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May 21, 1995
Faith Bible Church, NY
Faithful to the End
Turn with me this morning to Matthew 25 as we continue our study of this wonderful book. This morning we will be examining the last of a series of parables that Jesus has given in this discourse which began back in chapter 24. Jesus and the disciples are on Mt. Olive overlooking the Temple and Jerusalem where Jesus is answering the disciple’s question concerning what the signs would be for the end of the age. Jesus detailed these signs for them in 24:5-31. Then Jesus began a series of parables emphasizing the need to be prepared for Him to return. The parables are particularly pointed at that generation that will be alive when the various signs of His coming take place, but the parables also have application to every generation, because just as nobody knows when Jesus will return and judgement will begin, so no man knows when his life will end and he will be ushered into eternity.
The parables in chapter 24 were particularly directed to non-Christians to prepare themselves. The parables in chapter 25 are more directed to those who profess to be Christians so that they should be faithful in waiting and faithful in laboring. Some who profess to be Christians will prove not to be according to their profession.
The parable we will be examining in this morning which begins in 25:14 is often called the “Parable of the Talents,” though the “talents” are not the focus of the parable. It might be better titled the parable of the servants or the parable of faithfulness for those are the elements emphasized.
The parable fits the following outline.
Servants Entrusted (vs 14,15)
Servants Perform (vs 16-18)
Good Servants Praised (vs 19-23)
Wicked Servant Judged (vs 24-28)
The Lesson Taught (vs 29,30)
Matthew 25:14,15, “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.”
The context of this parable is the discussion Jesus began in verse 1 concerning the kingdom of God. It is the Kingdom of God that is being likened to the story of this man and his three slaves. It was not unusually for a wealthy man to leave for a time on business trips. Remember, they could not just hop on a plane to Rome, Egypt, Damascus, or anywhere else. Traveling by sail boat, horse, or foot took considerable time. While the master would be away, he would entrust his possessions to some of his responsible slaves. Such a wealthy man would probably have several well educated slaves who were very capable of handling his affairs. In fact, it was common for such slaves to have a pretty free hand in the areas entrusted to them even when the master was at home.
Part of this man’s preparation for his journey was to evaluate his slaves and entrust to each one an amount of money according to each slaves ability. The first slave received 5 talents, the second 2 talents, and the third 1 talent. A talent is not a measure of value, but a measure of weight. The value of the talent would depend on what it was, usually being either gold, silver, or bronze. Notice that we are not told anything by which we could calculate its value because the emphasis in the parable is not on the value, but on the common accountability for differing levels of responsibility based on individual ability. Each slave is entrusted an amount according to their ability.
The man who is going on a journey is analogous to Jesus in the kingdom of heaven. Only a couple of days after He told this parable He would be crucified, then raised from the dead, and forty days after that He would ascend into heaven where He is now preparing a place for us. He is coming back to reward the faithful and judge the wicked.
While Jesus is away He has entrusted His kingdom to those who profess to be a part of His kingdom. The professing church has always been a mixture of true believers and false deceivers. All the way back in chapter 13 Jesus warned that there would be tares among the wheat and bad fish among the good. As early as chapter 7, Jesus pointed out that there would be those who would say of Him, “Lord, Lord,” and would even do things in His name, but they would not truly know Him, and He would not know them because they would be workers of iniquity. Paul, Peter and John all warn about false prophets and people with false professions of faith within the visible church. John warned that there would be false prophets that would come out from the church (1 John 2:18,19), and he had already had quite a few dealings with them (2 John 7-11 & 3 John 9,10). Peter warned in 2 Peter 2 that there would be false teachers and deceivers arise from among those that proclaimed to be followers of Christ. Paul warned the same thing in several different passages. (Rom. 16:18; 2 Cor. 11:13f; Col 2:18; 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1f; Titus 1:11; etc.). He also warned us to “examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5).
There are good servants in the church, and bad servants in the church which prove themselves not to be servants at all. The good and wicked servants in this parable are analogous to them.
