Parable of theTalents
"What have you done with what I gave you?"
By Iverna Tompkins
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn
A scriptural synopsis, a paraphrase: An important man called his servants together before leaving on an extended trip. He delegated responsibility to each of three servants. To one he gave 5, to another 2, and to another 1 “talent” (KJV), each “according to their abilities.” The ones with 5 and 2 invested what they were given and doubled the master’s resources. The one given 1 dug a hole and buried his “talent.” After a period of time, the master returned for an accounting. The two who doubled were commended equally. The third made excuses to explain his fear and why he simply hid the talent for safe-keeping. Sorely disappointed, the master rebuked him soundly. He had the talent taken away and given to the one who already handled the most, and had the unfaithful servant thrown into “outer darkness” (KJV).
This is a story, a parable, told by Jesus and like so many of His stories, truth unfolds ministering to every level of our maturity and every level of comprehension. Each hearer comes away with nuggets of truth that perfectly fits his or her place in life at any given moment in time. We can never exhaust the Truth of the Bible. There is always more to be gleaned from His marvelous, living Word. It behooves us to re-read these familiar portions of the Scriptures often with fresh expectancy for further personal enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.
I think what is happening in the church today is a broader understanding of the whole of God’s truth. We could see His truth being dropped into one’s understanding as a stone thrown into a pond. Where it breaks the surface of the water is a single spot that can be measured. “There’s where it went in.” But there are circles of ripples emanating from that single spot in the water – that are like truth upon truth upon truth. One foundational truth can be applied in many ways and often builds on a person’s previous level of understanding, enlarging on that basic truth.
Jesus used parables to teach people. He spoke to both those who could understand and who could not. The disciples could understand much, but sometimes required from Him further explanation. Why speak in parables then if they were so hard to understand His true meaning? “So that hearing they will not understand” (Mt.13:14; Is.6:9). How many of you have had times in your life when something was said that you had no interest in and no understanding of, but some time later it became clear and/or important? Think about this truth: Jesus will never give you comprehension of something until you are ready to obey it. If you do not obey at the point of understanding, you become a candidate for judgment! When He knew He had a whole group of unbelievers who wouldn’t “get it,” Jesus didn’t want to validate them for judgment at that time.
We are living in a time, in a nation, that has been validated for judgment. This nation has heard about Jesus every way there is to hear – every way there is to tell them. That’s not always been true in my lifetime, but it is true today. As a nation, we are set up for God’s judgment. Why hasn’t it happened? Why has He stayed His hand? GRACE! The pure grace of God. It is only the grace and mercy of God that holds back the return of Jesus! He is giving sinners ample time and opportunity to repent and come to the knowledge of salvation (cf.2Pet.3:9).
Can you think of anything that has been prophesied in the Word that is to precede His return but has not yet occurred? What kinds of signs? Wars and rumors of wars? Nations rising against nations? Earthquakes in diverse manners and places? What do you think has to happen yet? That the Gospel has to be preached to all the earth? Oh, please. Not only have we preached it to them, we are training the nations to preach it to their own. We are living in the fulfillment of prophecy. We are living in Matthew 24. Every day another sign is reported in the news.
The prayer “Come Lord Jesus” (Rev.22:20) is so selfish today. You see – that’s just for “me,” because I’m ready. I don’t fear His return. I’m excited about it! But, if you read the Book of Malachi, it says, “What would you do if He did come? Would you have to get soap and hyssop and clean yourself up?” (Mal.3:2) What will be our response to His question of what have we done with all He has given us? Will you be able to stand face to face with Him at His coming?
I surely believe the Lord is poised to return. I don’t know if this will be what we call “the Second Coming,” which probably is the second thousandth. We’ve called them “revivals.” How many times has He come back to the church in power? Over and over and over with great moves of God. And He is coming again – SOON! Whether He comes in the clouds (1Thes.4:16,17), or to every church that names the Name of Jesus, I am convinced it will not be in just one “Toronto” move or only in one “Brownsville” move – He is going to move in power wherever people want Him.
