What on Earth have we done with the Teachings of Jesus? ~ The Parable of the Talents ~

Here in Central Portugal, there are some new additions to the clan.  Four white ducks.  Our neighbours cannot comprehend that these ducks are not being raised for their lovely fatty meat.  They have been primarily purchased to eat the ants that are ravishing the fruit trees and hope for some lovely eggs to put on toast in the mornings.  Having experienced their first seven weeks in a pen we decided it was time for them to venture out.  Knowing that ducks are fond of water, a small duck pond was dug out.  Ducks are extremely skittish.  The four of them huddle together for comfort and protection.  Any slight noise or approach of a human sends them into panic mode. 

It took some persuasion to convince them that all would be well outside of the pen.  The pond seemed like something from an outer world to them.  Even the initial introduction whereby one was picked up and placed into the water brought abject terror.  The next day the pen door was left open for them to venture out on their own terms.  I observed them sitting in the pen in 30+ degree heat when a lovely duck pond was a mere 2 meters away.  

We were made to venture into the unknown

Ducks were made for water.  Water is vital to their hygiene and development.  Their bills have filtering features that drain unnecessary water whilst retaining their food.  Their webbed feet made for swimming and their feathers made water repellent.  Yet there they sat too scared to venture out.  It reminded me very much of us as Christians.  We were made to venture out into the unknown.  To have adventures with God.  He alone knows what we were made for.  Yet we sit in our homes where we feel protected and comfortable.  Too scared to leave the pen.

The next day, the ducks did venture out and went in the pond.  The day after it was hard to get them out of the water.  How wonderful it was to see them preening themselves, diving under the water, cleaning their bills, eating the greens – like they were finally where they were meant to be.  And then they looked the happiest they had been.  They were finally experiencing what they had been made for. In addition they looked pristinely clean.

What have we been made for?  What talents have we been given?  In the parable of the talents, a man went on a journey.  He called his three servants and told them to invest his goods.  To one he gave the equivalent of £5,000, another £2,000 and another £1,000.  Each according to their own ability.  The one with five and the one with two both doubled the investment.  But the one with one thousand buried it and then gave the same amount back.  The first two were rewarded with more.  But the one who buried his investment was labelled the ‘unprofitable servant’.  What had been given to him was removed and he was cast into outer darkness.  What talents have been given to us? Have we buried them or are we investing them in the Kingdom of God and bringing a return on them? Jesus’ teachings may seem harsh, but they are to bring us into productivity and fulfilment in this life with great rewards in the next.

He left us something to work on

Henry says – In the parable of the talents we are stirred up to do well for our own souls and lay out ourselves for the glory of God and the good of others.  The Master is Christ, who is the absolute Owner and Proprietor of all persons and things, and in a special manner of His people.  The servants are Christians, His own servants, so they are called, born in His house, bought with His money, devoted to His praise, and employed in His work.  Their master delivered to them His goods, having appointed them to work (for Christ keeps no servants to be idle).  He left them something to work upon.  Christ’s servants have and receive their all from Him, they have nothing they can call their own, but sin.  Our receiving from Christ is in order for us to work for Him.  The master was travelling into a far country.  This is explained, Eph. 4:8. When He ascended on high, He gave gifts to men.  When Christ went to heaven, He was as a man travelling into a far country, that is, He went with a purpose to be away a great while.  When He went, He furnished His people with all things necessary during His personal absence.

Further He sent His Spirit to enable His servants to teach and profess those truths, to press and observe those laws, to improve and apply those promises, and to exercise and employ those powers, ordinary or extraordinary.  Thus Christ, at His ascension, left His goods to His people.  He gave talents.  Christ’s gifts are rich and valuable, the purchases of His blood inestimable.  He gave to some more, to others less and to every one according to his ability.  When Divine Providence has made a difference in men’s ability, as to mind, body, estate, relation, and interest, divine grace dispenses spiritual gifts accordingly, but still the ability itself is from Him.  It is the duty of a each man to render himself beneficial to those around him, to a great number if possible, but if this is denied him, to a few, to his intimate connections.  

