I've been reflecting briefly on the parable of the talents - for all those involved in ministry, in one way or another, this is a sobering text that should make us pause and think.
There are a few brief observations I have made this morning which I hope will be of benefit to all the disciples of Christ.
Be Content with Your God-Given Responsibilities 25:14-15
Every charge we are given is pure donation from heaven. Each soul to whom we minister and every subordinate in our care is the property of Christ for which we shall give account. Some saints are given more, other Christians are given less - each gift is assigned in wisdom according to what we are able for. Never overreach your God-given aptitudes. Never envy brothers who carry weightier burdens. Never strive for things that lie beyond your lawful path. Learn to settle for less. Grow to love your few.
To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability, verse 15
Each talent the master gave was vast and valuable. The New Bible Dictionary reminds us just how much:
"A talent of silver seemed to require two bags (2 Kings 5:23) ...The 'talent' was not a coin, but a unit of monetary reckoning. Its value was always high, though it varied with the different metals involved."
This is 'Gospel Greed' which we should strenuously avoid: no matter how small the duty assigned by God, it should be prized for its worth, which is calculated in Christ's blood - what a terrible thing if we despise the treasure of God. Lord grant us grace to make the most of what we have.
Be Diligent with Your God-Given Responsibilities
It seems that most of the master's servants proved faithful with their charge. It reflects a jaundiced views if we forget the fact that a majority of Christ's servants, relentlessly, faithfully, if silently, without a show or fuss, get on well with their work. The men with five and two invested wisely and well. Its salutary to note there was neither explosive nor exponential growth - their portfolio was blue-chip and they sought a modest, safe, return. Steady but slow - they dare not risk God's stock. Cautious but courageous with what they hoped to finally bank. At the end of the period, when their boss returned, what they had to show was a 100% return. The master was delighted. Each was commended and promoted.
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 ...'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.' Verses 16-17, 21.
One man however - uninspired by fear and sloth - took a dim view of his master, was reluctant to invest, and popped his gift in the safe. Here the talent sat until the man returned, it value depreciating with inflation all around. In real terms this servant returned the boss a loss. His master was outraged at this slothful, wicked, scheme. He should have lodged the sum in a low-interest savings account. The talent was seized, the worthless servant expelled - the Lord takes no delight when his precious blood-bought property is damaged or lost.
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 more will 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, verses 27-30.
J.C. Ryle lucidly relates the preceding parable of the ten virgins and this parable of the talents to professing members of Christ's Church:
The practical lesson of each parable is the main point of difference: vigilance is the key note of the first parable; diligence that of the second. The story of the virgins calls on the church to watch; the story of the talents call on the church to work.
The excuse the lazy servant gave was really paper-thin: he claimed, it seems, that the master was hard - what he appears to have meant is that the master was lazy himself, going on foreign trips while living off the back of the servants who did the work.
Master I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and scattering where you gathered no seed.
Of course, if that had really been the case, he should have worked his knuckles to the bone to make a good return. The simple fact of the matter, which the servant surely realized, is that the master had been kind. His master, in truth, had been gracious to a fault - he offered his servant a start up, invested his private funds, and as an act of sheer generosity, promised lucrative promotion: each diligent servant landed a top job as an executive and received significant share options with a portion of future company profits.
Be Ready to account for Your God-Given Responsibilities
The day is near at hand when you will have to give account - what will we do with all the duties and gifts, opportunities and graces, knowledge and roles Christ has kindly set into your lap. Our master is so gracious but his graces and gifts are precious - they were purchased at the Cross, poured out at Pentecost, and he supplies the power to expend yourself in the task of expanding evangelical economics.
Your Savior is no debtor - you owe all to Him. He suffered on the Tree for every lazy, careless, lapse. His contentment and commitment to His redemptive task on the Cross, clothes your nakedness and provides motive and might for service. Confess all your slackness. By grace mortify all sloth. Pray down serving strength. No matter how small or great your opportunity for service - first for Jesus' sake, second for God's own flock, and last for your own sake - contentedly but courageously engage in assiduous work. Visualize future promotion and a seat at Christ's company table!
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