Our common prayer is and has been, “Oh, what I want is a great harvest of souls.” Then are you ready to answer Him when He asks you, “Okay, what did you do with it?” “With what?” “With what I gave you, the talent.” From time to time, I hear people say: “I have no talents.” That simply is not the truth. He gives to everyone – liberally.
Some translators attempt to assign a dollar figure to the word “talents.” When we’re interpreting biblical stories or parables or truths, we need to learn to discover the underlying principles – we look for what was the intent of the author. Here, the intent is, the master gave something extremely valuable – not only valuable to Him, but to the servants as well. He said, “What I’m giving you is valuable.” The word “talent” actually means “to bear,” or something “weighty.” One of the words that describes “glory” is “weight.” Not in the sense that it is tough or hard to bear, but it means it’s valuable. The glory of the Lord is “heavy!” It is valuable. So, too are these “talents” entrusted to the servants.
For fuller understanding, it is also important to identify the characters in a parable. “Master” speaks to us of Christ who is the absolute owner and proprietor of everything and all people everywhere (Mt.28:18; Lk.10:22a; Jn.3:35) – a truth no longer widely understood in our society. The “servants” are those who are of the master’s household, those who belong to him, those for whom he paid a price. He owns them. They are representative of any believer – each one is a member of the household of God, every one a part of the Body of Christ. The subject of this parable is actually “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
It’s the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God if you prefer that phrase. It is where the King rules, where God is in command. He is fully in charge. I believe that the King deposited something precious with us to use and to do – in every visitation or in every revival in the past. Then, He stepped back to see what we would do with what He gave us. And that is this story, the story of the talents.
I believe the church is now at the place in this story when the Master, Jesus, is coming back. Just as the master in our parable, Jesus will come for an accounting, asking, “What have you done with what I gave you?” Jesus is coming back – sooner than you know – and it isn’t just to save souls. Saving souls is the easiest thing for heaven! It isn’t heaven’s work to save souls. That’s been done! Calvary paid it – in full. All that heaven waits for is that the unbeliever is told “It is finished!” (Jn.19:30; Heb.10:5-10).
We’re talking about the Kingdom of Heaven – on earth. The Kingdom of Heaven – now. The Kingdom of Heaven is where? Within you (Lk.17:21) – but only if He reigns. The Kingdom of Heaven is in you – “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom.14:17), but only if He reigns. And He, the King, has a right to everything you are – because He owns you (1Cor.6:20a; Ac.20:28).
We think we are such big owners: my gifts, my ministry, my life. Truthfully, we don’t own anything. Everything we have is on lease! He entrusts us with so many things. The Master’s trust in man simply amazes me. Why would He trust us? He knows all our failings, our shortcomings, our flaws. We try to tell Him in prayer, giving Him “unknown information:” “Oh, Lord, I’m not worthy.” I can just about hear His response, “I know that. I knew it when I chose you, when I died for you, when I called you. I have known it all along. You are not worthy, but Christ in you is.” That is the grace of God.
The extraordinary part of this story is the master’s trust. The One who created this world owns it (Ge.1:1; Ps.24:1,2; 50:12b; 89:11), owns everything in it (1Cor.10:26; Deut.10:14; Jb.41:11), and then redeemed it through Calvary (Tit.2:14; 1Pet.1:18,19). Incredible! Amazing to think that He would love a sinner such as I (Jn.3:16,17)! Truly amazing! And then, after providing for everything we need and cannot accomplish for ourselves to secure an eternal destiny in His presence, God turns around and invests in us. He trusts us to reveal His message of love to the world (Mt.28:18-20; Mk.16:15-19). He trusts us with everything His Son is: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col.3:27).
We have the whole thing backwards. We think we give something to Him. We’re not brazen enough to say we expect a lot from Him in return, but, tell the truth, we live that way. Let one thing go wrong in the home and listen to the prayer! “My God! I’ve given You my whole life! I’ve served You all these years! Why are You letting these things happen to me?” Isn’t that interesting? And then we tell Him He’s the King.
I have no problem trusting God. He has never lied to me, never failed me. “All Thy promises are true” (2Cor.1:20). “Your promises are thoroughly tested and Your servant loves them” (Ps.119:140 NIV). Oh, my friends, it’s not hard to trust someone who never lies to you. What a unique feature that is today. “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, how I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.” An old song, but the truth remains. He is so worthy of our trust, but what the most astounding thing is, is His trusting us.
