THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS

(Matt.25:14ff). The key features of the 'Parable of the Talents', are these:
 
The 'man going on a journey' is an image of Christ himself; and we are to see the 'journey' as being that time between the 'going away' of the Ascension, and the 'coming again' of the Second Advent, at some time in the future.
 
The 'talents' in the story relate to the gifts which God entrusts to us; things both physical and spiritual; which must be seen as our possessions, only in relation to our stewardship of them.
 
The main teaching of the parable, is that such gifts should not remain unused, for they not only sustain life; but, when they are put to work; they promote, and enable, new life.
 
Therefore, the main action of the story concerns what is done with those sustaining and enabling gifts from God. The three servants in the parable, are typical of different levels of capability.
 
Each servant received on-trust gifts according to his potential. None were asked to do the impossible; but each was expected to match up to the requirements made of him, for those requirements were within his potential.
 
The theme of the parable, is taken to be that special watchfulness which anticipates the 'Second Coming' of the Lord Jesus Christ...
 
... and that watchfulness, is related to a getting-on-with-it approach to the Christian life; in which the gifts of God must be put to work, in the most positive and effective ways.
 
In the parable, the decision as to whether or not the gifts had been effectively stewarded, was not made by the servants, but by their master.
 
And so with the life of the individual believer; and the church to which he, or she, belongs. The decision lies with Christ, as to whether or not we have been 'good and faithful servants'.
 
The two servants who were judged to be 'good and faithful'; were rewarded; because their stewardship of the gifts, was not according to their own ideas of how things should be done, but according to their master's requirements.
 
The third servant failed in this. He was not capable of doing much, so he was given just the one talent, something which he could manage, if he put his mind to it.
However, he did not undertake what he was required to do; and was, eventually, thrown out of the household; because he acted according to his own ideas; and completely ignored his master's requirements of him.
 
Put another way, that servant did not match up to the stewardship entrusted to him by his master; because he was too busy matching-up to his own stewardship-expectations of himself. He seems to have thought: ‘if I do this, in order to effect that, everything will be all right’; but, it wasn't!
 
It all boils down to the rewards and punishments of obedience, and disobedience; and that third servant was plainly disobedient. The parable closes with him being declared 'worthless' - and thrown out.
 
Within the story, there is a warning; that this is what happens to all who are wilfully disobedient, in the life of the Kingdom; who follow their own ideas, and desires, instead of the commands of the Lord.
 
The warning demonstrates the risk of being declared ‘worthless'; and of being thrown out of the master's house; out of the Kingdom of God.
 
We may think, with a desire to be fair about it, 'Even if that servant did not invest that one talent; at least he didn't waste it, or lose it’.
 
To think like this, is to miss the point of Christ's teaching. That servant was, and remained, disobedient. Not to use something, which was given with the expressed purpose of being used, is to waste it.
 
If we still have a sense of fairness in the matter, we might argue that the servant; as neither a ‘winner' through investment, nor a ‘loser' through waste; occupied some middle position, where, surely, some redeeming feature might be found to save him.
Again, to argue like this, is to miss the point. The Bible knows nothing of 'middle positions', nothing at all of 'grey areas' between obedience and disobedience ... between righteousness and sin ... between life and death.
 
The Bible knows only obedience, leading to righteousness, and to life in the Spirit; with disobedience, leading to sin and spiritual death; through having been thrown out of the Kingdom, as the parable indicates.
 
The Risen, Ascended and Glorified Christ; through a prophetic vision, gave a last teaching to his Church - the 'Book of Revelation'. In the 'Letters' or messages to the Seven Churches, the Lord Jesus said to one of them:
 
You are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were the one thing, or the other. If you were 'hot' for me, I could honour your faithfulness. If you were 'cold' against me, I could forgive your faithlessness ...
 
... but, you have devised some sort of 'middle position’, that is not of my will, where you are lukewarm; and, because you are luke-warm, I am about to spit you out of my mouth; for you are no use to me, and I can do nothing for you’.
 
Often, our sense of fairness (which is completely non-scriptural) devises middle positions, and considers them to be 'safe' places to be in, while we make our minds up, as to what to do, in this situation, or that.
 
However, in Bible-terms, such places are not at all safe, because they exist only in our own, misplaced thinking; and lie outside of biblical theology, and Church doctrine.
 
What we devise for ourselves ... for each other ... and for our churches ... as 'safe middle positions' are, according to the teaching of Jesus, places of loss; rejection, and spiritual death.
 
