Parable of the Talents
A commentary on the parable of Mt 25:14-30
This parable is part of the last Scriptures of the Gospel of Matthew, and it is in the portion of the Gospel that touches the following issues:
It is a parable for our times, the final times before the second coming of Jesus Christ.
It is in this part where the Bible explains that a dispensation has ended and that a new and different one is beginning. Jesus was indicating that a time had finished.
The words of the Lord during His final days on this earth were signaling the end of the working of the Holy Spirit from "outside" of men, which certainly was spectacular, but ineffective in obtaining men to be transformed.
As an example, let us remember:
The time began in which the Holy Spirit would dwell IN men.
The power of God would start to manifest from the inside of man. He would first transform man, to after that, through the changed person, exteriorize the fruit of the Holy Spirit that would dwell in them.
The transformation was to be continue until His Son would be formed in men. Christ in us.
These are the words of the parable:
What are the parables?
It will be useful to be reminded of what they are, because if this story has to do with us, and it seems clear that the "man going abroad" is representing Jesus,the servants and the talents must also have some meaning that will be convenient for us to understand.
In the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus finished mentioning the parable of the Sower, he adds a phrase: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
The Lord answered the following:
What are the parables? They are revelations of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, which have the power to CONVERT and HEAL the heart that embraces them, but expressed in a language that only hearts sensitive to God can understand.
May God concede us ears TODAY to hear what the Spirit is speaking to the Church.
Let me share what I have observed in this parable:
I find that this parable can be divided in seven sections, each part offering essential information for the christian.
Section 1 - JESUS IS THAT MAN WHO, GOING ABROAD, GAVE HIS GOODS TO HIS SERVANTS
Since it is possible for us to look back on 2007 (NOTE: Date this message was preached) (+3/5 = 2010/12) years since the first coming of Jesus Christ and we know the history from those days till today, from these two verses we can understand that Jesus was explaining what was to happen in the years and centuries to follow.
Other Scriptures widen the explanation, presenting the same concept. (I have extracted these Scriptures to identify where the paralellism with the words of the parable is, but, despite the absence of the contexts, the essence of what has been brought together continues in line with the Scriptures).
Let us read:
The parallelism with the beginning of the parable indicates:
Yet, before going deeper, we need to define two expressions of the beginning, the "talents" and the "servants", to understand what the parable is talking about. And we need to know if this is for others or for us.
We have it clear that in the natural world the talents are several kilograms of silver and that servants are those who work for a lord. Let us now try to understand it from the divine -or spiritual- perspective, obtaining our facts from the information within this story.
Peter, speaking to the multitude in Pentecost, repeats the words of Joel that say: "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh". This text could confirm that we are not mistaken in considering that the talents represent the Holy Spirit, because that is what He gave to His servants.
In Ephesians 4:8 reference is made to Psalm 68:18, where it is mentioned that He, after captivating the captivity "gave gifts to men". We could be tempted to think that Jesus also gave other things apart from the Holy Spirit; yet, on one side, the gifts are "of the Holy Spirit", which means they are no loose elements and on the other side, in these words scholars recognize that it is the Holy Spirit himself what is meant, together with what He brings with Him.
Should we consider "servants" of Jesus Christ only the 12 apostles, because the Scriptures constantly mention them as being "His disciples"?
I believe that they are not the only servants he is talking about. Certainly they were the twelve chosen ones for the specific task of the apostleship of those early days, but the Scriptures call "disciples" those who followed (and follow) Him.
In the upper room of Pentecost, according to Acts 1:15 there were 120 people. And on all of them came the Holy Spirit .
And when Peter finishes his speech before the multitude, this happens:
Three thousand people were added. Maybe not all of them received the Holy Spirit, but these verses teach us that if the Holy Spirit fell on many of them, then certainly "servants" are not only those who are occupied with the ecclesial affairs, like pastors, evangelists, teachers, prophets or apostles, but that the term embraces the whole body of believers.
Let us see more Scriptures:
We conclude herewith, that the expression "servants" used in the New Testament corresponds to all who, having believed the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross and having received Salvation, continue onwards in obedience to Him to give fruit and glory to the Father.
All the people redeemed by the Lamb of God are "servants", and it matters not if we have or not any responsibilities within the Church. The fact of being believers makes us "servants".
What do the silver talents of the parable represent? - The Holy Spirit.
Section 2 - FOR ALL AND WITH A PURPOSE
Observe that the three servants received. None remained not receiving. The parable does not say how many servants this man going abroad had. It just says that he "called his servants..." We can imagine that he only had these three servants, or that these were his foremen and that there were more people. We don't know, but it does explain that each one got "according to his ability".
That means that those who receive HAVE ABILITY (much or little, it doesn't matter) to do something with it.
