The Parable of the Talents is one parable that today’s Christian must be digesting with alacrity. If well studied, it points to a lot of things that Jesus in his ministry had mentioned, but which we have ignored today. And the most painful deception in most Christians’ understanding of this parable is that it’s relates not to believers, but to unbelievers. I wish to turn the tables of our thinking and draw it’s profound implications to our attention. The story is recorded in Matthew 25:14-30.
Servants of Christ
The first and foremost and probably most fundamental point in this story is that the people who are given the talents to work with are called “servants” of the master. Now unless my understanding of the word servant is not right, a servant is a person who is bonded to serve his master. He has not the right to determine for himself what to do, and only listens for and obeys his master’s command. The clearest typology of this is us Christians. The implication of accepting someone as your lord is that you immediately become that person’s servant – which is exactly what we confess when we are born again. I think today’s fiercely independent Christian finds it hard to accept and walk in the conviction of servanthood to Christ.
Look at Paul’s introductory statement to the Romans church.
Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God …
Hear what Christ says to his disciples:
Jn 15:15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”.
The privilege of being called friends is Christ’s to give. Our duty however, is as servants to our Lord. Those that do not believe in Christ are not his servants, simply because he is not their Lord. We are, and we must learn to live as such.
Saved to Serve
As we have already established in my previous post, the purpose of we being called into the body of Christ through the free gift of grace is so that we may “do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. And this is exactly the responsibility that the master gives to his servants in this parable. It is worth noting that he gives different amounts of talents to different servants – five, two and one. But have you wondered why he said the same thing to both the one who was given five talents and the one who was given two talents?
Mt 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness’”
Mt 25:23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of may things. Come and and share your master’s happiness”.
The idea behind typing both responses to the servant with the five talents and that with two talents is to show you that the response to both is the same. But why? Hasn’t the one with 5 talents done more? Is the master not fair? Au contraire, both have returned 100% profit on the investment, and so both should be commended the same way.
The third servant is called wicked and lazy (v. 26). Of course we all agree that he was lazy, but why will his master classify him as “wicked”? Why will Jesus call some of us his servants wicked? Simply because contrary to Eph 2:10, this servant did not do the good works prepared in advance for him to do. Look at what Malachi classifies as wicked and you’ll see why.
Mal 4:18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
And Jesus’ classification of the vines that bear fruit and those that do not.
Jn 15:1-2;8 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…. This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Again, the reference is to branches that are already within the vine. In short, we Christians, not any other class of people. Once we are born again, we become a branch within Christ the tree. And to prove ourselves true and faithful disciples, Christ expects us to bear “much” fruit.
Calibre of Fruit
What is the kind of fruit we are to bear or the good works we are to do? Well, there are no listed “good works” in the NT for us, though there are many references to people having done what could be classified as good works. I have come to believe however, that there is only one underlying principle that help us classify what we do as good works – works done in the love of God.
Eph 1:4-5 (4)For he chose in him before the creation of the world to be the holy and blameless in his sight. In love, (5)he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.
Note the KJV way of putting this verse 4.
Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
A careful analysis of both versions of the same passage will tell you that our adoption as sons and our holiness and blamelessness is gained through Agape love. This kind of love can only be given us by the Holy Spirit of Him who wants us to love to the same measure as He has loved us.
Ro 5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he gives us.
Do you see why Jesus Christ gave the commandment to love and why Paul calls it the law of Christ?
Jn 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Gal 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, in in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
And have you ever wondered why the introductory sections in most of Paul’s letters express either a prayer or a gladness that love may be manifested among the brethren?
Phil 1:9-10 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.
1 Th 1:2-3 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Th 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love everyone has for each other is increasing.
Col 1:3-5 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven …
… Not the faith and love that we exhibit by warming church pews everyday and shaking three hands at the end of the service, but one that tells us “we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 Jn 3:16). As a little point of digression, I think it’s a bit ironic (if not intentional) that the two passages that clearly depict the measure of love God has for us and the measure of love he expects from us are all in some Jn 3:16 form i.e. Jn 3:16 and 1 Jn 3:16.
The Importance of Works
It is vital to understand the principle that works done after our initial belief in Jesus is the only thing that guarantees us “an inheritance among the saints” (Ac 20:32). This understanding underscored every effort of the apostles of old and was a point of exhortation to all whom they came into contact with.
1 Thess 2:19-20 For what is our hope,, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory.
2 Ti 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to those who have longed for his appearing.
Paul speaks of those whom he has won for Christ and whom he has worked with in Thessalonia as his “crown” that he will glory before Christ with. And here is one reason why we need works of our own to “glory” before Christ.
Rev 19:7-8 Let us rejoice and be glad, and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was give her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)
If the fine linen of the bride is made up of “righteous acts” of the saints, and you have none, do you expect to be among the bride? Note that in all the messages to the seven churches in Rev, Christ always said “I know your deeds”, not “I know your confession of me”. However, he promises good things to those who overcome. Overcome what? I’ll leave that to your pondering but I guess we’ve already passed over those waters.
Judging the Works
First of all, the church will be judged separately from the world in two stages. As the apostle Peter says,
1 Pe 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God, and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
I think it is time that Christians took a second look at the Parable of the Weeds and the Parable of the Net carefully. It paints a picture which can be quite frightening for some of us Christians. Note in the parable of the weeds that the wheat is planted and the enemy comes to plant weeds among the good ones. However, when harvest time comes, the wheat is harvested from among the weeds and sent for storage, whiles the weeds are gathered to be put in the fire. This paints a picture of faithful and unfaithful Christians. The angels will do a separation of these, and the destination of the unfaithful is declared as the lake of fire. It is important to note that in Christ’s explanation he said the field was the world.
Christ is not interested in judging the world when he comes the first time. He is interested in picking those who are faithful to him. And to those who are unfaithful, there is no second chance. They will be thrown straight into the lake of fire. It will seem then that it is better for those of the world who do not receive Christ. At least they will go through the judgement of the second resurrection. This same picture is painted by the Parable of the Net, and again by the Parable of the Talents under discussion. The servant who had one talent was not considered “wicked” because he had spent the money, but because he did not do anything with it. Christians who do not walk in deeds according to the will of their Father will find themselves in very dire straights on the day of Christ’s return.
The second form of judgment of the Church is a judgment of quality, and is depicted in 2 Co 5:10 and 1 Co 3:12-15.
2 Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
1 Co 3:12-15 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
The first passage mentions being judged “for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”. This is a judgment of our deeds while on earth, and whether they were done according to the will of God or whether they were done in the flesh.
The second passage talks about the judgment process itself, and points out that it is quality that counts. Those whose works are of gold, silver or precious stones will be rewarded with the inheritance of being an heir in the coming kingdom of Christ, and will rule with him when he returns to the earth(Rev 20:1-6). Those whose work are of wood, straw or hay will not be considered a part of that inheritance, but will only be subjects in Christ’s kingdom. They would have “entered” the kingdom (Mk 9:47), but would not reign in it(Ro 8:17).
Let me give you a scenario. Supposing two men reach heaven, one carrying a very small box of gold, and the other carrying a high and mighty pile of wood, representing their work. Now they both appear before the judgment seat of Christ and their work is tested by fire. I guess we all know what will happen. But the latter person is what modern Christians are striving to be like, not the former. I shudder to think of whether today’s icons of Christianity will even make it at all to the judgment seat and what the quality of their work will be like.
Then again, we have work to do to make sure we are part of those that bring in gold, silver or precious stones because, nothing else is of more worth than ruling the physical and spiritual world with Christ. Make sure you are a part of it.