The Apostle James wrote, “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17) That, I believe, is one of the main points of the Parable of the Talents that Jesus tells to his disciples as he explains what things will be like “at the end of the age.” It’s a message that we desperately need to take to heart.
One of the greatest issues for Christians in the western world is that we know a thousand right things to do and struggle to accomplish even one of them. Our knowing has far exceeded our obeying. As Carey Nieuwhof quipped, “the average North American Christian is about 3000 bible verses overweight.” (read his full post here).
Jesus makes the expectations of God clear in the parable of the talents. Matthew records its strange conclusion this way:
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 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 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.’
– Matthew 25:24-30
What was the issue with the third servant? Is the master a greedy man who just wants more money? No. The problem is, “You knew that I reap where I have not sown”. Because the servant knew his master’s character, the master expected the servant to act accordingly. He never commanded the servants to make more money for him, so I believe we can infer that the issue here is not the money. The master cares that his servants live up to what they know.
My friends, are we living according to what we know of our heavenly Father’s character? Do our actions and thoughts towards others align with the love that the Father has demonstrated in Christ? Are our financial, time, and relational priorities synced with his? He has given us talents – he has given us his Holy Spirit – and he expects to return and find that we have invested them as we have.
If we are the servant hiding or hoarding the talents we’ve been given, this parable gives us cause to tremble. Apparently the kingdom of heaven works in such a way that those who don’t use what they’ve been given have it taken away from them and given to someone who already has a lot. “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. “
I won’t take time here to delve into these couple verses that seem almost vicious on the surface. Suffice it to say that the intention of the punishment of this wayward servant in the parable isn’t to make us cower in fear. It’s there to motivate and inspire us to invest our talents – to be the one who has wisely worked what they’ve been given and can come before the Master and receive his commendation.
The beautiful truth is that, for those of us who are in Christ, the Holy Spirit is the engine and the fuel for that investment. He is the one who leads and guides and reveals, gently insisting that we bear fruit as we abide.
If you have little, start investing. As with the woman and her copper coin that received Jesus’ praise, those of us with seemingly minuscule talents can uncover great glory through faith. For both the servant with ten and the servant with five talents, their investment was doubled. Had the servant with one talent invested as well I believe his talent would have doubled again. And again. And again.
Let’s live up to what we know of God’s character. I don’t want to be the servant who comes before his master with apologies and excuses. Instead I want to be able to come and say, “see what I have done with what you’ve given me!” What beautiful glory and honor there is in living in the power of Christ for the glory of God.