After Pentecost, Acts tells us of several more situations where the Holy Spirit was given: At Paul's conversion, Acts 9:17, with Peter at Cornelius' house, Acts 10:44-45, with Paul in Ephesus, Acts 19:1-7. Obviously the Holy Spirit did not fall on all. It seems then that one could excuse oneself saying: Well, it's not for me... I did not receive anything... This parable does not touch me...
But one of the Scriptures we read before shows Peter being very clear: ALL are (we are!) enabled to receive Him:
Could it then be that the Holy Spirit is something God expects us to receive? And that He is calling us to receive it? If it is so (and I believe it is so), then what this parable says is -for all of us! Having been redeemed by Jesus the Christ we are also enabled to receive talents!
They knew they had to do something with it
"And going he (...) traded with them." (with the talents). He didn't wait. He had it clear that what had been received was to fulfil a purpose.
He understood that the value of what had been given to him was for obtaining more of the same.
What they had received was not theirs
The third servant, although he did different, leaves with us another detail in his verses. He says: "I (...) hid your talent".
He didn't do what was proper, but he knew well that -although it had been given to him, although it was in his hands- that talent was not his. He could not use it at his own will. He had it, but that talent still belonged to his lord.
Section 3 - THE REWARD TO THE DEDICATION
The owner of the talents returns
The three servants knew he would return. They knew it was inevitable. They had no idea how long they had to wait, but they knew he was coming back.
They knew thay had to give account for what they had received
They were aware that there was a day when they would have to confront the owner of the talents to show if they had acted responsibly. They had to give account of what had been done with what they had received. At that moment, the only valid thing would be to show results.
They knew that the received talents were to make them work
The disposition with which they came before their lord at his return and their own words demonstrate that they understood the purpose: they were to gain more of the same by using them. Plus the attitude of the third servant indicates that there was also risk of losing them.
They had to return everything to the owner, the capital they had received and the surplus
Nothing was for them; they had to return everything! And during the absence of their lord, they didn't even think they would be rewarded for doing what was expected for them to do. They were servants. They didn't do the job for a future reward, they simply did it because they had to .
To the servants that produced - Enter into the joy of your lord
It was onla after delivering at his feet what they had received and waht they had gained that the lord gave them rewards.
Their responsible work with the lord's goods gave them the grace of being invited to participate of the intimacy of their lord, to participate in what was his. They wouldn't have received this if they would have not appreciated the value they had.
And yet, the greatest surprise was at the end!
The process of working with the received goods had been a test to reveal if they would fulfill the will of their lord. Their faithfulness was rewarded converting them in owners of what they had obtained for their lord.
Section 4 - QUANTITY COULD NOT BE THAT IMPORTANT
There is no explanation to this, nor anything that I could deduced; the only thing that may be observed is that in God's thoughts quantity does not weigh that much. The lord had given to each servant according to his ability. And he wouldn't request more than what the ability of that servant could accomplish.
Section 5 - THE SERVANT THAT DID NOT PRODUCE
He presented explanations of why he didn't do what he had to (invest), and why he did what he shouldn't have done (hide it).
To be honest, he almost convinces us... Could it be because we are also prone to give excuses?
But works weighed more than words. He did not do as his lord expected. He didn't move according to the will of his lord, but according to his own criteria. He made different. He followed his own reasonings (with other people's property), he acted in his own will, in the way he considered the surest for himself, instead of doing what the lord wanted. And then he thought he would be able to explain it convincingly. Well,... he couldn't.
It is not sufficient to return what was received
The lord did not agree that his money had been protected. He did not agree with its hiding. He did not agree that it had not been introduced to the productive circuit. As commendable as it seemed from the servant's point of view, apparently careful (of the money or of himself?) the disobedience weighed more. The owner doesn't like it when his servants do what they want with his goods. He expects that with what is his things will be done as he says.
Not to increase it is wrong
Not to use it is wrong. At least a little, because there are no fixed minimums to gain; but what has been received must in some way be invested for it to produce. Even if others work with it; even if indirectly, but it must grow. The talents have the capacity in themselves to produce more.
"In the earth"
That Jesus, when telling this parable, doesn't only say "he hid the talent", but that he adds the detail that he hid it "in the earth" (to a certain extent unusual) indicates a possible symbolism in this.
In the Scriptures, "earth" is a figure of "humanity", of the natural man, of the frialty of man.
If we attend to this symbolism, this servant hid the talent "in his earth" (and not in the ground of action), maybe to enjoy it alone, maybe to stand out above others saying "I also got a talent" as who has received the Holy Spirit and presumes saying "I am also one of those that received it!", or maybe because he ignored how to invest it.
The attitude of this servant PLACED him IN the category of EVIL and SLOTHFUL
Not to occupy in developing the capacities of the talents, not to allow the value of that talent to expand through its use, is considered evil and sloth.
