Monday, October 29, 2012

The Teachings of Jesus (VI), Week 44: Jesus' authority challenged - Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30)

"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 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. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in teh ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' His master said to him, '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.' And he who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' His master said to him, '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.' He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have at least received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give to the one who has ten talents. For to everyone who has will more 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.' " (Matt 25:14-30)

Recall that we shared in week 42 that Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple during the Olivet Discourse, which was fulfilled in 70 AD. Then He told the parable of the virgins last week, which could apply equally well to the destruction of the Temple and to His Second Coming.

This week, Jesus transitions wholly into a discussion of the Second Coming, with the parable of the Talents. And often that is missed in the context of this passage. For the meaning of this parable is quite clear, and I will not go through it in detail; any of a thousand commentaries and sermons have discussed it at length and it is clear just with a reading of the above.

Suffice it to say: Three servants are given different amounts (it is unsure how much, but I have heard that each talent was worth anywhere from $1200 to tens of thousands of dollars in modern terms) of money based upon their abilities. The two good servants worked hard with the money and returned with more than they were given, and are praised. The third buries his money and does nothing with it, and thus God is displeased and throws Him out. The message is plain: God will not be pleased if you do not use what He gives you (talent, money, and blessings) wisely.

But what is often missed is the context that this is in regard to the return of Christ. The return of the msater here is compared to the Final Judgment (next week), and the Parable of the Virgins (last week).

One might read the above and see it as a condemnation of those who do not do good works for Christ -- that is, if you receive faith only but bury it inside and do not go out and evangelize and do great works, then He will cast you out as wicked and lazy. But not so! For last week as we saw, it was the "oil" of the Holy Spirit which comes through faith alone that separated the believers from the unbelievers.

I think what we need to ask here is, "What do the talents represent?" It is generally spoken of as financial and skillset blessings, and such it may be. But I think that it is more than that. In the Parable of the Virgins just before this, the object that they are to take care of is the oil of the Holy Spirit--the word of God in their hearts. I think the same is true here: we are talking of spiritual blessings and gifts, more so than money (though, generosity may indeed be a spiritual gift).

Here I think the question is, are you using the spiritual gifts as God intended, to bring glory to Him, or are you just using them selfishly ("digging a hole") so that they bring you pleasure?

Are you allowing the Christ in your heart to also be with you in your life? Not that you have to do these mighty works, but are the works that you are doing for Christ and through Him? Is He with you as a mother, a father, a parent? Or are you digging a hole and trapping Him so that He cannot lead and guide your life?

Regardless, keep in mind that the context here is about preparing for His Coming. Will you be ready for Him when He comes? Or are you, like the Virgins, lacking in the Holy Spirit? Have you, like the servants in today's parable, heard His word and received His spiritual gifts, but kept them within you selfishly, refusing to let them into your life?