Thursday, June 23, 2022

Hearts in Action: The Parable of the Talents

Let's dive right in!

“For it is like a man, going into another country, who called his own servants, and entrusted his goods to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his own ability. Then he went on his journey.  Immediately he who received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. In the same way, he also who got the two gained another two. But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

“Now after a long time the lord of those servants came, and reconciled accounts with them.  He who received the five talents came and brought another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents. Behold, I have gained another five talents besides them.’

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

“He also who got the two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents. Behold, I have gained another two talents besides them.’

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

“He also who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter. I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the earth. Behold, you have what is yours.’

“But his lord answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow, and gather where I didn’t scatter. You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest. Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn’t have, even that which he has will be taken away. Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”(Matt. 25:14-30 WEB)

This next parable is in an interesting place in Matthew.  In Chapter 24, the disciples ask Jesus what will happen at the end of the age.  He also comments that only His Father knows when these things will come to pass.  He talks then in a parable about the good servant who is in charge while his master is away, and is found to be doing good when the master returns.  He contrasts that with a wicked servant who acts irresponsibility and who will be punished when his master returns.

Then Jesus goes on in Chapter 25 to talk of the virgins who await the bridegroom--some prepared and some unprepared.  The foolish ones miss the opportunity to enter the feast with the bridegroom when he finally appears.  The context still operating here is one of expectation and not growing weary in the waiting.

Let's set the stage for this parable.  The master must leave.  He has business elsewhere.  He doesn't just assume his servants will know what to do or how to proceed once he's gone.  He calls them together.  Yes, you could argue that they have been with him awhile (he trusts them with his money after all--that shows he knows them well enough) and that they should know how to operate without him around.  But calling them together goes deeper than that.

He gives to each of them something of value.  He is saying to them, in essence, I have been with you long enough to know what your abilities are.  I know the level of your integrity.  I am showing my love and trust by giving you something of value...I am not simply asking you to keep the home fires burning. I am giving you oversight of my wealth and am trusting you to handle it with care and diligence.

Wow.  The master is acting as if these servants are his partners, his peers, his equals.  He is entrusting them to handle his estate, to be engaged in his business as if it were their own. 

Now, he distributes the wealth to each servant according "to his ability."  He knows each of his servants so well that he gives them what they can handle competently.  He knows their strengths and weaknesses and doesn't give them too much or too little.  So, each man receives a different amount.  The master isn't showing favoritism...he is showing concern.  He wants his servants to walk away with two things:  My master values me and he's knows I can do this. 

Notice, Servant #1 goes "immediately" and multiplies the money's amount.  The master knew this servant's heart.  He knew he would be about his master's business in a heartbeat, making his master's money increase.  Not for greedy gain, but so the wealth can go further to benefit more people.  More money means more servants to hire and more land to be bought--the wealth poured into the community will benefit the community and Servant #1 knows this.  

Servant #2 also goes "at once" and makes the money multiply.  He doesn't see the wealth of his master as something to be tucked under a mattress.  He sees the wealth of his master something to be actively used.  

By investing it, the two servants are acting in love for their master--joyfully going out and getting down to business.  They didn't start whining about why Servant #1 got more entrusted to him than Servant #2.  They saw what they were given in the light of the master:  My master trusts me to do good with his wealth and I will not let him down!  His love for me inspires me to do good, for he is good!

Now on to Servant #3.   Uh-oh.  He didn't grab his bag of gold, happily entering the world to make his master proud of him.  He hides it in the ground.  Time goes on.  Does Servant #3 even remember where he buried it?  What is he doing all this time?  While Servants #1 and #2 are out and about in their master's service, what is he doing?  Is he just hanging out?  Or after awhile, when his master didn't return, did he wander off, uninvolved and unconcerned?  Did he feel justified in his inactivity?  Wow--look at those two!  Running around as if our master is coming home any day now!  Right!  It's been YEARS since the master left and it doesn't look like he's coming back any time soon.  Maybe we misunderstood him.  Maybe he spoke falsely to us--he never intended to return.  Maybe we misunderstood him.  Maybe, he's not a good master--a good master would have returned by now.  How can I trust him?  Where is he?  I am not going to waste my time, running around for an untrustworthy master.  Bury the money, forget about it and carry on.  Works for me!

But:  The master DID return. Yes, it was a long time, but the trust that his servants had led to action--they trusted him to return, and they acted on that trust.  

But not so with Servant #3.

Look at the heart of Servant #3:  He believes his master has a hard heart and thus he distrusts his master's actions.  Servant #3's view is that others do the master's work and only the master reaps the benefits. In other words:  Master, you are about you.  I thought it would be best to hide the money so that no one could steal it, but I really do not trust you...I trust myself.  I thought hiding it was a good move--aren't you proud of me?  See!  No one stole it at least.  Isn't that good enough?

But isn't master's reaction a tad harsh?  No.  The master is saying Yes, I do have others do my work.  But, why do they do it?  They do it because they love and trust me.  Even if you weren't confident enough to engage in an active investment, at least what I gave you could have been entrusted to others.  But it is your heart with its lack of trust in me that is the problem.  You buried the money because your love for me is buried in the ground of disbelief.  You serve me with a heart that is far from me.  You have a heart of darkness and now you will leave my presence.  You never tried to get to know me, even while you were in my house all those years.  Your heart doesn't really want to be around me, so now you will live what you wanted: away from me.

The parable here isn't just use what God gives you.  It's deeper than that.  Serve God because you love Him and are grateful that He has entrusted you with some kingdom work, however large or small it may be.  The real talent our Master is looking for is a heart that knows Him and will serve Him.  He wants a heart to love Him and to trust Him, until He returns.  And return He will.

 But until then?  Invest in others with what He gives you.  It's a paradox of our faith in Jesus that the more we give away, the more we receive.  But it is equally true that the more we hide what He gives us, and it molders away in the ground of disobedience and unbelief, the further removed we are from Him.  One day, sadly, that removal will be permanent.  Not because He wanted it, because our actions spoke of not wanting to be in His presence. 


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