14 “For it is just like a man going on a journey. He called his own slaves and turned over his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one—to each according to his own ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately 16 the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more. 17 In the same way the man with two earned two more. 18 But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. Look, I’ve earned five more talents.’ 21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’ 22 “Then the man with two talents also approached. He said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. Look, I’ve earned two more talents.’ 23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’ 24 “Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, ‘Master, I know you. You’re a difficult man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy slave! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, 27 then you should have deposited my money with the bankers. And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest. 28 “‘So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has 10 talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 30 And throw this good-for-nothing slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Rather than focusing entirely on the large sums of money given to each of the three recipients and the success they had in managing it, let’s use the parable to chew on some eternal truths that have present-day application. Scripture relates that a man going on a journey (whom we understand to represent God) called “his own slaves.” Few believers today view themselves as slaves.
In American culture the idea of a person being sold into slavery conjures up another century, an ill-begotten phase of American history. But slavery in Matthew’s day was real; it was both common and widespread. It was well-understood that the slave owned nothing, had no rights at all, and that he or she was entirely committed to serving the will and pleasure of the master. We would do well to think of ourselves in the same way—except that we are willing slaves to the bidding of Christ.
The passage goes on to say he gave “his possessions” to them. Yet our culture teaches that what we have is ours: to keep, to use, to manage or to dispose of as we choose. Psalm 24 declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world, and they that dwell therein” (emphasis mine).
In reality, we should say, “God’s car needs to be inspected,” “His roof needs repair,” or “His garden needs to be weeded.” But we are wise if we train (discipline) ourselves to acknowledge Him as legitimate Owner of everything placed in our care as His stewards (managers).
Did you make note of that simple but powerfully expressive phrase—he gave to each “according to his own ability”? The statement presupposes that God knows us individually and is entirely aware of our abilities. He never asks of us what we do not have. He recognized there was a difference in ability between the one given five talents and the one given only one.
The return He expects from me does not match what He expects from my millionaire friend—all He asks is that my labor, my giving, is commensurate with my ability. Some declare this truth to be the real beauty of the tithe—different for each, but equal for all.
Then there is the matter of the settling of accounts. Each was called to give a report as to what he had done with what had been entrusted to him. For the two who did well (according to their ability) the judgment rendered was, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your master’s joy!”
We cannot escape the reality of a time to come when all accounts will be settled. The opportunity for achievement and giving will be past and we must live with the results. We easily recall the “well done” part, but often overlook “your master’s joy.”
For the 10-year-old whose team has just won its first trophy, the look on his father’s face says that every sacrifice of time and money was worth it! To the young man witnessing the joy and excitement of his intended as he places a ring on her finger, her look tells him he has won her approval, and that his financial sacrifice was worth every penny.
Though these examples are mere approximations, believing Christians bring joy to the Father when we make fruitful, productive use of that which has been entrusted to us. Isn’t that the point? Bringing joy to the One who gives us everything should be our fondest desire, greatest goal and daily challenge.
Turning these verses over in your heart, you may focus on past mistakes, opportunities missed, or work that wasn’t your best. But God reminds us that we have today and for as long as He chooses to leave us here we can multiply all the resources He has provided to bring Him joy!
The use of talents in this parable is directly tied to the use of money for Kingdom purposes. But proper use starts with the acknowledgment of whose it is in the first place—His. If you have never learned that concept, that reality, today would be the best time to simply confess it and purpose in your heart to begin living and giving in light of that reality.
Like other disciplines, giving and using financial resources is a daily practice, strengthened and established by repetition. And like other disciplines, giving is a matter of trust; as we obediently follow our Master’s leadership, we trust Him to provide what we need. His response always matches that of the parable: they were faithful “over a few things” and He put them in charge of “many things.”
Even if you’ve done this before, quickly jot down a list of your “assets.” What are the resources, including finances, that God has put in your life to use for Kingdom purposes?
Then write down beside each asset some ways you have used these resources for Kingdom purposes. (Examples: bought a Bible for a new believer, took a friend to lunch to encourage her in a time of struggles.)
Finally, make two or three notes about new things you can do in the next week to use these and other resources to bring joy to the heart of God. Ask God to remind you of this commitment in your daily quiet time.
- Evaluate what you have “purposed in your heart” to do regarding God’s ownership of all you call “yours.” Ask God to show you areas of disobedience or neglect.
- Actively seek God’s direction in bringing Him joy through your daily stewardship of all the resources He has entrusted to you.
- Write a prayer, acknowledging His Lordship and your servant role in accomplishing Kingdom purposes.