You Have Been Faithful
Key Verse 14
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.”
Like the parable of the ten virgins before it, in this parable too, Jesus once again talks about his second coming. Someone asked me the other day: “Who’s Jesus talking about in this parable? In other words who are they who are given the talents and later called to account for them?” Actually, it’s a very good question! Indeed who are they? Well let’s see. We can say that in Jesus’ time, there may have been no more than three kinds of people in the world. There were the Jews; and then there were the followers of Jesus, who were the Christians of the day; and then there were all other peoples of the world. So then, who was Jesus talking about in his parable? And why should we even care who he’s talking about in the parable? I’ll tell you why we should care. Because the parable isn’t spoken only to Jews! The Jews rejected the Messiah and when he returns, they will surely have to give an account for all the privileges they received and wasted on the wrong things. We should care because the parable is spoken to everyone, even to Christians and to non-Christians alike, whoever they are. When you think about those talents and having to give an account for how you’ve used them, whether you’ve wasted them or not— and even if you’ve not wasted them, you’ve got to wonder if you’ve used them in a manner worthy of the Lord. We should care, because on the day the he returns, it won’t matter whether you’re a Christian or not when it comes to accountability; a responsibility’s a responsibility! It doesn’t disappear just because you’re a Christian and you think you’re privileged and God will turn a blind eye just because you went to church. Or the responsibility won’t disappear either just because you’re an atheist and don’t believe in this nonsense and you think that should give you a break! The truth is, on the day Jesus returns, he’ll settle accounts with everyone, with you and me! Actually if you’re privileged because you’re a Christian— and there are none more privileged than Christians in the whole universe in regard to grace— then much more is demanded for the given talent or responsibility. I used to think that we Christians are exempt from such accountability, until I read these words and trembled: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) So let me ask again. Why should I care about who Jesus is talking about in this parable?
And that’s exactly why of all the things that Jesus could’ve been teaching only a few hours away from his own death, he taught us some of the most important lessons of life. The first and foremost lesson he teaches is found in this chapter’s parables as a whole, and it says: You need to prepare for my second coming because it’s imminent. So let your whole life be a preparation for it, since Jesus will return, and unexpectedly! Now that in itself is a very interesting lesson! So the Lord would have us be well prepared in our daily life for his return! Why is this significant? Well, do you know how many people, including so many foolish and misguided believers who live reckless lives as if he’s never coming back? So, the first and foremost lesson is to live with the conviction that “I need to prepare for his second coming”. But then the second lesson is equally as important and it’s how to prepare for his second coming!
So, in these parables (Chapter 25) Jesus couldn’t be clearer on how to prepare for his return. He already showed us one way on how to prepare for his return. We need only review the previous parable to see that when all the lights have gone out in this world— and the time will come when the day will give way to night— and at that time when nothing but darkness reigns in all its ugly faces— whether in decadence or in immorality or in violence or in godlessness or in ungodliness— only your lamp of faith prepared for that dark night will be able to keep you waiting for the Savior’s return. In that sordid end, nothing but your faith will be able to help you stand that final test. But you won’t be standing alone. So, it’s better to devote your life to growing in faith, in preparation for the Lord’s return, than to foolishly and recklessly waste it walking the way of the world. And we all know how to grow in faith! No one can build muscle unless they train every day. Likewise no one can build up faith unless one practices faith through rigorous training and discipline. Reading books may inspire faith but won’t build up faith in your life. You need to put your faith into practice by obeying Jesus’ commands, especially when his commands expose your sin and call you to repent, or challenge your pride and ego calling you to humble yourself, or urging you to turn your heart away from your own desires towards what God desires for you. We grow in faith when we take Bible study and prayer to heart and practice the faith in our lives rather than just talk about it.
And now we come to another way that Jesus would have us prepare. Faith is an amazing way to prepare for his return. Some may think it’s the only way, but as great as faith may be, it’s not all we need to prepare for the Lord’s return. We’ve already talked about it at the start— the responsibility for— the accountability for— those talents given to everyone by the Lord of glory, and who will upon his return some day wonder how we’ve used them. That’s what this parable is about. So let’s see.
Look at verses 14-18. “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” It’s an amazing story about all human beings’ relationship with God and their duty towards him. Obviously the Lord Jesus himself is that Man who went on a journey. He’s talking about his own journey to the cross, his death and resurrection. After his ascension he would remain in heaven for a time and would then return to earth to judge all mankind and to establish his kingdom forever. But now before he goes on his journey, he’s calling his servants to entrust them with responsibilities. Who are these people? As we said, they could be mankind as a whole, since God is the creator, and has given every human being life and will some day come back to demand an accounting for that life. Or it could be all Christians as well who have been redeemed by his precious blood and thus have been entrusted with a tremendous responsibilities of being the gifted ambassadors of the King to bring the message of the gospel to the whole world.
When our Lord Jesus told this parable, he talked about entrusting his servants with his property. All people— whoever they may be— body and soul belong to God and forever will be God’s property. What we’re saying is that our life, our body and our soul, in truth do not belong to us, but to God. They are his trusted property. God’s image and God’s purpose for each person’s life is also God’s trusted property belonging to God, and not to us. Why is this significant? Because as we know most people treat that property as if it really belongs to them. And consequently they abuse what God had entrusted them with during their lives without a care. Don’t they know that someday the Master will return to reclaim this property? Yet Jesus in his mercy wanted all people to know the truth! Whatever they have been given in life, whether talents or abilities, skills or virtues, whether strength or weakness, wealth or poverty, or whatever else is given to each person, none of it ever belonged to them in the first place, but it belonged to God for whom all properties belong.
