The Parable of the Talents haunts me.
In Matthew 25:14-30 describes a man who goes on a journey who leaves vast resources to his three slaves. To one he gives five talents, another two , and the third one. A talent was a sum of money worth about 6000 days' wages. A tremendous amount in that day. Not too shabby in our day, I might add! Jesus surely meant to imply that the man was giving his slaves everything that they would need during his absence.
The first two slaves take their talents and immediately set about investing it, and upon the slave owner's return, they had both doubled what had been given to them. Both of these slaves are praised, and they receive more responsibility as a result.
The third slave promptly buries his resources for fear of losing them. When the slave owner returns, this slave is cursed and thrown out for being lazy and a good-for-nothing.
Of course, Jesus means for us to understand that he is the slave owner in the parable. What is this journey that he goes on? Well, consider the context. This parable falls in Matthew 25, coming right after chapter 24 where Jesus discusses the signs of his return. Immediately after this chapter 25 begins with the Parable of the 10 Virgins where Jesus warns his disciples to be ready always for his return. Next is our Parable of the Talents.
So, the journey is the time between Jesus' ascension and his return.The time in which we find ourselves today. And God's power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). We are those slaves that have been given so much. How much? Go read right now Ephesians 1: 15-23. Seriously - go read it. I have time.
Ok, welcome back. Here's why this parable haunts me: we have been given responsibility to invest the resources (talents and spiritual gifts) that the Lord has given us, and he will hold us accountable upon his return for what we did with those resources.
I have been thinking about this parable a lot lately. How should we respond to it? Well, what did the two good slaves do? We are told that the first slave "went at once and put his money to work" and earned five more talents. The second slave does the same thing.
This is clearly what Jesus means for us to do - put our talents and spiritual gifts to work. Jesus means for us to be active, not to sit around waiting, waiting, waiting, like the good-for-nothing slave.
We need to be strategic about using our gifts and talents. We need to first identify what our gifts and talents are, and second, we need to develop them. Finally, we need to think long and hard about how to use them in service to God's Kingdom. We cannot be passive about this process. The third slave was condemned for this.
One final thought. In modern Christian circles it is not uncommon to hear someone claim that they are "waiting on the Spirit" before they do anything. This sometimes will go on for a looooong time. Years, even. My sense is that sometimes what sounds spiritual is a mask for fear and passivity. Sometimes what we really need is to just do something. Strategize, make a plan, and then execute. Go out into the world and use your talents for God's Kingdom. That is the message of the Parable of the Talents.
And, oh by way, you do not need God's permission to obey the Great Commission. It is already a command to us. Ours is to obey. Go out of your house and do it. Make a disciple. Teach him (or her) to obey everything Jesus said.
And it haunts me because I realize how little I have done in my 37 years for his Kingdom. From this point forward I want to be more thoughtful and purposeful about using my gifts to serve the King in his power.
These blessed words do not come free: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!"
What do you think? Does this parable haunt you as well?