SERVANTS PERFORM (VS 16-18)
Starting in verse 16, we find what these servants did with the talents they received. “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master’s money.” The first two invested what they received and gained a return on their investments. We are not told what kind of investments or how many, because that is really unimportant to the point of the parable. All we need to know is that the first two servants made full use of what their master had given them in order to bring a profit to him. They maximized the opportunity given to them.
The third man simply hid the money in the ground. That was a simple and common method in the ancient world of protecting valuable things from being stolen, such as jewelry. But that was not the way to gain and increase on what was instructed. The master had already evaluated this slave and gave him one talent, which was a lot of money, because he had assessed this slave to have the ability to handle it. The master would have had a proper expectation for this slave to do something to try and make a profit by what he had given to this slave, but the slave instead simply refused to do anything with it except hide it to protect it.
GOOD SERVANTS PRAISED (VS 19-23)
In verse 19 we find that the master returns. “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 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.’ 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.’ The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me; see, I have gained two more talents.’ 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.'”
The first two servants were excited to finally see their master return because they had very good news that they wanted to tell him. Each of them had doubled the talents that had been given to them. There is great emphasis on this excitement in the Greek because the amounts are placed in the emphatic position. What the first one said would be literally translated as, “Master, Five talents you placed in my hands; look, an additional five talents I have gained!” The second slave says the same thing in the same way of his two talents. They both are very excited about reporting this to their master. It should be noted that their excitement is not because they expected a big bonus. These men were slaves and all they had belonged to their master. Doing what they had been told to do was what was expected (Luke 17:10), and did not earn a reward except at the discretion of the master. As good servants, they would have been excited just to know that they had pleased their master by fulfilling his expectations of them.
Each of them received the praise of their master as well as a promotion. Each had been faithful with what they had been given and so they had proven that they could be trusted with even more responsibility. That same principle is repeated in other places in scripture as well. Jesus said in Luke 16:10 that “he who is faithful in a very little things is faithful also in much.” Jesus repeated basically the same thing in a similar parable in 19:17. It is seen in what Jesus says to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:26 that “he who overcomes, and he who keeps my deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations…”. It is also seen in the lives of people like Abraham, Moses, and David. Faithfulness in small things will result in the reward of being given responsibility for more important things.
The first two were faithful with what their master had given them. The last one was not.
WICKED SERVANT JUDGED (VS 24-28)
Verse 24, “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. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.'”
While the first two were excited to see the master return, the third is not because he has not done anything that would please his master, and he knows it. When he is called into account the first thing he does is make an accusation against his master to justify his very lame and untrue excuse. His excuse does not even show any forethought. The master had been away for a long time, but the excuse shows that he was surprised by his master’s return. He had made no preparation for the day of accountability with either the talent given to him or even thinking up a legitimate reason for what he had done with it.
First he slander’s his master’s character calling him a “hard” man. From this Greek word we get our word sclerosis as in arteriosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries. When used of someone’s character it means to be unrelenting, harsh, merciless, stern, one who exacts more than he has a right to exact. He then tries to back up his accusation by saying that the master “reaped what he did not sow and gathered what he did not scatter” , or gained an unjust profit. In effect, the slave is saying something like this, “You are a hard man, and if I lost any of the talent while doing business you would have demanded it of me anyway, so you made me afraid. The only thing I could do was hide the talent so that I would not lose any of it. Look, here is your talent. You should be glad that I returned what is yours.”
The truth was that the master had carefully assessed each slaves ability and then provided what was needed for them to carry out the assigned responsibilities. The master was not “hard”, and neither did he expect an unjust gain, only a return on what was invested into each slave. The master had not done anything to produce this kind of fear. The master now confronts him for this accusation and lame excuse.
Verse 26,27 “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. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 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. And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The master takes up the slaves foolish excuse and uses it against him. The slave was not afraid, but wicked and lazy. True, the slave had not embezzled the money or used it for selfish pursuits like the prodigal son had done, but he did neglect the stewardship entrusted to him, and that is both wickedness and laziness. The master was not hard and only expected a proper return on what he had entrusted to the slave. The master had sown and scattered to the slave but the slave had not produced even according to his ability.
