STEWARDSHIP OF GOD’S GIFTS DEMANDS ACCOUNTABILITY —
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE CHRIST
Grant Osborne: The connection of this parable to the others is the delay of the master’s return, but the emphasis here is on the responsibility to serve the master with all one’s worldly resources and abilities (here in terms of money but symbolizing every aspect of life). The theme of judgment continues. Each one is accountable, and those who serve the Master well will have an abundant reward, while those who do not will be condemned.
Craig Blomberg: In 24:45 the slave was faithful and prudent (“wise”). The ten bridesmaids (25:1-13) illustrated prudence in more detail; the parable of the talents will illustrate faithfulness in more detail. In the parable of the ten bridesmaids, the foolish young women thought the task was easier than it turned out to be; in the parable of the talents, the wicked servant thinks it is harder than it turns out to be. In addition, this passage expands on the nature of the preparedness to which the previous parables were pointing, defining the task with which believers are to be occupied until Christ returns, namely, good stewardship for his benefit of all that he has loaned us.
Ray Stedman: Living Dangerously
There is a common, but quite shallow, understanding of this parable that it teaches the need for us to put our natural gifts to work for God. . .
Another easy pitfall we must avoid is to interpret this parable as though it dealt only with the matter of ultimate rewards for service. . .
Now, having gotten our perspective straight, we turn to the inevitable question, “What are the talents, in our experience?” There are several clues given to us in the account which will guide us in this search. We shall discover and assess them one by one.
The first clue is found in the opening verse,”For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” The last two words are the key: “his property.” That is another term for the talents which are distributed. They are the Lord’s property, God’s property. They are then, not something which man can give, but something which God alone controls. The talents are not distributed, like natural gifts, to all men freely, but are given only to those who in some fashion have the relationship of a servant to the Lord. To them he is willing to distribute his property.
The second clue is found in the next verse,”to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” Again, the last phrase is extremely helpful. Here we learn that the talents are clearly not natural abilities but are actually distributed on the basis of natural ability. To one man the Lord gave five talents because he was a man of great natural ability, he had many gifts. To another he gave two talents because he was not as gifted as the first, and to the third man he only gave one talent because he had few natural abilities. Whatever the talents may be, one thing is certainly clear: they are not natural abilities. Rather, the number of talents given is determined by the number of natural gifts possessed.
The third clue is not stated in the text but is clearly implied. It is the unspoken implication that the Lord expected these servants to invest the talents he distributed in such a way as to produce gain. The talent, then, is something that can be invested, be risked, with the possibility of producing gain or loss. The decision to risk is wholly the servant’s. He can choose to take this risk, as the first two servants did, or he can utterly refuse to do so, as the third one did.
The fourth clue is likewise implied. It is that the investment must be made wholly for the benefit of the absent Lord. The talent is not given to the servant for his own use. It remains the property of his absent Lord and if it is risked it must be on the Lord’s behalf. There is no promise made to the servants that they will share in any way in whatever profits may be made. They have no right to deduct a broker’s percentage. As far as the servant could see, all the loss would be his, all the profit would be the Lord’s. The Lord alone would benefit by this transaction, if any would.
The Riddle Solved
Let us now sum up these four clues and ask ourselves a question. What do we professed Christians have which is God’s peculiar property, which comes to us on the basis of natural ability, which requires a risk on our part, and that risk appears to benefit only the Lord and not ourselves? Can you answer that?
Well, look at it this way. Having certain natural abilities, what do you then look for? Recognizing that you have a particular gift, what do you then seek? Is it not an opportunity to use that gift? Do we not all look for such opportunities, young and old alike? As we grow up and feel our powers developing, do we not then look for some opportunities to use them? And the more talents we feel we have the more we look for occasions for expression.
So the talents of the parables are to us golden moments of opportunity. . .
What is the final message of Jesus in telling this story? It is: Step out! Risk! Live dangerously! Take constant chances with your life and goods for his name’s sake. Don’t try to bottle up your life so as to hang on to it at all costs. If you do that you will surely lose it. But surrender yourself to his cause, again and again. That is the way to find life. That is the way to watch for his coming. Having risked yourself to become a Christian, now risk yourself again and again as opportunities arise. Live dangerously! Or that also could be written, love dangerously! To live for Christ is to love men with his love. And that is always a risk.