The 'neither-investing-nor-losing', middle-position servant, was 'thrown out'. The 'neither-hot-nor-cold', middle-position church was 'spat out'. In the teaching of scripture; and in the understanding of our fathers in the faith; both were doomed and damned.
 
Today, we don't like that sort of thinking. We shy away from it, and; even in our 'shying away'; we busy ourselves in trying to create a 'middle position' where things will, we hope, turn out to be right, after all ...
 
…but, they won't , because God says that they won't.
 
Within the world, and the Church, there is a commonly held view that, to change the mind, can be a sign of weakness. It sometimes is, but mostly, it isn't. More usually, the weak seldom change their minds; once made up; because they haven't got the moral strength, and are often afraid to do so...
 
... whereas the strong are able to change the, otherwise, set attitudes of heart and mind; to re-direct their lives, and to be unafraid.
 
Christ made up the story of the 'Prodigal Son' to teach us various truths. The story begins with extravagance, waste and sin ... but ends with repentance; acceptance; and greater-than-before blessing, because ...
 
... the 'Prodigal Son' had the moral fibre to, eventually, change his heart and mind. As a result, he changed his position, and condition; and ended up every bit as blessed as the 'good and faithful' servants in that other teaching.
 
So, perhaps, with us. It may take quite a bit of moral strength, and courage on our parts, to honestly examine our own position, and condition, in spiritual terms, and to make necessary changes.
 
According to Bible-teaching, it is an essential-to-life exercise, for us to examine our stewardship of possessions, of those on-trust gifts of God, and, where needful, to enter upon good change.
 
In Paul's 'Letter to the Ephesians', at 4:12., he echoed the teaching of Jesus, that the 'talents' are enabling gifts, designed to make the Church effective, and productive.
 
If it is an ‘essential-to-life exercise’; to examine our stewardship; then we need to know just what it is that we are stewarding; just what are the 'talents' in our individual lives, and in our life as a church.
 
The great and foundational 'talent’, is an enduement of the enabling Spirit of Christ. Paul wrote: ‘Not I, but Christ within me’, ... and the Lord Jesus put it clearly, when he said: Without me, you can do nothing’.
 
Jesus Christ is God's prime, enabling gift to the Church; so that, through him, it may be enabled to offer new life to the world all around.
 
The ‘Christ-in-us’ life, has a two-fold meaning and purpose. It is the highest 'reaching-up', of man's holy desire towards God; and the lowest 'reaching- down', of God's mercy, love and grace towards mankind.
 
God, who does nothing by halves, not only gives us the Christ, who redeems us; but also the enabling Christ who, through his gifts, or 'talents', makes possible that which, otherwise, would be quite impossible.
 
What has the Lord Jesus Christ has given to you and to me; both as individual believers; and as a part of his holy Church?
 
Here, in no particular order of importance, is a list of gifts and graces, which, like the 'talents' in the parable, are to be invested; put to work; with a view to spiritual growth within the Church, and throughout God's needy world.
 
Faith ... hope ... steadfastness ... endurance ... generosity ... vision ... teaching.. ... encouragement ... helping ... compassion... mercy... faithfulness ... witness.. understanding ... watchfulness... belief ... fellowship ... cheerfulness, ... courage … knowledge ... wisdom ... spiritual discernment ... healing ... prophecy ... leadership ... prayer.
 
As said, these and similar 'talents', are to be invested; or put to work; with a two-fold view; that of spiritual growth on our part; and also of Kingdom-growth, as others are brought into salvation grace.

It is not so much how we have been enriched by these 'talents', which will determine whether or not the Lord Jesus considers us to have been 'good and faithful servants’ ...
... but more how, through our stewardship, others have been won for the Kingdom; for that is the underlying teaching of the parable - and we ignore it at our peril.
It is strange that, the very thing that God established the Church to do; evangelising; is now mostly seen, by the Church, as being the province of a few 'specialists', like Billy Graham ...
 
... or else seen to be the over-emphasis of the over-zealous; and even the province of religious 'cranks'.
 
It is equally strange that the Church; which knows that 'middle positions' do not exist in God's plans; devotes so much time and energy in creating them, as 'safe areas' from which, one day, perhaps, something might get done.
 
The bad servant, in the 'Parable of the Talents', failed to match up to the stewardship expected of him, by his master; because he was too busy matching up to his own ideas, of how things should be done.
 
He had got things worked out to his own satisfaction, but not to his master's; so, he was rejected; thrown out; because he was plainly disobedient.
 
In this whole matter of stewarding the gifts and graces of God; not just for ourselves, but also for the blessing of others; how obedient are we?
 
Amen.