We need to set about our work quickly

God is a free Agent, dividing to every man as He will.  Some are cut out for service in one kind, others in another, as the members of the natural body.  Two were diligent and faithful.  They went, and traded.  They put the money to use and made returns of it.  Those that have so much work to do, as every Christian has, need to set about it quickly, and lose not time.  They went, and traded.  A true Christian is a spiritual tradesman.  Things of less value to us are parted with for things of greater value, wisdom’s merchandise, (Prov. 3:15 [wisdom] is more precious than rubies), (Matt. 13:45 the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls).  A tradesman is one who, having chosen his trade, and taken pains to learn it, makes it his business to follow it, lays out all he has for the advancement of it.  He makes all other affairs bend to it, and lives upon the gain of it.  Thus does a true Christian act in the work of faith.  The endowments of the mind—reason, wit, learning, must be used in subserviency to faith.  The enjoyments of the world—estate, credit, interest, power, preferment, must be shunned for the honour of Christ.  The ordinances of the gospel, communion with God and the gifts and graces of the Spirit must be exercised, and this is trading with our talents.

The first two were successful, they doubled their stock.  Trading with our talents is not always seen as successful by others, but, however, it shall be so to ourselves, (Isa. 49:4 Surely my just reward is with the Lord, And my work with my God).  The hand of the diligent makes rich in graces and treasures of good works.

The returns were in proportion to the receivings.  The greater gifts any have, the more pains they ought to take, as those must that have a large stock to manage.  From those to whom He has given but two talents, He expects only the improvement of two, which may encourage those who are placed in a lower and narrower sphere of usefulness.  If they lay out themselves to do good according to the best of their capacity and opportunity, they shall be accepted, though they do not so much good as others.

Our talents are not our own

The third did ill (Matt. 25:18), he that had received one talent, went, and hid his lord’s money.  Those who have least to do for God, frequently do the least of what they have to do.  He dug in the earth, and hid the talent, for fear it should be stolen.  He did not misspend or misemploy it, did not embezzle it or squander it away, but he hid it.  This does good to no one.  Many have spiritual gifts and make no use of them. Those that have estates, and do not use them for works of piety and charity.  Those that have power and interest, and do not with it promote religion in the places where they live.  They seek their own things more than Christ’s.

He hid his lord’s money.  Whatever abilities and advantages we have, they are not our own, we are but stewards of them, and must give account to our Lord, whose goods they are.  The stewards of the manifold grace of God must shortly give account of their stewardship.  We must all be reckoned with—what good we have done to our own souls, and what good we have done to others by the advantages we have enjoyed, (Rom. 14:11 let [your spiritual gifts] be for the edification of the church).

If we be careful in our spiritual trade, it will soon be seen and our works will follow us, Rev. 14:13. Not that the saints will in the great day make mention of their own good deeds for Christ will do that for them (Matt. 25:35).  But it intimates that they who faithfully improve their talents, shall have boldness in the day of Christ, 1 John 2:28-4:17.  It is observable that he who had but two talents, gave up his account as cheerfully as he who had five.  For our comfort, in the day of account, will be according to our faithfulness, not according to our usefulness. 

If we seek, we shall find

The Master commended them.  Well done, good and faithful servant.  Those that own and honour God now, He will own and honour shortly.  They will be accepted – Thou good and faithful servant. Perhaps they were censured by men, as overly righteous, but Christ will declare them good and faithful.  For it is by patient continuance in well-doing that we obtain this glory and honour.  And if we seek, we shall find.  He rewards them.  The faithful servants of Christ shall not be put off with bare commendation.  All their work and labour of love shall be rewarded.

Christ has honour in store for those that honour Him—a crown (2 Tim. 4:8), a throne (Rev. 3:21), a kingdom (Matt. 25:34).  Here they are beggars, in heaven they shall be rulers.  The upright shall have dominion – Christ’s servants are all princes.  Put together all our service, all our sufferings, all our improvements, all the good we do to others are not fit to be compared with the glory to be revealed.