Walter Wilson: Structurally, the parable falls into three sections, corresponding to three successive time frames: the time before the master’s departure (25:14–15a), the time of his absence (25:15b–18), and the time of reckoning (25:19–30), the greatest attention being paid to the concluding scene and, within that scene, to the exchange between the master and the third slave (25:24–30).
Stu Weber: SUPPORTING IDEA: Believers must live continually on the edge of faith-filled obedience, investing everything they have and are for the kingdom.
The preceding parable emphasized that we must always be ready, but it did not reveal anything about the specific ways to live. In this parable, and in the final account of the judgment (25:31-46), Jesus gave his disciples some practical direction about how to live in readiness for his return.
This parable demonstrates how saving faith in the Messiah will manifest itself in practical terms. This parable seems to go beyond the first three in that it takes the watchfulness to new levels of practical obedience and, therefore, to reward. The true disciples’ readiness will involve careful stewardship of assets during the king’s absence in anticipation of reward. . .
Every Christian is entrusted with some responsibility for the kingdom. Some will take this seriously and invest their lives wisely, and others will squander this responsibility. The part of the kingdom entrusted to each of us is precious to the Lord. He is hurt by the mishandling of a lifetime of opportunity; but he rejoices over a lifetime well spent. He has placed in our hands what is his own. This is a sobering thought—to be stewards of kingdom resources.
David Turner: To be alert is to actively exercise one’s gifts and opportunities for service to Jesus and his kingdom. A familiar saying is appropriate here: “Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” Disciples must not make shaky investments with their Lord’s resources, but they cannot excuse their laziness by claiming that they have incurred no losses. “When Christ returns, he will not ask if one had the date right but ‘What have you been doing?’” (Garland 1993: 241).
I. (:14-18) STEWARDSHIP DEMANDS ACCOUNTABILITY
A. (:14-15) Stewardship Assigned According to Ability
- (:14) Privilege of Stewardship
“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves,
and entrusted his possessions to them.”
D. A. Carson: The introduction to this parable in the Greek is somewhat abrupt.
Robert Gundry: “For” makes the following parable a further basis for the exhortation to stay awake in 25:13.
Daniel Doriani: The scope of his resources shows that he was wealthy. He had servants and funds and he “entrusted his property to them” (25:14). He commissioned his servants to put his money to good use while he was away. While the servants wait for the master, they must work to improve his kingdom. The master knows his three servants are not identical triplets: “To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability” (25:15). Then he departed.
Today a “talent” means a skill or ability, but in New Testament times a talent was a unit of money, or to be precise, a weight of a precious metal, typically silver, but sometimes gold or copper. A talent was, therefore, most often an amount of money. The weight of a talent varied over the years, but it was typically seventy-five pounds of silver. The basic unit of money at that time was a denarius, which was a good day’s wage for a laborer. One silver talent equaled six thousand denarii. A talent equaled six thousand days’ wages, that is, twenty years’ wages.
Thus the master entrusted great resources to his servants—funds worth one hundred, forty, and twenty years’ wages respectively.
- (:15) Proportional Responsibility Delegated in Stewardship
“And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one,
each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.”
Homer Kent: A talent was a unit of coinage of comparatively high value. Here the talents were silver (v. 18, argurion, “silver money”). Depending upon who issued them, talents ranged in value from $1,625 (Aegina) to $1,080 (Attic). A talent was worth much more than a pound (mina).
William Barclay: It is always known as the parable of the talents. The talent was not a coin, it was a weight; and therefore its value obviously depended on whether the coinage involved was copper, gold or silver. The most common metal involved was silver; and the value of a talent of silver was considerable. It was worth about fifteen years’ wages for a working man.
B. (:16-18) Stewardship Executed with Varying Degrees of Faithfulness and Wisdom
- (:16) Enthusiastic and Aggressive Investment
“Immediately the one who had received the five talents
went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.”
R. T. France: The first slave’s eagerness—he “went straight off and…” —is a model for enthusiastic discipleship.
- (:17) Example Repeated But with Fewer Resources
“In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.”
- (:18) Evil Avoidance of Obeying the Stewardship Mandate
“But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground,
and hid his master’s money.”
Grant Osborne: The lazy servant decides to hide his money in the ground. This was considered a valid practice for safeguarding valuables (cf. 13:44; in Luke 19:20, where the servant hid the money “in a piece of cloth,” the action was more disgraceful), but it was deliberate disobedience and an insult to the master, since he was supposed to use it to make a profit. He played it safe to avoid taking a loss, but that was distinctly against the master’s wishes.
