Jump Start # 2585
Matthew 25:15 “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.”
A Jump Start reader called the other day with a question. It was a great question and a personal question. The caller asked, “How do I know if I’m the one talent man?” Here in this parable of talents, the one talent man doesn’t end up well. He is called wicked, lazy and worthless by the master. What he had was taken away from him and he was cast into the outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth. A terrible end for anyone. No one would want this to be their future. So, to the caller’s question, “How do I know if I’m the one talent man?”
The account of the talents is a parable that Jesus taught about accountability and His coming return. It fits in with the parable of the wise and foolish virgins and the coming king. There is a common thread in these three parables. Jesus is going away and Jesus is coming back. When He comes back those who are ready, those who did what He said, will have a celebration. Those who aren’t ready and those who haven’t done what He expected, will be punished. Jesus is coming and there will be a judgment. That’s the theme of this chapter. So, it does matter what I do. It does matter how I treat others.
Now, in the parable of the talents, a talent was a weight that became associated with a type of money. We look at this parable and see the word talent and think of ability. That’s a great principle for us. But originally, the talent was money. The master gave his money to his servants. He divided it up. It remained the master’s money. While he was gone he expected them to use it wisely. Two of them did and one simply buried the money in the ground. Upon his return, the master was pleased to see that two of the servants had doubled what was given to them. But the unfortunate one talent man simply returned what was given to him. He had done nothing. He buried it in the ground and there it remained.
How do I know if I am the one talent man?
First, the differing amounts of talents was determined by the master. He passed the talents out based upon ability. Throughout this parable no comparisons are made. The two talent man is not scolded for not returning as much as the five talent man. Each person was responsible to do what they could with what they had.
There is no shame in having one talent. The one talent man is not in trouble because he had one talent. His troubles came about because of his failure to do anything. Now, the question is often asked, “How many talents does a person have?” Do you have one? Do you have two? Do you have five? I’m not sure if we know. The point is not to take inventory but to be useful to the Lord. If a person has but one talent, use it for the Lord. Two, then use them for the Lord. Five, use them all for the Lord. This is not a place for jealousy, envy or feeling bad. Often it is easier to see gifts in others than we can see in ourselves.
Second, the focus on this parable is not upon how much they were given, but what did they do with what they had. There are two thoughts here. First, the return that they made was for the master. The master is the Lord. We are not talking about using our abilities to further our careers. Many are busy in community activities, organizing fund raisers, helping out with 5K runs, volunteering at the local library or school, all great and useful things, but none of those help the master. The return was for the master. We are talking about kingdom work. We are talking about spiritual work. We are talking about encouraging, inviting, teaching, strengthening, supporting the work of God. There are many, many gifted people in the world. Far too many are using their talents to bankroll a rich lifestyle, build a political career, help the community but nothing for the master. Great song writers—but do they use that talent for the master? Great artists—but do they use that talent for the master? Great writers, great thinkers, great inventors, great leaders—but is any of this being used to help the master?
The second thought in this parable is that the master had given each of these servants plenty of time. The text even says, “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.” How long? Long enough for the five and two talent men to double what they had. The law of 72 is a financial rule about doubling money. Take an interest rate and divide that into 72 and that’s how many years it will take to double your money. For instance, at 10% interest, your money would double in 7.2 years (10 divided into 72). At 5% interest your money would double in 14.4 years (5 divided into 72). The master told the one talent man, “you ought to have put my money in the bank and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.” The master was gone long enough for the money to double. We are talking about years. The one talent man had time.
Third, the answer to our initial question, “Am I a one talent person,” comes down to what am I doing for the Lord? The one talent man in the Lord’s parable did nothing. This is why he was called lazy. He was also called wicked. Most today would say, “He’s not a bad person, he just didn’t do what the others did.” The Lord didn’t think that way. The Lord called him wicked. He did not have the master’s interest in his mind. What was he doing all this time?
So, we must ask ourselves, what am I doing for the kingdom? What am I doing for the Lord? Other than worshipping on Sunday, am I about the Father’s business? And, this is where our different talents and abilities begin to shine. Some are great at encouraging. They know just what to say and how to say it well. A call, a card, a text from these folks lifts a weary heart and helps the discouraged. That is the work of the kingdom. Others are great at inviting friends to services. People see their light and they are interested and curious. These folks are busy inviting people to come to worship. Others have a more visible role, especially when it comes to conducting our services. They are leading, teaching, and preaching. Some are behind the scenes making sure that everything works when we worship. In this period of social separation, there have been a lot of podcasts and videos being sent out. It takes know how to and equipment to do that.
So, am I the one talent man? That’s best answered by asking, what are you doing for the Lord? And, if you can’t answer that, maybe you are! God has gifted each of us in special ways. You’ll notice each of the servants were given at least one talent. None of them were empty handed. Likewise, all of us have talents, gifts and abilities. Vision, leadership skills, ability to teach, hearts that care, problem solvers, helpers—we all have a talent. None of us are on the sidelines with nothing to do. Find ways to use your talents for the Lord. Don’t waste them on yourself, but do good for the kingdom.
Lazy, wicked and worthless—that’s how the master saw the one talent man. He did nothing for the master. How about you? What are you doing? Maybe it’s time to step things up and turn your attention to the kingdom.