He will say – Enter into the joy of your Lord.  The state of the blessed is a state of joy, not only because all tears shall then be wiped away, but all the springs of comfort shall be opened to them, and the fountains of joy broken up.  This joy is the joy of their Lord, the joy which He Himself has purchased and provided for them.  The joy of the redeemed, bought with the sorrow of the Redeemer.  It is the joy which He Himself is in the possession of, and which He had His eye upon when He endured the cross, and despised the shame, Heb. 12:2. It is the joy of which He Himself is the fountain and centre.

The earth is full of His goodness

In the account of the slothful servant he thought that his account would pass well enough, because he could say, Here is what is yours.  Many that are called Christians, build great hopes for heaven upon their being able to make such an account. It is common for people to make a very light matter of that which will be their condemnation in the great day.  He makes his excuse – I knew that You were a hard man, and I was afraid.  Good thoughts of God would produce love, and that love would make us diligent and faithful.  But hard thoughts of God produce fear, and that fear makes us slothful and unfaithful. Carnal hearts are apt to conceive false and wicked opinions concerning God, and with them to harden themselves in their evil ways.  Does not all the world know the contrary, that He is so far from being a hardmaster, that the earth is full of his goodness, so far from reaping where he sowed not, that he sows a great deal where he reaps nothing? For He causes the sun to shine, and His rain to fall, upon the evil and unthankful, and fills their hearts with food and gladness who say to the Almighty, ‘Depart from us’.

His plea will stand him in no good stead, it is overruled – You wicked and slothful servant.  He that is careless in God’s work, is near akin to him that is busy in the devil’s work. Omissions are sins, and must come into judgment.  Our God is a consuming fire, in consideration of that let us study how to serve Him.

If we cannot find in our hearts to venture into difficult and hazardous services, will this justify us in shrinking from those options that were more safe and easy? Something is better than nothing.  If we fail to show our courage in bold enterprises, we must not fail to testify our good will in honest endeavours.  For our Master will not despise the day of small things.

To everyone who had more shall be given

The slothful servant was deprived of his talent (Matt. 25:28, 29) – Take therefore the talent from him and give it to the profitable servants.  To everyone that has, more shall be given.  The blessings of this life—worldly wealth and possessions that we are entrusted with are to be used for the glory of God, and the good of those about us.  He that has these things, and uses them for these ends, he shall have abundance.  But from him that uses them not, even what he has shall be taken away. Solomon explains this, (Prov. 11:24. There is one that scatters yet increases more and there is one that withholds and it leads to poverty).  Giving to the poor is trading with what we have, and the returns will be rich.  Sometimes Providence strangely transfers estates from those that do no good with them to those that do.  They are gathered for him that will pity the poor, Prov. 28:8. See Prov. 13:22; Job 27:16, 17; Eccl. 2:26.

We may apply it to the means of grace.  They who are diligent in improving the opportunities they have, God will enlarge them, will set before them an open door (Rev. 3:8).  We may apply it to the common gifts of the Spirit.  He that has these, and does good with them, shall have abundance.  But those who do not stir up the gift that is in them, who do not exert themselves according to their capacity, their gifts rust, and decay, and go out like a neglected fire.

He is sentenced to be cast into outer darkness, Matt. 25:30.  It is not enough not to do hurt, but we must do good, must bring forth fruit.  His doom is, to be cast into outer darkness.  In the dark no man can work, a fit punishment for a slothful servant.  It is outer darkness, out from the light of heaven, out from the joy of their Lord, into which the faithful servants were admitted.

Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary

Gifts for you
Not as the world responds
Would I have you do
Not as the world gives
Do I give unto you.
Form the throne of grace
To you whom I adore,
No, not as the world gives
But Oh! Infinitely more.

To reach My power, My gifts
There must be room in your heart,
But if you are full of self
How can I freely impart?
So all I require
Of you is to be
Emptied of self
So you can receive of Me.
By the late Andrew Feakin
(passed away 16th March 2019)

Prayer:  Father, I pray that I will be accounted to You as a profitable servant. Show me the talents You have given to me and teach me how to put them to use for the good of my soul, for the good of others and ultimately for Your glory. In the name of Christ, I pray.  Amen.

Parable of the Talents

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