If we hear someone speak about “talents,” we tend to think about skills or abilities that one has. In Matthew 25, Jesus spoke a parable about three servants and their use of the master’s talents. In this case, a talent was not their skill or ability, but a sum of money.
Jesus begins the parable,
…the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his ability, and immediately he went on a journey. (Matthew 25:14-15)
According to their abilities
It is important to note that the master did not distribute the talents among his servants from his most to least favourite. He knew the servants well enough to know their abilities and limitations. Each one was given what would be appropriate for him to be successful.
In the church, the Lord does not expect more of us than we are able. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
…if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:12)
Jesus doesn’t expect more of us than we are able, but He does expect us to do all that we are able in serving Him.
Work for the Master
In the parable, Jesus speaks of the work of each man. The one who received five talents traded with them, and in the end doubled his master’s money. The servant with two talents also traded with what was committed to him, and he too doubled his master’s money. The third man took what was committed to him, and he too doubled his master’s money. The third man took what was committed to his trust, dug a hole and buried it. Upon the master’s return, the servants were called to give account before him.
Both the five talent and two talent men heard the master say,
Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. (Matthew 25:21, 23)
Again, the master did not prefer one servant over the other because he had greater ability and therefore was able to bring in more increases. Each man did what he was able, and the master was equally happy with them. In fact, the indication is that the servants were rewarded equally.
Doing Nothing Is Unacceptable
When the one talent man came before the master, he explained why he had buried his master’s talent. He said,
Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours. (Matthew 25:24-25)
If the master had given him seed, then burying it would have been the thing to do. The master gave him money and expected an increase. The servant said he was “afraid,” the master called him “wicked and lazy.” The other two servants took chances and were rewarded for those chances. They used what was given to them.
This man didn’t even see fit to deposit it with the bankers. He hid it—he did nothing with it. It is noteworthy that the master used the very same words the servant used to excuse himself to accuse him (Matthew 25:26). The five and two talent men were received into the joy of their lord, but not this man. Hear what the master said,
…take the talent from him, and give it to him who has tent talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given; and he will have abundance, but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will Be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:28-30)
This Is Important!
This is the third parable in a row in Matthew 24-25 about the time of the judgment. We are the servants. Whether you are a one talent, two talent, or five talent servant is neither here nor there. The Lord is delighted with any skill level, so long as effort is put forth by the servant.
While the Lord is away (gone to heaven to prepare a place, John 14:1-3), we are responsible to serve Him faithfully here. He wants us to worship God faithfully. He wants us to love one another, to serve our fellow man, to do good to all, to share the gospel with the lost, to be the fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, or children that God’s word instructs us to be.
When the Master returns, what will He find? When He calls us to give account, will we be among the two or five talent servants? They will hear Him say,
Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things. I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. (Matthew 25:21, 23)
Or will you be among those who the master considers to be wicked and lazy? He does not expect beyond our ability; but wants us to do what we are able with what He has blessed us with. Don’t bury what He’s given—use it to His glory.