The athlete who revels in glory, whether he knows God or not— will have to give an account some day for how he used his abilities, and for what he used them. Did he use them to advance his own interests or did he use them to serve God’s glory and God’s own interest? The intellectual man or woman, whether these believe in God or not, they too also have to give an account someday for what they used those skills for—to serve God or to manipulate others towards their own end? I can go through the list of endless gifts and talents and abilities if necessary— the kind man and the rich man— the gentle man and the courageous man— whoever they are— whatever they were given doesn’t belong to them but to God! And they too one day will stand before God to give an account for what they’ve been given. Think about it! Even if one’s been given a gentle soul. That gentle soul couldn’t possibly stand God’s test of gentleness if it had been used improperly to draw attention to itself, to deceive and to bring on pity on it self. If that gentle soul didn’t serve God’s holy purpose, it won’t go well for it. That’s why Jesus told this parable to the whole world, so that the whole world may know that life and all its talents are his property— rented out. How blessed are those who believe this, renounce their false ownership, and submit their lives in humble faith to the Lord of glory to live according to his will.
But the truth is that nothing can serve God’s purpose and will unless it is first redeemed in Jesus. If a wealthy man uses all his wealth to serve the poor, even his generous act won’t redeem him. Why? Because on Christ’s return, he will have to give an account for what he had done with all God’s property. And that’s not only his wealth, but also the image of God in him, which calls him to seek God in his life. Did he? How did he honor and glorify God? He needs to account for the full property, not part of it. Therefore, only in Jesus can anyone be redeemed. Jesus told this parable and hoped that every person hearing it might look into their souls and see their own hopelessness. Everyone who comes face to face with their own sins and weaknesses, ultimately realize the damage they’ve incurred on God’s property over the years. They should know that only God can forgive and repair and restore the damaged goods God has given us all. No one else can! Jesus’ parable is a beautiful story of God’s love calling all people to come to God with their damaged goods so that Jesus on the cross may forgive, repair and restore and make them new. Jesus really wants everyone to come back to God, even with damaged goods so that Jesus might pour out his love on them from the cross of their redemption.
How about those then who are ransomed by the blood of Jesus? What has God entrusted them with? The Christian already has the image of God and has it in abundance. The moment he or she puts their faith in Jesus and are forgiven of sins, the image of God in them suddenly grows to fill their whole person. In fact, the image of God in the Christian gives the Christian an unquenchable desire to become more and more like Jesus. It also gives the Christian a deep desire to bring the gospel message to all people and to expand the kingdom of God on earth. Besides such trusts, all Christians are given many gifts and talents. But more than anything else, they are given the more precious gift of all, the Holy Spirit, a most sacred trust from God. The Holy Spirit is given to every redeemed Christian man and woman in order to oversee their life and to guide them in the way of righteousness, in the way of faith as well as in the way of mission— because a Christian’s life is a life of grace and apostleship from start to end (Romans 1:5). What is usually expected of the Christian? No more than expected from any other? To use it wisely for the glory of God! To put that sacred property to good use! When we think about our faith ancestors who went before us and called us to follow in their footsteps as they followed in the footsteps of Jesus, we see clearly how they used the gifts they were entrusted with. They didn’t only confess Jesus’ name and retire to live their own lives in comfort. They gave their lives to Jesus. And in giving their lives to Jesus, they weren’t in any way like ordinary selfish believers who give God lip service but keep everything else to themselves. Rather they gave everything to the Lord, to see that his will be done, that his kingdom come. They surrendered their life. They surrendered their will. They surrendered their heart. They surrendered their freedom. And that’s how they were good stewards of the trust which God gave each of them.
“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mk 16:15) is surely a sacred trust and responsibility. “Feed my sheep” “Take care of my lambs” is also another sacred trust and responsibility. (Jn. 21:15) All Christians also have a sacred duty and trust to forgive and to love, let alone to shine with the image of the Lord Jesus. What have we been doing with the trust which God had given us? What have we been doing with his property? To some he had given a big heart, to others courage, and to others cleverness, to some compassion, to others purity unlike any other, and still to others he had given other blessings. The wealth he had entrusted us with goes beyond talents and skills and virtues— it is also our children and our homes and our church. All this is God’s property. What are we doing with it? What will we say on that day to the one who has entrusted us to make him rich and to glorify his name and to be generous towards him rather than towards ourselves? Jesus has given us much property. If we sincerely examine our lives, we cannot but see clearly what he has given. Foolish people say to God, “I have nothing with which to serve you.” Other foolish people say: “I must serve myself and my own interest first. It’s what God wants from me. It’s his will that I serve my own agenda.” That’s foolishness, and blasphemy. The wise, when they look into their lives, no matter how meager their lives may be, find many riches that go beyond what any person can see with human eyes. The kind of Christian who’s been entrusted with God’s property will find ways to put it to use.
Look at verses 19-30. According to Jesus there were those who had put their master’s property to work and those who did nothing with it. It was those who deeply valued gospel faith as precious, who fulfilled their responsibility before the Lord. There were those who did not care much about his return, or perhaps didn’t value faith so much, they were the ones who simply buried the talent and did others things with their time. Who knows, perhaps they considered that their own work was more important and profitable than the Master’s work! Some Christians are like this in this world. They put their own work ahead of the Lord’s work. Yet, we have a responsibility and it must be given serious thought as we live from day to day. Our life is a preparation for the Lord’s return. That is a Christian’s life! We live for him, as we honor and serve him and spread his message to the world. And we wait for his return because he will surely return. So now we prepare with faith— we grow in faith. And we prepare in responsibility— we reflect on the responsibilities given to us by the Lord and we take them seriously. God has entrusted us with his sacred property. Let us look for the talents he has entrusted to us and put them to use. And let us continue to pray that we may be ready upon his return.