The master uses the slave’s very accusation against him. If the master truly was a hard man and gained unjust profits, then out of that fear, the slave should have at least turned the talent over to the bankers so that there would have been some interest gained from it. The money changers also acted as the bankers of Israel. They would pay interest on what was deposited with them and then take that money and loan it to others at a higher interest rate, which is how they made their living. This slave was not afraid, but wicked and lazy. In the Greek, this condemnation is more memorable because the words rhyme. ðïíçñ and ïêíçñ , which mean pernicious and unambitious.
The master then brought judgment against the wicked and lazy slave. What had been given to him would be taken away and given to those who had proved themselves to be faithful. The worthless slave would then be thrown out into the outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. The good slaves received praise and blessings while the wicked slave received condemnation and punishment.
THE LESSON TAUGHT
So it is within the professing church. Jesus gave the parable to teach us a truth about His kingdom. What Jesus says in the verses following this parable tell directly the point of this parable. For those that prove themselves to be his true followers there will be praise and blessing. Those that profess to be something they are not will in the end prove their profession to be false and they will be condemned and cursed.
God gives every true Christian gifts, abilities and possessions by which we are to serve Him. We are called to be faithful in using those gifts. God is not unreasonable to expect a return on what He entrusts to us for He gives to each according to their ability. God supplies all that is needed, and it is even God that gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6,7). All we have to do is be faithful to use what He has given. We possess, but God owns, so it is not our own ability, but His ability to do His work through us. We must apply this in every area of our lives. This is what it means to live a life of faith. I trust God to do His will through me as I am faithful to what He wants me to do. That is why this becomes a separation between true Christians and false professing ones.
The true Christian really believes what God has said. They know who He is and what He is like. The result is that they are faithful to Him and spiritual fruit is produced. Those with false professions do not really believe what God has said nor do they really know the God of the Bible. Their God is one of their own minds and imaginations. Their understanding of who He is and what He is like is produced by their ever-changing thoughts and emotions.
For the true Christian, there is reward both present and future. God gives to us according to our abilities, and as we prove faithful in smaller things, we are entrusted more important things but always in keeping with our abilities. We will not be appraised or valued in comparison with each other, but according to our faithfulness to Him. Remember the one who earned five talents and the one that earned two talents were praised and rewarded in the same way. As you prove faithful in one area of ministry, the Lord expands the opportunities to more areas of ministry with greater impact for His kingdom. When we do finally stand before Him to enter into His millennial kingdom, we will be given responsibilities according to our faithfulness here.
True Christians may not live up to the abilities they actually have, and will suffer loss because of that, but they will be saved. 1 Cor. 3:15 tells that wasted ability, spiritual gifts and opportunity results in the work being “burned up,” but “he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.”
But others, and tragically it will be many others, their faith is false. They are self deceived, thinking they are even working hard for the kingdom, but they are in reality serving themselves because they cannot serve Jesus whom they really do not know. They will be like those in Matthew 7 who were doing all sorts of things in Jesus name thinking they were gaining great rewards, but Jesus said to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
We do not serve God by doing what we want and what we think is best. We serve God by doing what God says. His will, not our own.
The wicked servant was cast out from the presences of his master, so too will those who have false professions of faith. The place of outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth we have seen before in our study of Matthew. It is hell. That place of eternal darkness, where the agony of being shut out from the presence of God is signified by the weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What about you? Is your profession true or false? Are you anxiously awaiting the savior’s return, or does the thought of His return make your mind scramble thinking up reasons why you have not lived the way you should by doing the things God has said. If Jesus returned today, would there be the joy of a true Christian who lives for Him, the sadness of a true Christian who knows He has failed, or the terror of a person with a false profession?
If it is either of the latter two, then get your life right with Him today. He has already provided all that is needed through the Lord Jesus Christ, so that you can rejoice at His return or at your death if that should preceded His return. Are you ready?
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