, laziness or plain nastiness.
      v19-23. After a long time the master returned. The faithful associates, given graded resources comparable to their abilities, are equally rewarded with greater responsibilities and receive the master's "well done."
      v24-25. On the surface, the third associate does seem to act carefully and with respect, even diligence, toward the master. Of course, it could be argued that his actions, in a sense, accused the master of being grasping. If he increases the master's capital he will not share in any of it, while if he loses any of the capital he will be held responsible. So, out of spite, he gives the master back what belonged to him, no more and no less.
      v26-27. It could be argue that the third associate virtually condemns himself. He could have easily put the talent out on loan and so gained some income for the master. To act with such spite toward a "hard" master is only asking for trouble. It's worth noting that in New Testament times the distinction between "interest" and "usury" was well understood. Even Roman law set a maximum rate of 12%.
      v28, 30. The faithless associate loses his talent, along with everything else. Jesus concludes with the language of judgment, of a coming day of reckoning.
      v29. This verse serves to apply the parable. It's teaching is nicely summarized in the commentary on Matthew by G.T. Montague: "i] like the master, God entrusts all people with a portion of his resources, expecting them to act as good stewards of it; ii] like the two good servants, God's people will be commended and rewarded when they have faithfully discharged that commission; iii] like the wicked servant, those who fail to use the gifts God has given them for His service will be punished by separation from God and all things good."
 
Use it or lose it
      The parable of the talents, particularly v29, is applied in many and various ways. For example, Willoughby Allen says the parable concerns the spiritual opportunities available to believers, and the use made of them. "The man who had ten talents had his chance and used it. He deserved encouragement. The man who had buried his talent had missed his chance. It was therefore withdrawn from him." Dick France says the "parable takes up the question which that of the bridesmaids left unanswered: what is readiness? It is not a matter of passively waiting, but of responsible activity, producing results which the coming master can see and approve. For the period of waiting was not intended to be an empty, meaningless delay, but a period of opportunity to put to good use the talents entrusted to his slaves." Frank Gaebelein says "the parable insists that the watchfulness that must mark all Jesus' disciples does not lead to passivity, but to doing one's duty, to growing, to husbanding and developing the resources God entrusts to us, 'till after a long time' the master returns and settles accounts."
      The parable of the Talents gives us an insight into the moment before the dawning of the new age. How encouraging it is to know that if we have taken the offer of God's free grace and daily seek to live in the power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, that we will be shaped and prepared for the coming age. The movement of life, under the grace of God, prepares us for the responsibilities of eternity, while opening to us even greater access to the mercy and kindness of God.
      The random circumstances of life, both bitter and sweet, serve as he raw material from which the Lord molds and shapes us in preparation for our rule with him in eternity. It is because "all things work for good to those who love the Lord" that we can take hold of our moment, good or bad, apply our God-given knowledge and abilities to it, grow through it, and inevitably be put "in charge of many things", and "share the master's happiness."
 
Discussion
      1. Does the "talent" represent anything?
      2. What is the situation represented by the third servant?
      3. Discuss the proposition that the third servant's failure had more to do with his attitude toward the master than his management of his "talent", ie. his problem was faded faith, not failed works.
      4. Discuss the notion that life is the kindergarten of eternity.
 
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