The doling out to, or the entrusting of these people (servants) by the master is interesting because not all are given the same amount, but they are all given equally. You say, “How can it be equal if one gets 1 and one, 2 and one, 5?” Read the rest of the verse – “according to his ability.” “Oh, well, that means – if you are born with talents – if you just have a natural talent – then you get more because you’re more capable.” No. It doesn’t say “capable.” It is according to your ability – to handle what He gives you. (The dictionary defines “able” as “having sufficient power, skill, or resources to accomplish an object.” It relates that “capable” is “having [that] ability, capacity or power to do something,” and speaks of “competence.”) Because, to the one who can handle the most, more is given and much is required (Lk.12:48).
We spend so much of our lives asking God to give us what He’s already finished. I really think we’d be very surprised if we could hear heaven’s answer so many times as He says, “I did.” “Bless me, Lord.” “I did.” “Prosper me.” “I did.” Are you carefully hearing this? He completed it all at the cross. He gave us His Son way back then, along with every gift and provision implied there. Then, He gave us His Holy Spirit on that first day of Pentecost (Acts 2). I don’t care how fervently you pray for something, if you already have it, you have it. And He isn’t going to do anything more until you do something with what you have, with what has already been entrusted to you.
Here in the parable, we have these three men who are recipients of something of great value from the master with very few directives. He just gives the “talents” and then leaves. The only thing they know is who they got them from and that he is coming back. He is returning, we just don’t know when that will be, but it shouldn’t matter when. Yes, Jesus IS coming back and He is coming in a great move and when He does, it’s going to “separate the men from the boys” (cf.Mt.25:31,32). It really is.
People are so confused today. We think these terms are synonymous: “giftings” and “titles.” In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul describes what are called the “five-fold ministry” in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. They are leaders and have their place, but we are not referencing them in this parable. A minister is someone who has been given responsibility under the authority of another. We are all ministers and our three servants could be considered as such.
The master says to these servants, “I’m going to give you these things, these “talents” – but I will be back for them.” Remember, we do not own the talents, they belong to the Master. So, he gives to his servants something that is very precious to him. He entrusts the talents to them. To one he gives 5, to the second he gives 2, and to the third he gives 1. We, of course, wonder, “How fair is that?” because we would compare with one another. “How many did you get? Five? Fine! I only got 2!”
Let’s remember that our parable began with the information that the master gave to each servant “according to his ability” (Mt.25:15b). This is not favoritism. God does not give anyone more than he or she can bear or handle (1Cor.10:13), and what a gift that is! Yes, we can trust Him, and be certain that we can handle whatever comes our way. He assigned it and we can do it!
I don’t know what you may be going through at this time. I don’t know how you weigh or value what your assignments have been from the Lord. I certainly don’t know if you feel that fairness is an issue. I do, however, know this: what He gives you may not look valuable to you, or weighty, but it is to Him! Everything God gives to us is for Him and to serve His divine purposes. Every negative that comes into our lives – God brings to good (Rom. 8:28). Everything exists so that He might be glorified (Mt.5:16; Jn.15:8; 1Cor.6:20; 1 Pet.2:12). We are simply and miraculously recipients of His grace and mercy as His purposes are fulfilled through our lives. We were called out of darkness into His marvelous light, that He might receive the praises (1Pet.2:9).
We could spend a great amount of time discussing the gifts of God. Consideration of that phrase usually sends us to 1 Corinthians 12 where there is a listing of nine of His gifts. I assure you there are many more than nine. For this moment, may we understand that, at our salvation, we began with His gifts – He gave us Christ – He gave us the Holy Spirit – He gave us the Word. He gave us salvation. He gave us repentance. Yes, repentance is in itself a gift (Ac.5:31; 2Cor.7:11; Rom.2:4). Without this mighty gift, you can know about your sin yet not feel sorry for it at all. If that is your condition, please pray for a spirit of repentance so that you can turn from your sin and be restored to a right relationship with God, for any sin will separate you from Him (Is.59:2) and that would be of your own doing.
Go to Part 2