II. (:19) LONG DELAY DOES NOT ELIMINATE OR MINIMIZE ACCOUNTABILITY
“Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.”
Grant Osborne: The emphasis here is not on the unexpected nature of the return but on both the length of the time away (further evidence Jesus was preparing them for the church age) and the accountability it entails.
III. (:20-30) FAITHFULNESS WILL BE REWARDED AND WICKEDNESS CONDEMNED
A. (:20-28) Assignment of Appropriate Rewards
- (:20-23) Commendation of Faithful Stewards
a. (:20-21) Wise Investment of Five Talents
1) (:20) Report
“And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.’”
2) (:21) Reward
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’”
Walter Wilson: Faithfulness, then, results not only in rewards but also in opportunities for demonstrating greater faithfulness.
Grant Osborne: It is possible that “of your master” (τοῦ κυρίου σου) is a subjective genitive and means “the joy your master will give you,” or it could be a simple possessive, meaning, “share in your master’s joy” (in a job well done). Either way the concept is that of eschatological reward. Many see a link with the parable of the bridesmaids, and this is God’s invitation for his faithful people into the messianic banquet, with eternal reward the prospect.
D. A. Carson: The eschatological setting, coupled with the promise of joy that bursts the natural limits of the story, guarantees that the consummated kingdom provides glorious new responsibilities and holy delight (cf. Ro 8:17).
b. (:22-23) Wise Investment of Two Talents
1) (:22) Report
“The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.’”
2) (:23) Reward
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”
Warren Wiersbe: The two men who put their money to work each received the same commendation (Matt. 25:21, 23). It was not the portion but the proportion that made the difference. They started as servants, but their Lord promoted them to rulers. They were faithful with a few things, so the Lord trusted them with many things. They had worked and toiled, and now they entered into joy. Their faithfulness gave each of them a capacity for greater service and responsibility.
- (:24-28) Condemnation of Wicked Steward
a. (:24-25) Excuses and Blame Shifting by the Wicked Steward
“And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’”
Daniel Doriani: As the servant saw it, he stood in a no-win situation. If he toiled and gained, the master would seize the proceeds. That, the servant thought, was his custom. But if he toiled and lost, he would be punished. Either way, he saw nothing positive. The root of his sin was his bitter judgment that his master was harsh and grasping. We see how mistrust paralyzes people.
Brian Evans: This wicked and lazy servant is so utterly evil that he is trying to blame his laziness on his Master. Master, I knew you to be a hard man. This is not at all true. The Master is not hard but very caring and compassionate.
b. (:26-27) Exposure of Wicked Character and Irresponsible Conduct
“But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow,
and gather where I scattered no seed.
Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.’”
Michael Wilkins: The servant’s misperception of the master produces alienation, mistrust, fear, and then personal sloth. Had he truly loved his master, he would not have attempted to place the blame on the master, but would have operated out of love.
D. A. Carson: Grace never condones irresponsibility; even those given less are obligated to use and develop what they have.
Craig Blomberg: “Lazy” (okn ros) more literally means shrinking or hesitating. The master does not dispute the servant’s characterization of him, but neither need v. 26 be read as agreeing with it. The master’s words sound like biting sarcasm. He points out that, even if the servant were right, he should have realized that his inaction proved all the more inconsistent with his premise. Disobedience would surely elicit a severe master’s wrath. He should have invested the money as his fellow servants did. His tragic error lay in allowing himself to be paralyzed by his fear.
Stu Weber: You wicked, lazy servant stands in dramatic contrast to “good and faithful servant” (25:21,23), implying that the servant’s laziness was not because of a lack of ability or opportunity. The servant’s “safe” behavior and apparent desire not to displease the master were smokescreens for his self-serving and disobedient heart. In reality, he refused to take any risks or do any work. He did not spend himself in the kingdom’s interest. He was selfish, lazy, and arrogant.
The master used this servant’s own words against him. He explained that his demanding character should have challenged the servant all the more to invest the talent. This was obviously the master’s will—to gain some return. Even a small return from interest would show some degree of loyal obedience.
c. (:28) Executing an Exchange of Future Opportunity
“Therefore take away the talent from him,
and give it to the one who has the ten talents.”
B. (:29-30) Accountability Principles Explained
- (:29) Faithfulness Rewarded with More Opportunity
“For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”
- (:30) Disobedience Judged with Eternal Damnation
“And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness;
in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”