The Parable of the Talents
A few thoughts/ questions that are presented by this parable.
1. Our faithfulness is authenticated by our fruitfulness.
The Lord expects a return on the talents he has given us, in keeping with the measure of gifting we have received from him. We can too easily divorce fruitfulness from faithfulness in an attempt to legitimise a lack of fruit in our lives. We can too readily hide behind the cliche of 'all that matters is being faithful', without addressing whether our faithfulness has/is bearing spiritual fruit. The parable's main point is that authentic faithfulness will ultimately be tested and rewarded on the measure of our fruitfulness.
One of the questions I often as of myself is 'What fruit do I have in the basket?' That fruit might be the fruit of the Holy Spirit in personal character (Galatians 5 v 22-23); the fruit of answered prayer ( John 15 v 7-8); the fruit of discipled, transformed lives (Isaiah 61 v 1-3); the fruit of the harvest (John 4 v 35); or the fruit of practically serving another in Jesus' name (Matthew 10 v 40-42). Whatever angle we have on fruit, the question remains the same; Do we have fruit in the basket that authenticates our faithfulness to the Lord?
2. The Lord is our judge.
The one talent man had a terrible view of the character of God..' Lord I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed'. Jesus is perfect theology (Bill Johnson). His judgements will be full of grace and truth. He will not expect anything from us that he himself has not equipped us for. What will this judgment look like in practice?
- Only expect fruitfulness in relation to the measure of our gifting. If we only have one talent, then only one talent of fruit is expected. If we have five, then a return of five is expected. It can be tempting for those of us with one talent to sometimes cast an envious eye on those with five. If we are tempted to do this, bear in mind that 'to he who has been given much, much more will be expected'.
So, for example, if a one talent person has been given a one talent gift of prophecy, then let that person exercise that gift within the measure of faith given to them (Romans 12 v 3). It might be that all the Lord is expecting from them is to be a faithful voice of 'encouragement, edification, and comfort' within the boundaries of their local church family. The fruit of their faithfulness will be seen in the encouragement received by that church family. However, someone who has been given a five talent gift of prophecy will be expected to produce fruit on a much wider canvas than the local church. As well as the local church, they would operate prophetically on a wider front in a city, a region, or even at a national level. They would have the gifting and capacity to do this, and the Lord would be expecting a level of fruitfulness commensurate with those talents.
- Make his judgment at the end of our lives. All of us will give a personal account for the stewardship of our lives when we die (Romans 14 v 10-13), and so it is important that we finish our race well. One of the most overlooked words in the Bible is the word 'if', particularly when used in relation to running and finishing our lives well- eg Colossians 1 v 22-23, Hebrews 3 v 7-15. Starting well is important, but ultimately finishing well is even better.
- Take into account our circumstances, history, the measure of light and revelation we have received, and the opportunities we have had to exercise our talents. Interestingly, in the parable, it is the one talent man who offers up the lame excuses to justify his own laziness and indifference to the Lord. The other two men were far too focused on fully discharging their stewardships to invent excuses for being unfruitful.
- Publically honour at the end of the age all the hidden works and words of our stewardship. The hidden life is the rewarded life( Matthew 6 v 1- 18). Those of us with a more public profile will be rewarded no more than those with a more hidden one. Whether in public, or private stewardships, it is ultimately on the depth of our hidden life in God that we are rewarded.
3. Do not judge what only the Lord is qualified to judge.
There are judgement calls we are expected to make in everyday life as part of our 'training for reigning'. Jesus expected his disciples to be able to discern the times they were living in, to see the hypocritical motives behind the teachers of the law, and to be able to prioritize matters that were of an eternal and essential nature, over those things that were not.
However there are judgement calls that only God can make on our stewardships. What way look very ordinary in our eyes, might have enormous reward and favour in God's eyes. It is sobering to remember that the majority of the Jews in Jesus' day didn't rate, recognise, or receive who he was. We are no different today. What often saddens and staggers me are the spiritual blind spots we all have in failing to recognise when the Lord's servants are in our midst. How often have I been dismissive of a person's gifting, that one day the the Lord will openly and publically vindicate?
4. Divine boundaries bring enormous freedom to our lives.
When we know who we are, and how we are gifted by the Lord, we are free to be ourselves without comparing ourselves favourably or unfavourably with one another. This goes against the spirit of the age that tries to seduce us with the deception that 'we can be who we want to be', rather than enjoying the freedom and boundaries of who God has called us to be.
When John the Baptist was challenged to identify himself, he knew who he was, but of even greater importance, he knew who he was not. He knew that he was 'the voice of one crying in the wilderness', but he was able to say'I am not the Christ' ( John 1v 19-23). In discharging our stewardships, we need to know the boundaries that God has placed on our lives. Do we know who we are? Do our peers recognise who we are? Do we know who we are not? For those of us who are married, our spouse is probably the best judge of who we are, and who we are not!