These words may be familiar to you, but I want to encourage you to look at them in context a bit more. I recently led a study on the parable of the talents and though it's a passage I've read numerous times, this was my first time really digging into it and I'm thankful I did. I was blessed with new insight, convicted by the truth and encouraged by the promise; I hope you are too!
As we begin I encourage you to capture some initial thoughts - What has God entrusted to you? If you're familiar with the story, what's the purpose of the parable? Now open your Bible to Matthew 25 and read verses 14-30. Any initial thoughts?
First of all a little background, Jesus is speaking to His disciples and sharing various parables about preparing for His return. Matthew, the author of this gospel, is writing to those waiting for Christ's return; clearly his audience hasn't changed today!
Now we're going to break things down a little bit and focus on verses 14 and 15. Who does the man leaving on a journey represent? (For help with this question see John 14:1-3 and Mark 13:34-37.) What did he do before leaving? Does anything strike you about how he did this?
I hope you've captured your thoughts before reading mine...the master entrusted the servants with talents according to their ability. Before you join some in feeling sorry for the servant who only received one let me share this - one talent is approximately $500,000, so they all received something of value. Plus the master knew each servant and gave them what they could handle. If you ever find yourself comparing gifts, opportunities or resources I pray this story comes back to mind. God, our master, our creator knows what He's equipped us to do and handle and has entrusted us with "talents" to fulfill our calling. We have an individual responsibility to handle them rightly; nobody else can do it for me, or you!
Let's move on to the action and read verses 16-18. What did the 3 servants do?
It's clear to see the first 2 went at once and generated a return while the 3rd one dug a hole and buried his talent. In my research I found an interesting rabbinical law that said one who buried money couldn't be held accountable for it. Initially that sounded a bit crazy to me, but as the Holy Spirit worked and my heart softened I began to wonder - Do I bury talents in hopes I won't be accountable? Not a fun question to think about, but definitely one we should consider.
In verses 19-23 we read the first response. What does the master say? Yes, he says the words we all hope to hear, but let's look at this a bit closer. Each servant was ready to give an account and they both produced an increase amount. The servants growth was different, but the master's response was the same. Friend, you've probably heard this before, but I'm going to say it again - God doesn't measure success the same way as the world. His attention isn't on money made or people saved, the master focuses on faithfulness. When it comes to our talents, gifts, resources, time and treasure we don't have to compare our gain to anyone else, but we must be faithful with what we've been entrusted! This may involve taking a risk, stepping out of our comfort zone and walking in holy confidence, but always remember we can trust the One who's entrusted us!
Finally, we read a different response in verses 24-30. What's different about servant number 3? What kept him from investing his talent? How did the master respond?
I find it interesting that servant number 3 is the one trying to explain himself. He claims to know what kind of master he is serving, but truly he doesn't know him. Fear has left him paralyzed and I have to say sometimes it does the same to me. What fear causes you to bury your talent instead of invest it? The master wasn't upset that he'd wasted the talent, but he'd neglected it. Clearly we sin when we do the wrong thing, but we also upset our Lord when we don't do the right thing.
If fear is a struggle for you, I encourage you to read Deuteronomy 10:12-13 and Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 for a closer look.
As we wrap this little lesson up I have a few more questions -
What do we learn about God and Jesus?
What talent are you investing? How? Are you burying any? What? Why?
Friend, God is God. He is creator, master, Lord. To Him and Him alone will we one day answer. He's created us for a purpose. He has good works for each of us to do and better yet He's equipped us accordingly. We don't want to waste His resources or bury His talents. We don't need to hoard them either, because as 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."
One day God will reward the faithful and punish the unfaithful. Those who know and trust Him will receive His praise! So today, let's get busy for God!
If you want to dig a bit deeper, I encourage you to look at the following passages and think about the questions I pose. May the Holy Spirit help you discern the living and active Word of God as you search the scriptures and seek the Lord.
Mark 12:41-44 - Again, what's the Lord's focus? Why is comparison so dangerous?
Matthew 5:13-16 - How do I hide the light? What talents can I use to shine light?
Luke 19:11-27 - Will I faithfully use what God has entrusted?
2 Corinthians 9:6-15 - Do I give in faith? When I invest talents is my focus on earthly wealth or spiritual rewards?
Luke 12:35-48 - What does being ready for Jesus return look like?
1 Corinthians 15:58 - How can I use God's resources to do His work?
Friend, if you are still reading please hear this - "Thank you!" I know time is limited, so I greatly appreciate you spending some with me. If you work through this study, I'd love to hear your take-aways. It's always a joy to see what God is saying to you and blessing to learn from your insights! Let's pray...
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being a master we can know and trust. May we grow closer each and every day. Give us eyes to see the talents you've entrusted to us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so we can know how to use our talents wisely. May we invest them for your glory and kingdom growth. And Father, with humble hearts we ask you to show us if we are burying talents. Thank you for the grace you offer and promises you provide. Help us be faithful. In Jesus' Name, Amen.