"Evil" in this case means: "of a false heart".
If we read again the beginning of the story we observe that the lord, after calling his servants, "gave" them his goods, and to each one according to his ability. From this we understand that the servant had possibilities of doing something, because if not he wouldn't have received the talent. But he did nothing for that talent to grow, and instead he tried to preserve his own skin, when confronted with an eventual loss.
But it is not only that he didn't go into trading, to increase the richess of his lord.
The lord "gave" his goods to his servantswhich also implied that they had "to take care of them". And "to take care of" is an action! The dictionary explains it with these words: To put attention and diligence in the execution of something. In the execution of something!
Someone could want to help saying: To hide it is a way of taking care for it not to be lost!
But here we are talking of a talent, an element that has the capacity for growth. We should then compare it with other growing things to see if the attitude of the servant is excusable or not.
Let us compare the situation in this way: As if the lord, instead of giving them kilograms of silver would have given them his cattle, his vegetables and his fruit trees, and this servant buried it all to return them as he had received them.
To conceal in order to protect or to hide in order to preserve what in itself has the capacity for developing, is not proper with God's issues.
Section 6 - THE FIRST LOSS
Take it away from him
By hiding it under the ground he obviously did not use it. He himself said that he didn't want to risk losing what had been entrusted to him, as a way to ensure that he would be able to return it all back safely. But the owner didn't consider the situation in the same way he did. To those that had increased what they had received, he rewarded them giving them the talents that had been entrusted to them, together with the gain.
Section 7 - THE SECOND LOSS
Not having used what was received from the lord put him in the category of "unprofitable" ("useless" in other Bible translations), because he really didn't serve the lord. Yes, he was a servant and had abilities, but he was unprofitable because he did not use them. And a useless servant, is no servant despite him bearing that title, so he lost all the rights he had been granted.
Throw him out!
Because of not using his lord's talent, he not only lost the near 22 Kgs of silver (plus some aditional gain the lord would have also given him), but he was also expelled from the place he lived in that was within the property of his lord; therefore also the daily blessings he enjoyed to that moment were lost. The lord didn't want him anymore around his people..
But,...where does an expelled one go?
The terms used by this Scripture: "the outer darkness" are words usually found in verses that express the miseries of those condemned to hell.
If this implies that one can be expelled from the Kingdom of God, I am in no condition to ensure.
WHAT LESSON DO WE LEARN FROM THIS PARABLE?
That we believers in Jesus Christ are his servants.
Our Lord promised that after returning to heaven He would send us His Holy Spirit. According to that promise, He poured it on many of us.
The servants that have received the Holy Spirit must act so that the fruits of the Spirit can be expressed; there ought to be such a union between the believer and the Holy Spirit that the benefits will appear. To be servants implies "serving" and if upon that we receive the Holy Spirit, there is the GREAT RESPONSIBILITY of GIVING FORTH FRUIT.
It doesn't say what quantity we are to gain, but the talent must not be "hidden". In the parable of the Sower the ground gave fruit to 30, 60 and 100 to one; here too, it is according to each one's ability. If one walks with the Holy Spirit, something will be added to the Kingdom of God. How much? God will decide that as we walk.
If no fruit is brought forth despite having received the seed, that land will be rejected (even if for some time it held a talent in its bossom). If we have received His Holy Spirit, but He cannot develop, expand, grow, if He is not seen, we will suffer great loss.
The owner of the talents, (the Owner of that Holy Spirit) knows that with those silver talents (with the Holy Spirit) gain can be obtained (benefits that add to the Kindgom of God). If the servant that has received it/them does not occupy himself in trading with it/them, he will be considered useless, and he will lose all his rights as servant.
And he will be thrown into the outer darkness (although there was a day when he had the Holy Spirit in his heart).
Can there be a possibility of being rejected despite having received the Holy Spirit ?
The last two sentences seem to oppose the apostle's words when he declared that the Holy Spirit is the "earnest" of our inheritance, indicating (or at least it is how we tend to interpret this) that if we have received Him, then our inheritance and our salvation -are guaranteed!
The issue leaves me thinking... Can it really be that the narrow way is in fact narrow?
I believe with all my soul that the Holy Spirit of God within our hearts is the guarantee of our salvation, but analizing the parable of the talents as I have shared it with you, I believe that this will be fulfilled -only if we let HIM grow in our lives!
If the Holy Spirit cannot produce HIS fruit through us, if we don't carry fruit, if the Father cannot be glorified with them, and -in the words of this study- if the Holy Spirit cannot produce through us for the Kingdom, then it could happen as the following two instances mention:
Again these paragraphs seem to oppose the apostle's words about the guarantee of our salvation, and yet, -have we interpreted his words correctly?
Or have we interpreted them according to our wish?